As shocking as recent political events throughout the western world have been during the later part of this year, come to think of it-obviously with the benefit of hindsight-I am NOT sure how we failed to see it coming. I also genuinely believe that this kickback we got to these Liberal values we hold dearly does have the potential of being a greatly needed wakeup call. The question is how do we learn from these set backs and how long will it take us to achieve this steep learning curve/apply the changes. More importantly when reflecting on the last decade or two what do we think we’ve achieved/learned. Lets not waste time on anger/frustration because of recent setbacks-these are merely distractions and a waste of valuable time we can’t afford to loose. Some areas worth exploring in this vein include the following;
- Pragmatism vs Idealism: It seems to me that one of areas we tend to struggle with in our approach towards policy is the balance between these to 2 concepts. I would also suggest that in most of our judgments Idealism seems to prevail. A good example of that is our approach towards immigration, particularly related to the influx of Syrian refugees. Now to be clear I am an immigrant myself so it would be absurd for me to be against immigration as a concept-but as with everything there needs to be a context to use when making a judgment on any issue. The context in this matter without going into much detail included;
a) National Security implications (as we have witnessed),
b) Failures of successive governments to address flaws in immigration/integration policies (again proved to be relevant to this issue).
- So to make a judgement on the basis of idealistic/feel-good factors is not prudent.
2. Political Conventionalism vs Political Activism: Another area we seem to struggle with is finding inspiring leaders who are able to effectively articulate Liberal values and passionately translate them into real actions in terms of policy and internal party management. Effective Political Leadership relies on a multitude of talents and does not fit many however well intentioned/hard-working they maybe. Anyway, some related aspects to this point include;
a) Focus on winning hearts/minds NOT campaigns; Continued engagement at the grass root level (and listening more)
b) Being more of activists than conventional politicians; More passion/focus on substance rather than appearance. To me someone who typifies this particular talent is US Senator Elizabeth Warren (you can see her in action on Youtube here)
c) Orientation towards Core Problem solving rather than political posturing, patching or temporary gains.
d) Developing internal party structure that is dynamic, agile and adaptive; Away from the rigid understanding of the concept (if ain’t broken don’t fix it) which implies no constant critical review of current structures/procedures.
e) Focus on political activism/action on the ground rather than statements/rhetoric and the over reliance on social media to respond to events or merely to brag about tweets (like someone we know well since the end of November).
f) Building a solid profile on key policy areas including Foreign Policy with policy and in action. Let’s also recognise that Foreign Policy in and of itself has direct bearing on national policy at many levels so there is a need to be able to interact/influence in high level negotiations and develop partnerships in the process.
g) Focus on building new talent and having the vision/courage in providing opportunity for the new generation to take lead roles in developing policy & defending liberal values.
These are some ideas to build on, but the main take away really is that we need to evolve as Liberals and we need to push the boundaries/ask difficult questions so that we can progress/adapt and continue to evolve in a relatively short period of time.
If there is 1 thing we need to learn from Mr Trump (and probably the only thing) it is this; let’s kick the established/conventional wisdom of politics as usual out the door and be more Progressive in our approach to Liberalism.
As always comments/contributions are very welcome.