The latest Hebert column is a sobering read for Liberals, which I personally find quite close to realistic in tone. I've contended for some time that Mulcair represents the worst outcome for Liberals, primarily because he comes with a built in regional base, which just happens to be quite critical to any potential Liberal rebound as well. This type of acknowledgement doesn't equate to no hope, but I also see little value in not properly digesting the steep challenges. Within the emerging new reality, I would argue our own leadership race becomes the primary vehicle in any attempt to recalibrate the political landscape. Many Liberals get quite irate when you mention leadership- partially warranted given past "leaderitis" that failed to create a formidable underpinning- but the fact remains, your leader is your vessel, particularly within our circumstance, picking the right person really a sink or swim proposition.
Liberals are doing terrific work rebuilding organizations, offering ideas, building policies, any talk of leadership isn't an exclusive argument, nor does it distract from the serious work that must be done concurrently. That said, without a compelling person to articulate the Liberal vision, you are forever swimming upstream. Anyone who has knocked on doors recently for the Liberals in the last couple of elections understands the fierce wall of perception one can face if battling leadership impressions. On the flip side, the last election brought a party to a landslide in a province with little organization, little "street" presence, primarily fueled by the power of personality, a resonance that caused a wave. This is a lesson that "anything can happen" if the messenger is compelling, if he/she is capable of conveying an attractive narrative. One party fighting against leadership impressions, another wrapping their entire campaign around one man because of perceived popularity(and you'll recall the Layton emphasis was a national choice by NDP strategists).
Liberals have to leap frog over a formidable Official Opposition and convince Canadians that should they turn on the Conservatives, we are the party to turn to. Canadians must forego the NDP and see the Liberals as a realistic option to form government, a tough task, ironically one the NDP themselves have faced prior. Within this dynamic, the necessity of an almost revolutionary spirit can't be understated, this Liberal leadership race must spark something within Canadians. In fact, I would argue the leadership choice has never been more important for a political party than this Liberal selection. Truth be told, this could be the last Liberal leader if we fail to properly assess the irrefutable urgency.
This "open" leadership process that actively seeks new participation is our chance, it will represent perhaps the only time remaining in this mandate where the spotlight shines brightly, were ordinary Canadians may very well debate the place of the Liberal Party. This leadership race is also the main opportunity to introduce a new, fresh vision and within that a messenger that truly pierces the malaise in some fundamental way, building a real springboard. Should Liberals squander this chance, we will be left to outside forces to determine our own fate, an unlikely proposition. It is for this reason that the leadership can't be a coronation of sorts, it really can't just be the usual suspects, it must be provocative and engaging.
We can scoff all we want at undo leadership focus, given the many challenges the party faces "nuts and bolts" wise. But, this mentality fails to properly understand that, whether we like it or not, the leader is paramount, the leader is your voice, the leader is who makes the connection, the leader is largely how a party is judged, particularly in a soundbite world. I make no apologies giving primary focus to the next leader, it is unquestionably in my view the single most important decision Liberals will make, the determining factor that will decide if the real work is rewarded or we end up in the historical scrape heap, once and for all. The stakes are incredibly high and within this coming leadership, possibilities and opportunities, if properly understood. Messiah might be a tad overstating, but Hebert isn't that far off....