"Math class is tough."
Often misquoted as, "Math is hard," Barbie's confession had an interesting impact on popular culture. Those who already hated everything Barbie stood for further pilloried her for perpetuating the myth that women had no head for math and sciences. Those who had no head for math and sciences piled on because, well, the truth hurts.
But math is hard. And sometimes even the smartest people can't seem to grasp the simple and irrefutable logic of numbers.
As an example, let's take what even mathophobes might consider a simple problem. Let's start with a pie. Ummm.... pie. Suppose we cut a slice of pie that's just a little bit bigger than one-third. Sorry to complicate matters with a fraction. Would it be easier if I said we cut a piece of pie that's 37 per cent of the whole pie? No, I didn't think so.
But even the most arithmetic-challenged among us can easily grasp that our pie, now in two pieces, has one slice — the 37 per cent slice — that is much, much smaller. Thirty-seven is a lot smaller than 63. Oops, sorry, I was going to let you come up with the answer yourself.
Clearly if you had the 63-per-cent piece you'd have a lot more pie than the fellow with 37 per cent. But suppose you had to share your bigger piece with a friend? Well, you could do the fair thing and split it in two and you'd each have a 31.5-per-cent piece, smaller than the 37 per cent but pretty big nonetheless. But what if you had a third friend? Now your piece is getting really small and the guy who started out with the smaller piece is fat, happy and laughing at you.
And that brief math lesson demonstrates why Supreme Leader Harper is feeling pretty comfortable about the federal election coming some time this year. The worst, most likely outcome may see him form another minority government.
That's because those 37 per cent of voters who voted for him in 2011 are "True Believers." Oh, he may lose a couple of per cent but those defectors would only represent the difference between a majority and minority government. And as we've seen, the Supreme Leader can be just as doctrinaire and ruthless with a minority as a majority. After all, he has cowards as opposition. Cowards who run scared in the face of his taunts of, "Coalition, coalition" if they try to ban together to oppose one of his Stupid (in)Human Tricks.
I'm sorry. Did that spoil your day? Well, it made someone else's.
Sixty-three per cent of voters in 2011 didn't want Stephen Harper to be prime minister. But he is, with no effective opposition. It's not, obviously, because he's popular. His base is pretty small.
Stephen Harper is Canada's prime minister because the leaders of the Liberal, New Democratic and Green parties are more interested in focusing on their differences than their similarities. They're more inclined to think with their egos rather than their brains. They're bound like prisoners to a history that no longer reflects today's reality. And, frankly, they'd rather be losers than winners.
And they will be — again — in October or whenever the election is ultimately held.
John Kerry proved in 2004 that you can't win an election by running against even an unpopular incumbent. It's not enough to parade your Stop Harper signs and point out the manifold failures of his reign. That's not going to shake his base and, more importantly, that's not going to energize your supporters. That's especially not going to energize supporters when everyone who wants a little slice of that bigger piece of pie spend their energy attacking each other rather than the 'common' enemy.
Virtually every time Thomas Mulcair has opened his mouth in the past month it has been to take a swipe at Justin Trudeau. Virtually every time Justin Trudeau has spoken, it's been to take a swipe at the Supreme Leader. Every time Elizabeth May has spoken, wise words have come out... but to no avail.
It's a recipe to lose yet another election.
The people behind the scenes, the campaign managers, strategists, etc,. are divining the numbers from past elections like soothsayers pondering the entrails of sacrificial animals. "Our numbers from the last election tell us X."
WAKE UP! The only thing your numbers from the last election tell you are how to lose the next election. It's time to throw out your losing model and try something different.
What? Well, for example, you could begin to unveil your platform — you do have a platform, don't you? — now. Start giving supporters something to support, something to get excited about, something to rally around.
When the leaders of the NDP and Liberals attack the Supreme Leader for his, say, inability to manage the economy, they fail to offer an alternative vision. One of the reasons they don't like doing that is because they know the Conservatives will let slip the attack dogs. Well, here's an inconvenient truth — if your platform, your vision, your strategy isn't strong enough to withstand scrutiny, it isn't worth a damn.
Stephen Harper attacks Justin Trudeau because the Liberal leader comes out in favour of decriminalizing or legalizing pot. What does Trudeau do about it? Nothing. What should he do about it? Defend it with the reasoned arguments that make sense. Give potential voters a clear choice. Don't hide behind platitudes and wait for the writ to drop to let voters know what you stand for and what you propose to do. That's the old-school recipe for losing.
But it's hard to fight the conclusion all is for naught. As long as the three centre/left-of-centre parties keep nibbling at that 63 per cent slice of pie, they'll all wear the "Loser" label. They're not going to set their egos aside and do what needs to be done, form a single party. That impetus is going to have to come from voters who are fed up with watching the three blind mice hand the country over to the Supreme Leader.
There are enough principles in common between the three opposition parties to form the basis of a strong single party. The points of disagreement can be worked out the way reasonable people work out their differences. The new leader of the Green New Liberal Democratic party can be chosen the way leaders have been chosen for decades, by a vote of the party faithful.
If there is ever a hope to defeat the Conservatives, to give voice to the 63%, to put Canada back on course to regain the world's envy that Mr. Harper has pissed away, the three opposition parties are going to have to swallow hard and accept the fact it's a two-party world and you can't split more than half the pie three ways and ever call yourself a winner.
Just do it.