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Monday, April 15 2024 @ 06:31 MDT

On evolution and politics.

Canadian PoliticsEvolution is often mis characterized as the survival of the fittest. What it more accurately would be described as the survival of the one most able to adapt to changes in the environment. Ever since Charles Darwin formulated the theory behind evolution for the natural world, people have been using it to describe things in the human realm with various degrees of success. I\'m not above doing this and I\'m going to apply the theory to politics. Now using evolution, the survival of a political party is it\'s ability to adapt to changes in its environment. The environment a political party exists in is the society it is a part of. So as the society changes (as all societies do over time), the ability of political parties to change with society is a requirement for that party\'s survival. My postulate is that a party\'s willingness to change (adapt to a new environment) is key to it\'s long term survival and possible electoral success.

First, let me look at political parties on the Canadian federal level. Currently we have four main national parties (Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green) and one major regional party (Bloc Quebecois). What has been the survivability and flexibility of these parties?

The Liberal party has been around since before Confederation. It tends to the middle of the political road, bending and flexing with the whim of Canadian society. Though it receives much criticism for this flexibility from the other parties (it is often difficult to get what the party stands for out of a Liberal) this is exactly what a party needs to do to adapt to a changing society. This shows in the fact the Liberal party has been around since Confederation without having to merge with other parties. The Liberal Party has had the most electoral success (more federal governments have been Liberal and they have been in power the most amount of time) . This ability to adapt to the changes in society has kept the Liberals around and in power since before the start of the country.

The Conservative party has also been around since Confederation. However the line back to Sir John A. isn\'t as clean and unbroken as the Liberals. The Conservatives have merged with other parities to survive. Without this, they would have died out. Why is this? By definition a conservative does not want change (or if they want change, they want to change things to “the way things used to be”). So as society evolves and changes, the Conservatives resist this. This has resulted in them being left behind twice, forcing mergers with other parities, first the Progressives and most recently the Alliance. Their unwillingness of change has nearly put the Conservatives out of business twice. The change coming only when forced upon them by near extinction. The Conservatives (in their various incarnations) are also the only other party to hold power federally, though not as often or for as long as the Liberals.

How about the NDP? They haven\'t been around as long as the Liberals or Conservatives. They had one name change (from CCF to NDP) when the party moved to include more than just labour in it\'s platform. The party tends to a more dogmatic stance towards it\'s policies (like the Conservatives) though the party\'s policies have slowly changed through the years.

The fourth federal party, the Green Party, is also a relative newcomer to the scene, though their electoral fortunes haven\'t been great (but improving in recent years). Their party tends towards one issue which they are rather inflexible on (the environment) while being quite flexible on all others.

The Bloc Quebecois are an extremely new party in terms of the others. The party has one stated goal, the separation of Quebec, though it tends to the centre left on other issues. It enjoys relative success in the one province it runs candidates in (Quebec). It\'s fortunes will wax and wane with the separatist feeling in Quebec, as well as how annoyed Quebecers are with the Liberals.

So how does the theory fit these parties? Fairly well for the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP. The Liberals are very good at adapting to their political environment and this shows in their longevity and tenacious hold on power. The Conservatives and NDP have been forced into rapid changes for survival at times in their history due to society having had moved on. The parties are still around since they were either able to change at the last minute for the Conservatives, or by slowly evolving their platform for the NDP. Rapid changes in society may leave these two parties in the cold though, as the ideologues in the both parties tend to resist change.

As for the Greens and the Bloc, it is difficult to see if the theory fits. Both have been on the scene for a short period of time, too short for society to have change much and forcing an adaptation. However how good at making predictions is the hallmark of a good theory so here are some predictions: The Bloc will not likely have long term survivability as long as they tie themselves to the separation issue, not to mention the fact that they are tied to one province alone. Eventually the people of Quebec will move on, and the hard core separatists in the Bloc will be unable to follow.

The Greens are likely to have longer staying power. Though they tend to be inflexible on environmental issues, they are extremely flexible on all other issues. This will allow them some maneuver room when society changes.

The long term survival of the Liberals is virtually assured. Since they bend with every change in the wind, they\'re able to adapt quite quickly to changes in society.

The Conservatives will survive if they can overcome the social conservatives in their ranks. The fiscal conservatives in the Conservative party tend to be more socially liberal and hence more likely to adapt to changes in society. If the social conservatives remain in control of the party, it will begin to die out again as the social conservatives are desperately trying to cast society into the 1880\'s.

The NDP will also survive if the ideologues in the party don\'t hinder the slow evolution of the party\'s policies. Society changes slowly so a slow change in policy will permit survival. However, no change in policy will have the party slowly die out as society changes.

A quick survey of provincial politics can also be used to support the theory. In BC, the conservative parties have a history of being wiped out, while parities more open to change continue to exist. Alberta gives an extreme case. As Albertans tend to be a conservative lot, change in Alberta society happens very slowly. However change it does and this slow change has caused the extinction of several parties who once held power. In Quebec, the provincial Conservatives died out with the rise of the separatist movement. In the other provinces, Conservative inability to change with society has cost elections, but not survival. This would appear to be because the provincial party in those provinces are willing to change if the change is forced upon them by the electorate and hence these parties will tend towards survivability in the long run.
On evolution and politics. | 2 comments | Create New Account
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On evolution and politics.
Authored by: Anonymous onTuesday, February 15 2005 @ 09:20 MST
And like wandering into the wrong bar on a Friday night, the Conservatives in AB demonstrate that not only does evolution occasionally take a step backwards, it often has a sense of humour when it does.