A principled (and rational) call

Bob Rae recited a sonnet by William Shakespeare at the end of the scrum on June 13 where he formally announced he will not be in the race for the Liberal leadership.

Bob Rae recited a sonnet by William Shakespeare at the end of the scrum on June 13 where he formally announced he will not be in the race for the Liberal leadership.

But reporters could be forgiven for thinking Rae may have had the words of another English literary icon running through his mind as he departed from them.

Specifically: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done,” the words uttered by the doomed Sydney Carton in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

Not that Rae’s decision not to run rose to such a degree of nobility — far from it. It was a practical decision, but in its way, it was also a principled one.

When he assumed the interim leadership in May 2011, Rae vowed he wouldn’t seek the permanent leadership at a future date, and he has now kept that promise, even though the chances were great that the prize was his for the taking.

But while Jean Chretien gloated that he was able to throw off the mantle of “yesterday’s man” when he returned to politics in 1990 and captured the Liberal leadership on his way to the Prime Minister’s Office three years later, Rae in his current role really is seen as the steward of a party that’s mired in the past, and he isn’t the “tomorrow’s man (or woman)” the Liberals require.

He may have stepped away from a leadership run, but he will still be steering the party ship through to next spring’s leadership convention.

There’s little doubt he will continue to impart the dedication and resolve he has displayed in that role over the past year to his caucus and to those who will seek the leadership as the Liberals rebuild, and that is principled as well. The federal political scene will be diminished by Rae’s departure.

The period between now and next April’s leadership convention is very much a make or break time for Rae’s party.

A grassroots movement is afoot to unite the left. Whether such unity would be comprised of a temporary fix to challenge Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in 2015 or would be a long-term marriage is unknown. Also unknown is how much of an appetite there is on the left for such as arrangement.

If Justin Trudeau enters the leadership race, the Liberals must weigh the value of choosing star power over a less prepossessing candidate.

In the end, the best possible strategy is to refashion the party as one truly distinct from both the Conservatives and the New Democrats, and try to convince Canadians that they have once again become Canada’s Natural Governing Party.

From the Waterloo Region Record.

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