By Robert Frank
Three years ago, Pauline Marois promised her Péquiste faithful that she would lead them to the Promised Land.
On March 12, 2011, she waxed lyrical in predicting that a “printemps pour la souveraineté” would follow her election to office.
A month ago, it appeared that she was well on her way to achieving that end. Her defeat in Quebec’s April 7 election instead serves as a sobering reminder of the perils of hubris.
Quebec sovereignists were unelectable until René Lévesque promised to set aside sovereignty and simply provide good government until the independence question could be resolved in a subsequent referendum.
In 1976, he rode to power on the same wave of public weariness with corruption allegations and stage-managed student protests that Marois did in 2012.
She calculated that anti-immigrant sentiment in Quebec’s demographically homogenous outlying regions would, in turn, give her the majority that she needed to move forward with her independence project.
“A political springtime is coming: it will be a sovereignist spring,” she prophesied.
A month ago, it appeared that she was right. Polls pointed to a massive Péquiste victory, one that would give her the supermajority that she needed to “move from being a province to a country.”
That’s the moment when Marois fell prey to her own propaganda.
Hypnotized by her own hype, she proceeded to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Strategists will study this election for decades, as a textbook example of what not to do during a political campaign.
As the polls showed that Péquiste support eroded, then collapsed, the whiff of fear turned into the reek of panic in the final days of the campaign.
It’s about far more than losing their grip on the reins of power. Marois and her cohort knew that very soon they will likely have to face scrutiny by the Charbonneau inquiry into political corruption.
They were hoping to do so from the pinnacles of power. Now that Marois is an ordinary citizen who no longer holds elected office, she must do so as an outsider.
It would make a good movie—a dark comedy—about how what seemed like a sure thing went wrong in the end.
The buds of spring are swelling.
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