NDP delusions: a leader stays on, and what we need instead

Justin Trudeau is a very lucky man. Oh I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve his win. I am ecstatic about the election last Monday, and as mentioned previously, had a Liberal sign on my lawn.

But our democracy needs a genuine conversation among the parties. That isn’t about to happen for awhile, and that’s what I mean about calling JT a lucky man.

  • Conservatives? Harper has resigned. The Conservative Party may leap into a leadership battle. Doug Ford has made noise about being the next leader. In the meantime, however, this party is not going to be able to hold the Liberals accountable, which means lucky Justin (part 1)
  • NDP? Even worse. Yes Mulcair is a great Parliamentarian. But his campaign was a disaster. I pick up my headline from a wonderfully incisive piece on THE LEFT CHAPTER

Whereas the Conservatives will at least have a leadership campaign if not an actual soul-searching, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the NDP.

Mulcair will be much more of a thorn in Justin’s side than the conservative leader, at least until they choose someone new. But the NDP are apparently in a time-warp, re-enacting scenarios we have seen before.  I am a former NDP member, having canvassed, having had my heart broken in losing efforts, and a man with huge sympathy for the NDP.

I believe there’s a culture of political correctness within the party that is in some ways very admirable, but also dysfunctional. Defeat is normal within the NDP. No I don’t mean they always lose, but I do mean that they lose more often than any major party. When you have 300+ ridings in the country and come away with fewer than 40 members, that’s a lot of defeated candidates, a lot of stoicism, a lot of expressions of gratitude in the face of heartbreak. Now look back at the past decades and you see a great many more defeats, more downcast eyes, more sadness.

Under the circumstances is it any wonder that Mulcair is staying on? This party of heartbreak and stoicism have a high pain threshold, a tolerance for agony you won’t find in the other parties. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, it’s a pain management strategy.  Is the NDP really seeking to become a party that wins, or are they paralyzed by who they have always been: a party of pain & commiseration.  No one in this party lays any blame on Mulcair, who was likely following the strategy he was given, ineffectual as it turned out to be.

But Mulcair staying on gives Trudeau a break because this party have decided to keep banging their heads against the same wall as before. They are now unmasked. Mulcair is no longer the powerful leader of the opposition, oh no.  He’s been revealed as the inheritor of Jack Layton’s mantle who couldn’t nearly replicate that success, as they slipped back to where they usually finish: a distant third.  Our parliament really should be a conversation among strong & articulate alternatives.  We need strong voices on all sides of the House.

Now of course if Trudeau fails to deliver, Mulcair is ready.  The question is, does Mulcair represent the future of the NDP? Or its past..?

Reuters/Canadian Press photo from an article a month ago. The world has changed since then.

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3 Responses to NDP delusions: a leader stays on, and what we need instead

  1. “The question is, does Mulcair represent the future of the NDP? Or its past..?”

    The question might better be put as “Does Mulcair represent the NDP at all?”

    I think he was voted in as leader by a bunch of people who believe in a pony for every little girl and a unicorn in every garage. The prospect of building a national electoral victory by consolidating a freak effect of the bizarre results produced by a four party FTP system in francophone Quebec was a willful attempt to deny political reality. The NDP ended up with a leader who was never going to have real appeal to the constituency the NDP needs to attract, let alone help shift the Overton window to the left, which may in reality be the most useful function the NDP can perform.

    • barczablog says:

      The NDP have always been a funny hybrid. I remember long ago when i had Kay & Brough (aka “CB”) MacPherson as neighbours. She used to joke that they were wealthy people who supported the NDP. Similarly, Bob Rae was a successful lawyer in the NDP. You’d see it at the rallies, where university students would sing solidarity forever with union members: and it always rang false to me. I am not saying there isn’t a genuine common interest, i’m saying that the NDP often floundered between the rough-hewn worker side of its constituency and the well-heeled sort who also sheltered under the same umbrella. Mulcair is just the latest interesting example.

      The most useful function the NDP can perform? if they embrace their marginal status and simply speak truth to power –as Stephen & David Lewis did so well before– they’re performing a useful function, and likely will be a huge thorn in Trudeau’s side. But when they talk out of two sides of their mouths while they chase votes & seats, they resemble the other parties far too much. Alas, it’s the game of politics. I love the NDP when they’re truthful, but does being truthful win you votes? So far it hasn’t worked too well.

      • I think it’s possible to be genuinely left wing without being an industrial worker. It does help to have roots though I guess. The relentless and unprincipled pursuit of power is terribly dangerous for a party of the left. I was, once, a fairly prominent Labour Party activist and I have former friends who have served as MPs and even Cabinet Ministers and who have transformed, politically and morally, in quite horrific ways. I’ve watched the two step as the UK Conservative Party has marched to the right with the Labour Party in hot pursuit. It’s frightening and it’s happening all over Europe. To misquote scripture. What profit a party if it gain the election but loses its soul? I fought the good fight for years. Now I’m just too old and tired to go through it all again but I’ll get involved enough to vote if someone emerges as a credible progressive leader for the party and let the people who have youth, energy and passion enough carry the banner forward. I’ll close on a quote for a man I don’t think I fully appreciated at the time but I now realise was truly great, Harold Wilson. “The Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing”. I believe that the same is true for the NDP.

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