Sometimes it's unwise to put two and two together. Call this, then, a symptom. Last week, Michael Ignatieff launched an assault on CUPE Ontario and Israeli Apartheid Week, the former for opposing joint weapons development with Israel, the latter for allegedly calling for the end of the Israeli state.
There's a fine evisceration of Ignatieff's intellectually incompetent op-ed piece here. And another one here. In brief, opponents of South African apartheid were never accused of wanting an end to the South African state, just an end to apartheid. But to oppose Israeli apartheid practices, according to Ignatieff, is equivalent to opposing the very existence of Israel.
Now the rampant Taurus is swiftly advancing in the polls. It's not because of his slovenly posturing last week, of course. It's because, in general, and day by day, he is sounding more and more like a smart version of Stephen Harper. And when he isn't opportunistically running his mouth, he and his caucus are twitching in sympathy with every atavistic spasm of the Conservative government--collaborating in the gutting of pay equity and the tearing up of collective agreements, caving on a $3-billion Conservative slush fund, acquiescing in the throttling of the CBC and the arts, and uncritically adopting Conservative energy policies.
Times, as we know, are hard, and getting harder. Any incumbent government will bear the brunt of that--it's the shark-attack syndrome. And yet, when times are better, people favour the incumbent. The opposition strategy, therefore, cynical though it be, is obvious--present yourself as the not-incumbent, while sounding as much like the incumbent as possible.
But don't imagine for a moment that Ignatieff is merely putting it on. A man of deeply conservative instincts who has now enthusiastically embraced Liberal cynicism, he offers the balm of continuity in a troubled period. He may well move up after the next election from junior partner to senior partner in the current Grand Coalition--but it's still a partnership.
UPDATE: (March 11) Whoops. The strategy may have bottomed out. Spoke too soon?