Thursday, January 26, 2006

The media and blogs

Darcy of Dust my Broom points to a column in Winnipeg Free Press which, like so many others before it, dismisses political bloggers (conservative bloggers in particular) as the stereotypical 'guy in his pyjamas, typing away in the basement of his mother's home'.

Earlier this week in the National Post there was a piece about blogging. It suggested, as does the piece in the Free Press, that bloggers over-estimate their sway and are largely irrelevant in Canada. The two pieces begin with the premise that bloggers hope to influence events. I believe their theory is inherently wrong.

Some blogs are very good at disseminating information, breaking stories or pointing out the absurdities of government, others take aim at the news that's already out there and give a perspective typically unavailable in the mainstream media. Some blogs reflect on the current realities of the world, while others are simply a place for their authors to vent.

Most bloggers seem pleased to know their efforts are read, but don't succumb to the illusion that they are changing anyone's opinion. We know we are mostly preaching to the converted and though we enjoy visits from commenters from the other end of the political spectrum, their challenges aren't about to change our minds any more than our posts and comments are going to change theirs.

I think the media has missed the real power of the average political blog.

For me, blogging has been a remarkable discovery of like-minded people in a country that I believed had very few conservative thinkers (especially east of Manitoba or Saskatchewan).

Through blogging, I have 'virtually' met people from all across Canada and parts of the
US. We've exchanged ideas, learned about each other and sometimes surprised ourselves at how much we have in common despite diverse backgrounds, geography and life experience. We've discovered how much our neighbours to the south know about us, and care about our politics. We've agreed or disagreed as the issues demanded, and we've shared concerns and frustrations, as we laughed at the lunacy of politics, politicians and pundits.

Far from being irrelevant, blogging has connected people who would likely never have met and allowed us to voice our shared worries, hopes, goals and vision. If nothing else, it has been a uniting tool, helping Canadian conservatives to see that they aren't alone and giving us a place and a public forum at a time when we've felt silenced and marginalised.

Bloggers might not change the world or influence the way the public thinks, but it's been heartening to find that there are other people out there whose view of the world isn't skewed left. When assessing the value of any medium, understanding the intentions of its users should be the first step. Professional journalists who discount the importance of political blogs, have approached this from the wrong angle.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Less than I hoped for, better than I thought

By Sunday, I was losing faith. I'm not sure whether the public was affected by the Liberal attack ads, the reports of 'hidden candidates' or the brief suggestion that Stephen Harper had stopped talking to reporters, but it all dampened my spirits.

Last night as I watched the results, I was really disappointed. Then, I heard Stephen Harper speak. That was when I realised how big this win is, not for conservatives, but for Canadians.

Harper's minority government represents hope to many who had begun to despair of our political system. Right or left, conservative or 'progressive,' are not so important as seeing that there is a credible alternative to Liberal hegemony. Despite what Liberals want us to believe, we all know that One Party Rule is never a good thing in a democracy.

Some Liberals equate this experience for them to a 'time-out' or a stint in the 'penalty-box'. This implies that when the Liberals have finished their renewal process, that they will assume their traditional role of 'natural governing party.' I don't see that in the results and I hope it's bravado talking, rather than a true sense of entitlement.

In the months to come I expect that Stephen Harper and his team will prove themselves to be a safe and viable choice for voters, and not simply a temporary surrogate. Depite all the campaign rhetoric, the Conservative policies (despite being different from the Liberal policies) are not radical or right-wing and will be easily supported by many right-leaning Liberals.

All of the parties faced disappointment last night, none of them achieving their ultimate goals. The Conservatives have a fragile minority, rather than the strong one they'd hoped for. The Liberals lost both seats, and popular support. The Bloc failed to meet its target in the popular vote, and elected fewer MPs, and Jack Layton and the NDP, despite a two percent gain in the popular vote and a ten seat increase in the House, no longer hold the balance of power.

The irony of all this is that power still rests with the Liberals. It will be Liberals Stephen Harper will look to for support of his budget and other programmes, and for the most part I think they'll sign on. Financially strapped and without a leader, they'll be in no hurry to bring the government down. Likely, many are still stinging from the very public and vulgar bashing of their values by Paul Martin as he pandered to the 'progressives'. These MPs will be loyal to their party, but they'll want it to have time to be dragged back to the centre from the outter left fringes where Paul Martin left it.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Moderates have no place in the new Liberal Party

What moderate thinking person, in their right mind, could vote Liberal?

This final week of the election campaign has done more to damage the Liberals than all of their scandals put together. In his final push to maintain power, Paul Martin has targeted 'progressive' voters and in the end he has destroyed any credibility his party might have had on sensitive social issues. People might have been able to look past the 'corruption of the few' or the ineptitude of many, but they can't ignore the seismic ideological shift to the left.

It remains a mystery why Paul Martin would think 'progressive' voters would vote for a tired and volatile Liberal Party, when they have the alternative of the NDP - a party free from scandal, with a youngish, energetic leader and MPs who seem both committed and bright. And by soliciting votes from the more extreme left, Martin will have alienated those liberals who still consider themselves centrists. If Martin's Liberals feel comfortable embracing the extreme left, then what can be there to hold people with moderate social and fiscal views?

The answer is nothing.

Moderate voters have no longer have a place in the Liberal Party. Their leader has marginalised his own candidates with his vicious and radical rhetoric on social issues and has insulted the voting base by saying that the opinions of these candidates (and by extention, their voters) don't matter and won't be listened to if the Liberals were to remain in power.

Paul Martin is a politician of exclusion and division. In his lust for power, he has become like a giant sponge, soaking up policies and ideology from the NDP, leaving moderate voters no choice but to abstain, vote Conservative or be left behind.

Happy voting.