Hubris, in Greek mythology, was followed by nemesis, or as it has come down to us, “pride goeth before a fall.”
The pride of the Trudeau Liberals is well known, and of a particularly noxious kind: that special blend of moral arrogance and conceit in their own cleverness — the belief, reinforced in a thousand mutual tweets, not only that they know best but that they are the best, sure of advancing, destined to win. This week they seemed, if not to have actually begun to plummet earthward, then certainly to have tested the gods’ patience to the limit.
Across several important files, the Liberals have tried to reconcile their belief in their own superior virtue with their desire for worldly success by insisting that they were not obliged to choose between them because, in fact, no choices needed to be made. They could be both for saving the planet and for building pipelines, both for Aboriginal reconciliation and for resource development, both for progressive social values and for free trade.
That these positions are not as incompatible as partisans of both the right and the left would suppose is a reasonable enough premise. But the middle ground in politics can be as treacherous as it is inviting; the two extremes can as easily combine to devour any moderate interlopers as they can be separately marginalized. To hold that particularly dangerous piece of turf it is not sufficient to remind folks of your sunny benevolence, or repeat endless variations on “the economy and the environment go hand in hand.” You have to be both tactically smart and strategically wise. You have to think it through.
This last is not, needless to say, the current generation of Liberals’ strong point. They are very good at the symbolic gesture, the leap of faith, the exuberant tossing of one’s hat over the wall. They are not so good at figuring out how to retrieve it. And so, on issues ranging from pipelines to carbon taxes to trade negotiations, the Liberals’ once-soaring pride has given way to a gathering awareness of the earth below. It turns out governing isn’t as simple as it appears, even for those seemingly born to it.
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