Years ago a prime minister of Canada, seeking to create a historical legacy for himself, sought to bring Quebec into the Canadian constitution. As only historic fanatics seem to recall nowadays, when Pierre Trudeau patriated Canada's constitution from Britain in 1981, the province of Quebec refused to sign unless a clause was inserted identifying them as a superior form of life, language and culture. In one of the few good decisions Trudeau made during his tenure (retiring was the other), he refused and had the constitution signed without French approval. The subsequent prime minister, Brian Mulroney, hungry for a legacy other than "2nd most hated prime minister in Canadian history" (curiously, no. 1 at the time was Pierre Trudeau) sought to remodel the constitution so that Quebec would sign on. His first attempt, the Meech Lake accord, was torpedoed by a single native member of the legislature in Manitoba who refused to give unanimous assent to his province's approval of the deal. The second, the Charlottetown Accord, was sunk after Mulroney was forced to put it to a popular referendum and Canadians across the country, including Quebec, rejected it 60-40.
One could understand the government's disappointment with the failure of Meech Lake. After all, the national parliament and the legislatures of all the other provinces had approved it. One vote in one legislature sank what seemed to be the will of the people. But with the rejection of Charlottetown by the people themselves there should have been no question as to what Canada, as a democracy, wanted in terms of special accomodation for the enfants terribles of Canada.
This is not how some saw it though. In a classic remark, Joe Clark, a former prime minister himself and then a senior minister in Mulroney's government was asked what he thought about the referendum's result. His answer? "I think the people made a mistake."
Whoa, hang on. The people made a mistake? Listen, there are lots of cynical comments one can make about democracy. One can ask about the wisdom of leaving the choosing of the government to people who still buy Toronto Maple Leaf tickets and merchanise. One might note such pithy sayings as "People always get the government they deserve". But to say the people made a mistake? In a democracy, the electorate does not make a mistake. It chooses the government it wants irrespective of what elistist politicians think it should desire.
This comment has always stuck with me as an example of the difference between left wing and right wing reactions to political defeat. For the right wing, there is always self-condemnation. After John McCain was defeated by BH Obama, the Republicans began bashing themselves in a thrashing attempt to discover where they had gone wrong.
The left wing, on the other hand, doesn't seem to understand the concept of defeat. If they are rejected by the electorate, their first assumption is that a tremendous mistake has occured. Was there gerrymandering of districts? Possible ballot box stuffing? Perhaps the electorate was high on pot (ironically it's the left wing that wants to legalize that). But the thought "No, the people rejected our agenda" simply does not occur to them.
Inevitably after a defeat, the left comes up with its signature belief: "The people weren't choosing the right wing. They really wanted to elect us but we've become arrogant so they wanted to punish us. Well, message received. Now can we go back into power?"
This singular worldview, "Democracy only works when we win" isn't confined to politics. Rights activists on the left also limit their interest in defending the oppressed to chic causes. As this article in YNet notes:
Yehuda Glick, one of the most prominent rightist activists in the struggle for equalizing the rights of Jews and Arabs on Temple Mount, indeed expressed his protest. He distributed a very harsh condemnation of Elad’s arrest among rightist activists. By doing so, Glick adhered to the democratic principle whereby even if one does not agree to anything another person says, one would nonetheless fight for the other person’s right to speak up.
Yet does the Association for Civil Rights in Israel also adhere to this principle? Not at all. On most days, it does not offer legal and moral assistance to citizens who do not share its worldview on the matters of peace and territories....
In fact, these associations barely made a sound when the rule of law abused rightist protestors during the period of the Gush Katif uprooting operation. Shamefully enough, these groups endorsed the uprooting operation, thereby making their current struggle in Sheikh Jarrah seem ridiculous.
It is up to thinking people to speak out and remind so-called rights activities that not just those people with politically correct views or ethnic/gender backgrounds are entitled to enjoy support. A right for one is a right for all and until the left realizes this, they must be called out on it. They are just as discriminatory and biased as their opponents they accuse of similar crimes.