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 Featured Title
The Big Red Machine
How the Liberal Party Dominates Canadian Politics
Stephen Clarkson  

$97.00 Hardcover
Release Date: 10/15/2005
ISBN: 9780774811958    

$32.95 Paperback
Release Date: 10/15/2005
ISBN: 9780774811965    

352 Pages


About the Book

The Liberal Party of Canada has governed for 78 of the last 110 years, making it the most successful political party in the world. How has one party been able to dominate the polls during such a tumultuous sweep of history? Will it continue to win?

In The Big Red Machine, astute Liberal observer Stephen Clarkson tells the story of the Liberal Party’s performance in the last nine elections, providing essential historical context for each and offering incisive, behind-the-scenes detail about how the party has planned, changed, and executed its successful electoral strategies. Arguing that the Liberal Party has opportunistically straddled the political centre since Sir John A. Macdonald -- leaning left or moving right and as circumstances required -- Clarkson also shows that the party’s grip on power is becoming increasingly uncertain, having lost its appeal not just in the West, but now in Québec. Its campaigns now reflect the splintering of the party system and the integration of Canada into the global economy.

An ideal political primer, deftly written and filled with a wealth of fact and analysis, The Big Red Machine is a fascinating history of Liberal pragmatism, communication tactics, and dramatic changes in leadership style. "Even if the last century did not belong to Canada, Canada turns out to have belonged to the Liberal Party," Clarkson concludes. Although he foresees considerably less rosy prospects for Grits in the years ahead, the "big red machine" remains a formidable political force.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Clarkson is the author of Trudeau and Our Times, Canada and the Reagan Challenge, and Uncle Sam and Us.

Table of Contents

Preface: The Joy of Winning / ix
Acknowledgments / xiii

Introduction: Party Systems and Liberal Leaders / 3

Pierre Trudeau: Victory, Fall, and Recovery
1974 The Liberal Party and Pierre Trudeau: The Jockey and the Horse / 31
1979 The Government’s Defeat, the Party’s Decline, and the Leader’s (Temporary) Fall / 51
1980 Hiding the Charisma: Low-Bridging the Saviour / 87

John Turner: From Disappointment to Despair
1984 The Dauphin and the Doomed: John Turner’s Debacle / 109
1988 Election or Referendum? Disoriented in Defeat / 137

Jean Chrétien: Power without Purpose
1993 Yesterday’s Man and His Blue Grits: Backwards into Jean Chrétien’s Future / 161
1997 Securing Their Future Together / 180
2000 The Liberal Threepeat: The Multi-System Party in the Multi-Party System / 206

Paul Martin: Saved By the Far Right
2004 Disaster and Recovery: Paul Martin As Political Lazarus / 237

The Liberal Party As Hegemon: Straddling Canadian History / 265

Appendix / 285
Notes / 291
Bibliography / 316
Index / 325


Tough reading aside, The Big Red Machine is nonetheless alive with clear, bright thinking. Clarkson "gets" electoral politics. He avoids the journalistic trap of generalizing the popular will, and has a good feel for the ordering of the electorate into coalitions. Liberal campaign planners should read this book, especially the chapters about the Trudeau campaigns, which challenge the memory of a charismatic juggernaut with an evidence-based portrait of spotty organization, weak strategy and frequently indifferent performance.
- John Duffy, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, October 15, 2005

University of Toronto political scientist Stephen Clarkson's is an academic work of the best kind. He covers a mountain of analytic literature on the subject and does not talk down to his readership. Yet he yet writes in a comprehensible and coherent style.
His is a work intended for the educated layman, as well as the political scientist. It will be useful to journalists, teachers, lawyers and anyone interested in an intelligent treatment of our national politics.
- Allen Mills, professor of politics, the University of Winnipeg, in the Winnipeg Free Press, Sunday, October 16th, 2005

It is a popular political history, rich in detail, sparse in language, packed with backroom anecdotes, well-documented information, and the incisive political analysis that only an academic of Mr. Clarkson’s stature can bring to a controversial, political hot-seller.
-- Richard Cleroux, The Hill Times, October 31st, 2005.

Clarkson is particularly well targeted on the Liberal capacity to engage with ruthless focus and ballistic intensity when elections start to slip away … As one enjoys this book’s analysis and intellectual framework, it seems particularly worthwhile to ask whether the story it documents of mechanics over ideas is, really, in some way, a story of Canada itself.
-- Hugh Segal, Literary Review of Canada, December 2005.

[Clarkson's] accessible and compelling presentation of the story of Liberal electoral politics offers a nostalgic review of the events and personalities that shaped the political journey from Pierre Elliott Trudea to Paul Martin. In accomplishing this, [he] has produced a book that will be of as much interest to non-academic followers of Canadian politics as it is to serious students of partisan politics.
The Big Red Machine is an example of scholarship emerging from years of careful and sustained observation. It provides a fascinating review of thirty years of Liberal history. It offers very thoughtful analysis of the potential rold of leadership, organization, policy, communication and finances in electoral success and failure. It also provides considerable food for thought to those interested in the study of party systems. With this, Stephen Clarkson has made another important contribution to the study of Canadian politics.
- Steve Patten, Canadian Journal of Political Science 39:4, December 2006

The Big Red Machine is an accessible and detailed examination of the electoral successes and failures of the LPC over 30 years, written by one of Canada’s foremost scholars of the party. … Clarkson’s exceptional research, including interviews and the use of public opinion data and media analysis, illuminates the story of each campaign. … The books belong on the shelf of anyone interested in Canadian politics. It is an insightful and scholarly read. Though the focus is on the Liberal Party, The Big Red Machine tells us much about the other parties, elections, and Canadian politics more broadly.
- Small, Canadian Public Policy, March 2008

Sample Chapter

Sample Chapter

How the Big Red Machine Became the Little Red Machine (PDF)

Supplement to The Big Red Machine (2006)

Related Topics

Political Science
Political Science > Canada

Other Ways To Order

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