The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Canada’s Left-most Party, the NDP, Moves Ahead of the Neo-liberal Liberal Party

I am amused:

Canadian Federal Poll Results

Canadian Federal Poll Results

This is entirely the result of the decisions made by Liberal Party leader, Justin Trudeau, and by NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair. After Parliament was attacked by a mentally ill man, the Canadian Prime Minister, Harper, decided to push through a surveillance and police state bill, Bill-C51. This bill voided about half the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.

Immediately after the attack, support for the bill was in heavy majority territory. So Justin Trudeau, the Liberal leader, decided to support it. Mulcair decided not to support it.

But Canadians turned out to be more sensible and principled than Trudeau thought (indeed, I was surprised, though I would have done as Mulcair did as a matter of principle); as time went by and the details of the bill came out, they turned against it.

More importantly, left-wing swing voters turned against it. And seeing that it was supported by the Liberal party, they turned against the Liberal party and towards the NDP, whose principles now appear to be driven by something other than polls.

Or, as I sarcastically noted some time ago, “I’d like to thank Justin Trudeau for single-handedly reviving the NDP’s election chances.”

Justin Trudeau is, for those who don’t know, the son of the great Pierre Trudeau, who ran the country through much of the 70s and 80s, and who is beloved by many on the left (and truly hated by many on the right, and in the West). Justin is also quite pretty, and has beautiful abs, which he showed off in a boxing match he won.

He was the heir-presumptive from the moment he was coronated by the Liberal Party (calling it an election implies there was any chance the Liberal Party wasn’t going to choose him)—the polls consistently showed the Liberal Party under him as the main opposition party to the Conservatives.

Meanwhile Mulcair kept just doing most of the right things. And one day Justin, who was always quite clearly a neo-liberal with few actual left-wing beliefs, made an error of judgment and character which left-wing swing  voters weren’t willing to overlook.

This is exactly the circumstance I was talking about in my article on ideology and political parties. Exactly:

Let me put this precisely: The job of a political party is either to get a few specific people into power, or it is to offer a clear option to the voters. If it is the second, then your job is to make sure that option remains available. In many cases, if you do so, you will get into power fairly soon—after two to three terms. In other cases, if you are a minor party, it may take decades.

If you genuinely believe in your policies, in your ideology, whatever it is, then that is fine. The public has a right to choose, you just make sure they have a real choice and not a menu that is all of the same.

Your job is to offer a clear choice. Mulcair, fairly consistently, has offered that clear choice. Perhaps he did so out of principle, perhaps he did so out of strategy, perhaps it was both, I don’t know. But it has paid off. If he had offered the same as the Liberals, those voters would not have gone to the NDP. (I happen to believe, in this case, that it is principle.)

The election is still some way off, and there is no way to be sure who will win. But this has changed a multi-year dynamic in a significant way. Last election made the federal NDP the official opposition party, but it did so on the back of the personal charisma of the previous NDP leader: Jack Layton. One election is not a pattern.  Two elections start becoming one.

If the NDP either wins the election or becomes the official opposition again, one will be able to make the case that they are one of the two main parties. At that point, strategic voting starts cutting heavily against the Liberals (a thought which brings most NDP supporters great schaenfreude). If you want the Conservatives out, you must vote NDP, not Liberal, so as to “not split the vote.”

I find that funny beyond describing.

And as for Trudeau, he was always an empty suit: A man cruising on his father’s name, “le Dauphin”, with no real accomplishments or weight of his own. Since their coup against Chretien, the Liberals have repeatedly selected as their leaders either men with little charisma (Martin, Dion), no weight (Trudeau), or neither weight nor charisma (hello Michael Ignatieff). Perhaps they should decide to believe in something other than being in power, and in doing so, deserve to be in power.

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  1. john c. halasz

    But you Canucks have a first-past-the-post voting system, which, if not quite as bad as the U.S. system, (though see the U.K. results), means that if the two opposition parties don’t come to some accommodation, your local Erdogan might still rule the roost, with however slimmer a “majority”.

  2. JustPlainDave

    If it is all C-51 (I tend to think not – there’s also as much, if not more, “not the empty suit, thanks”), it suggests that things could end up being quite dynamic in Quebec – C-51 broke quite interestingly there.

  3. Ian Welsh

    I think C-51 was the precipitating event: that’s what showed he was an empty suit, while Mulcair had been consistently, for years, showing he was not an empty suit.

  4. JustPlainDave

    It’s certainly one of the things. I’ve been going over the prior data on the Ekos blog and there are some quite interesting tidbits in there.

    Mulcair’s negatives are strikingly low in Quebec compared to other provinces, while the negatives for Trudeau and Harper are strikingly high. Given the pattern of support for C-51, I tend to think they’ve (Quebec) decided that that’s not as important as everything else, which suggests to me that dynamics may not end up being that high in the event.

    One thing that really struck me is how the NDP performs reasonably well when surveying on best plan or ideas for improving the country (21.4% vs. 21.7% Lib / 27.1% Con), best plan or ideas for you personally (24.4% vs. 25.0% Lib / 25.7% Con), but less well when talking of best plan or ideas for the future (18.4% vs. 21.0% Lib / 29.8% Con). The survey period was a few weeks after the budget, so I think the PC numbers are a bit juiced (and these are only 1/3 sample questions), but it does say to me that messaging has some room for improvement – one thing that I do wonder is what they’ll do around platform timing (they talking about getting it out there early and they did release some planks, but I don’t know that the whole formal hoopla thing has been done – I note particularly that it was latish in Alberta and wonder if that’s something to replicate).

    The methodology throughout is interactive response based on an RDD platform, with weighting by age, sex, region, and level of educational attainment. I can find no published response rates.

  5. The Liberal Party’s problems go deeper than neoliberalism. The party once sold itself, very successfully, as the “non-dogmatic”, “pragmatic” party whose purpose is simply competent governance without making a big romance of political ideals—or any at all. But we are entering a time in which the consensus definitions of “competent governance” are increasingly and openly in question, so it’s not hard to see how a “pragmatic” party who has spent its recent history presenting itself as embodying a sort of “Solomonism” can have a tough time finding its footing.

  6. Stirling Newberry

    Justin is not his father.

  7. Julien

    In Québec, the last name “Trudeau” still elicits some rather polarizing emotions in a sizable portion of the electorate. Case in point: my mother. An aging, left-leaning woman who is still a staunch nationalist. She was amongst the first to signup to the Parti Québécois when it was founded in the 70s and has supported it since, voted “Yes” in all referendums, etc. She hated Pierre-Elliott Trudeau with a passion. The interesting tidbit was during the last mayoral elections here in Montréal, in 2013. She liked one of the candidates, a woman named Mélanie Joly. But she could not resolve herself to vote for her, because she had been the managing director of Justin’s leadership campaign in the Liberal Party. To my mother, the sins of the father are so dire that they will be visited not only on the son, but any who even associate with him. And she’s not alone.

    The thing is, those people used to vote Bloc Québécois and did so for 20 years before realizing that was utterly pointless. When they sought somewhere else to go, the Liberals were too tainted, the Conservatives to right-wing. Along came Jack Layton and a new possibility. When he was selected as NDP leader, Mulcair had to keep these people voting NDP and he managed to do it.

    Those that were open to returning to the Liberal fold after their NDP adventure of 2011 wanted to be convinced, but as Stirling succinctly put “Justin is not his father”. He doesn’t have his father’s charisma and the wishy-washy answers he gave on a few popular talk shows here certainly didn’t help his cause. His father was many things to many people, but milquetoast was never, ever one of those.

  8. Lisa

    I have to admit I have zero intrest in Canada going all right wing…so surprised…not. It is Anglo Saxon, of course it is right wing and the elites there will try to make it worse. Duh. I expect Harper to unilaterally declare war on Russia any day now…… and that criticism of Israel and Ukrainian Nazis become capital offences…

    I am far more interested about Australia and in Scotland and our fights against right wing extremism.

    And, being transgender myself, Caitlyn Jenner and the world reaction. Which has been fascinating…..

  9. I suppose it is time to have a digression on some of the inner workings of what is labeled as ” being out”. while I am not ” out” per se, it is one of the stigmas in my society that I found repugnant, and when I was a teenager, I saw more than one example of a person struggling with this in their own way. At that time of course, people thought it was a small number, and only at the extreme ends. however, I sought rather differently, and that there were as distinct set of markers that went along with it. Though I did not have a general universal framework, it was obvious to me, that the people who had these markers, were in no way “asking” for it – but had woken up in a body that was set up in this way. Much as the people who were gay were, they didn’t ask for, they had gotten it from birth.

    Therefore, if we allowed people to love another person was the same sex – which is obvious to me that we did – we should also allow a person to change their gender, and follow through with the the consequences of that choice. in other words, being out was not a choice, but a reaction to a choice made by the body before it even had any notion of what that choice meant. therefore, like any other natural choice, the person who woke up in the body – because remember the brain waking up in the body is along time after the actual choice has been made – needed to grapple with the space which we had given all us to grapple with these changes. in other words, being out was part of the larger experience of the world.

    There are two caveats – one exists if a person wakes up, and finds that the expression of their sexuality is in conflict, deeply so, with other beings. It is not persons fault, but it does have to be limited, and in some cases restrained. For example, pedophilia, is also not a person’s choice. We don’t know how it evolved, but it is obvious that either it was a choice, or it was a consequence of another choice, which had the side affect of promoting pedophilia. It is obvious, or rather it is obvious to most of us, that one cannot be allowed to engage in sex with a person that is to young – though obviously how young should be an issue. The reason is of course, the other person involved in that relationship does not know the consequences of it. thus pedophilia has to be restrained, because of this effect. but the blame lies not in the person who has pedophilia, because they too are just acting out the consequences of their genes. Rather it is all of us to explain to the person who is a pederast why in this culture – because remember the culture is not a fixed and immobile object, but a fluid kind of expression that teach – why they can not act as they feel they should. Remember various theocracies were homes to people who were pederasts, and manipulated the culture to reflect this structure. Their are numerous other examples in the literature, and we have not taken a view which will, in detail, say which ones are good, which ones are bad, and which ones may not be either good or bad, but have consequences.

    The other one, obviously, is that the structure of the institution forces a choice which has to be made. For example which religion are you? In large part, this decision was forced before you, the person, were born. My religion is to a great extent based on the religions open to my parents, as yours is as well. This is a different sort of choice, but has to be made in the background of allowing people to work through a choice which has been given to them. Call it the “C” which lies at the back of all LGBT discussions. For example, in a culture which allows young men to be ordained as Buddhists, one of the choices that they could make is to be a monk, with no stigma attached to back choice.

    This point is part of my active analysis of human life in general, and it is part of the focus of sotnaC book 2 in particular.

    Why this is important to all of us, is that all of us have defects in our genes which have distracted consequences in our behavior. So while being “out” is an extreme case, there are others which while less extreme, effect many people – and they fight with this all the time. So while a person may be heterosexual, they also may have problems with their sex which bind them up in very tangled knots. So I welcome Lisa as having had the foresight to label herself as “out” doing that even on this Internet form of discussion there are tremendous consequences, that most of us don’t even know exist, but which she feels, or imagine she feels, every time she has to explain. Just as I must stand up and say that having someone like Lisa is a challenge to all of us to do better in making our society work for all of us, whether they are out, gay, or otherwise involved in the point of discussion. Because, I again will remind everyone, that they or someone they know has a defect in their sexuality, or other part of their personality, which causes them to struggle with it.

  10. Tom

    Well Turkey just got interesting. Erdogan’s drive to be a Sultan in all but title failed. But his opponents failed to unseat his party so Snap Elections as none of the opposition want to join him.

    CHP: Only difference between them and AKP is who gets the spoils

    HDP: Kurdish Party that is barely disguised PKK separatists that decided to make Erdogan regret helping them.

    MHP: Nationalistic Assholes who want to wipe out HDP, roll back Kurdish and Armenian gains Erdogan has slowly been giving out as he bitchslaps the military and deep state in line and out of the Government. In short they want to go back to Kemalism which was an utter disaster for Turkey.

    Possible scenarios:

    1. Erdy kisses and makes up with CHP

    2. Erdy plays MHP and HDP against each other and lets them take the blame for deadlock

    3. Erdy gives concessions to MHP against HDP and locks the HDP out of the political process

    4. Erdy cuts a deal with HDP against MHP, and locks MHP out of the political process

    5. Keep going to Snap elections to run his opponents out of money to mobilize the base and get his majority

  11. Lisa

    Stirling Newberry : Great post.

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