(WARNING: Canadian politics alert. American readers may wish to instead look at this cute puppy. You have been warned.)
So Bob Rae has finally won himself a seat in Toronto Centre, in the by-elections that were for all practical intents and purposes a referendum on Stephane Dion’s leadership. (A referendum which offered an inconclusive, dithering result: the Liberals won two traditionally Liberal ridings handily, but got clobbered in a swing riding in Manitoba and barely won a traditional Liberal bastion in BC.)
Unfortunately, Rae’s victory will serve as something of an endorsement for his future candidacy as leader of the Liberal Party. Someone really has to explain to me how the hell Bob Rae became a contender for the Liberal party leadership , because I don’t quite follow how a party-hopper with a history of breathtaking political failure gets consideration for party mascot, let alone leader.
None of this should be taken as a personal condemnation of Bob Rae; I’ve always felt he got unfairly tarred for handling a terrible recession as best he could. But that doesn’t mean he should be considered for a party leadership role, for crissake – the man puts Ontario severely into play for the Tories, who otherwise only get to be competitive in one-fifth of the ridings. The Dippers hate him because he killed the provincial party in Ontario for at least another decade yet so he loses votes on the left; Tory/Liberal swing voters hate him because he let Floyd Laughren do what the latter felt necessary, so he loses votes on the right.
And everywhere else in Canada, he doesn’t win votes; he loses them. Let me stress this point again, because god knows we need to make this clear: he loses votes. Regardless of whether you think it good or bad, Bob Rae is political Kryptonite on a scale almost nonexistent in Canadian politics, on the level of a Brian Mulroney or a Paul Martin. He energizes opposing party bases.
It’s not like the Liberal Party is short of solid potential leaders. Gerard Kennedy is fairly young and charismatic. Ken Dryden is a bonafide Canadian icon and an amazingly eloquent speaker and writer. I don’t like Michael Ignatieff, but even he would probably be a serviceable party leader, and the man can speechify like a demon. Why would anybody pick Bob Rae over any of these guys? Are they trying to tank it?
 *cough* friends on Bay Street *cough*