A Bitter Victory

May 3, 2011

He was not answering his phone. Rain or shine, day or night, while sitting on the toilet conducting his daily constitutional, he answered his phone. So this was unusual.

It’s not like the evening had been a total failure. Yes, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives seized the majority that had hung so tantalizingly close before their eyes just out of reach for the past 5 years. If you have any attachment to the notion of the positive role government plays in our lives, no good can come from last night’s results.

And being what my friend Donald calls an ‘unreconstructed Pierre Trudeau Liberal’, the party of my youth is not even the official opposition any longer. It is just officially in tatters. No one’s going to be talking about the ‘Liberal brand’ anymore without giggling mournfully.

Yet the NDP had scaled historic heights. A second place finish seemed to be merely empty boasting as recently as two weeks ago. By the end of last evening, however, the NDP were les rois du Quebec, nearly obliterating the Bloc in one fell swoop. For that, federalists of whatever stripe should be grateful. The party also managed to hold seats elsewhere and mounted their own assault on Fortress Liberal in downtown Toronto, taking out a few Liberal incumbents in the process.

So for that alone, I expected at least a modicum of ebullience from my colleague, the NDPisty of all of us. But he wouldn’t even pick up his phone. From past experience, I knew this to be a bad sign.

When I arrived at the office, the door was slightly ajar. I knocked. No answer. Popping my head into the darkened room except for the glow coming of the computer screen, I spotted the silhouette of Cityslikr, sitting at the desk. With a “yoo-hoo!” I made my presence known but still received no response. My rational side told me he was just lost in deep thought but part of me wondered, well, I’d seen too many movies with scenes just like this. A corpse still sitting upright, waiting to fall over at the slightest touch. It wasn’t like the man didn’t have a short list of people who’d vowed to kill him at some point of time or other.

I slowly but noisily approached him, still eliciting no reaction. The first thing I noticed was the half full (yes, I remain the optimist even in the darkest of times) bottle of Woodford Reserve. OK. So maybe he’d drunk himself into a joyful stupor. I mean, the Orange Wave had taken 100 seats after all. Conservative majority be damned. It was still an impressive feat.

Then I spotted the opened pill bottle. Picking it up from the desk with still no acknowledgement from Cityslikr, I checked out the label. Lorazepam. Oh oh. I leaned in for a closer look. His eyes were open but just staring ahead at the computer screen. Giving him a gentle nudge, I asked how many of the pills he’d had.

It wasn’t clear if he’d heard me as the question seemed to make no impression. The only sign of life Cityslikr exhibited was the slow blinking of his eyes, randomly and not always in unision. I began wondering if a call to 9-1-1 might not be in order. And then he spoke.

“Not nearly enough,” he said. “I was thinking of trying to sleep for the next 4 and a half years.” He continued to look at the computer screen. I followed his glance to see what, if anything, had so focused his attention. Sentences blinked on the screen in front of him.

In the end, we send our words and ideas into the void, Mafingo.

(Mafingo?)

 Into the fucking void to die a neglected death. Nothing to be done. Nothing to be done.

Yep. Our fearless leader had slipped into the dark recesses of a Beckettian induced coma. Clearly this was not the time for upbeat words and thoughts. He was nowhere near ready for that. Now we simply mourn. And how better to do that than a slug of some silky smooth bourbon to wash down the warm, pillowy embrace of a benzodiazepine? Warning: Do not drink alcohol while taking benzodiazepine. This medication can increase the effects of alcohol. Exactly.You know, it’s not the majority government that’s so hard to swallow although, it is a big, big, bitter, bitter pill for sure. Nor is it the collapse of Liberal support that’s dismaying. While much will be made of the vote splitting that gave the Conservatives many unintentional seats especially in Toronto and the GTA, I curiously await the numbers to see how many of those were caused by natural occurring left of centre, NDP-Liberal splits and those caused by rightist Liberals jumping aboard the good ship Conservative to try and stem the Orange Wave. Perhaps Liberals needed to purge their party of those types anyway. It’s just an ugly way to do it for the rest of us.

No, for me the really disheartening aspect of Monday’s election is the total lack of imagination and nerve on the part of voters who cast their ballot with the Conservatives out of fear and desire for stability. They bought into the dubious notion that parliamentary democracies can only function properly with one party in a majority position to make all the decisions. Here you go. Do your worst. And we’ll tune in again in 4 years time, see how you’re doing.

We had a golden opportunity by electing a third straight minority government (in whatever makeup) to truly change the political landscape of this country. To make it known to all the parties that this is what we wanted. We wanted compromise. We wanted consensus. So instead of working to undermine a minority parliament, all parties would have to properly deal with that new reality and perhaps put their own interests aside for those of the country.

Instead, we rewarded those who did everything in their power to discredit the idea of a workable minority government with unfettered access to the levers of federal power. Actually, fewer than two in five voters rewarded the Conservatives for their parliamentary treachery, somehow feeling that they’ve restored the natural order of things where one party garnering less than 40% of the popular vote gets to play with all the marbles. A skewed stability that disenfranchises 60% of the electorate. But no matter. We won’t have to bother to vote again for over 4 years!

This type of Conservative victory has set back voting reform at the federal level for another 5 years at least. Why would a majority government want to reform a system that benefited them greatly? While seat numbers weren’t far off their popular vote, the NDP may be likewise loathe to bring up the subject with the majority of their seats now in Quebec, a province that could see their political influence dwindle somewhat under a more proportionally representative system. Only the Liberals and the Green Party are left to carry that banner but their impact on the next parliament will be minimal.

In its place, the talk will be of uniting the centre left at least between the NDP and Liberals, and disfiguring our political landscape even further into an entirely contrived two party, left v. right, scenario. It’s just simpler that way, I guess. Because if there’s one take away lesson from the election campaign this time around it’s that voters are uncomfortable with complexity. It’s too difficult to follow and takes up too much of their time. Politics, as in any game, needs a clear-cut winner and a bunch of losers.I won’t always feel this way. Nor will my colleague, Cityslikr. We will bounce back. But for a few days anyway we seek to dull the pain of our ever growing misanthropy in a pleasant, totally legal, narcotic haze, telling our woes to our new best friend, Mafingo.

ativanly submitted by Urban Sophisticat