Diaries Magazine

Orange Death

Posted on the 27 March 2012 by M0derngirl @M0DDERNGIRL

And with Jack Layton dies the New Democratic Party of Canada.
It might be reborn. But it will be nothing like it was. That could be for better, or worse, or indifference. But it will never be the same again.
I fought with myself over whether to bite my tongue on this. I really did. Do I give the Conservatives and Liberals more fuel for potential attack ads? Do I turn negative, when I vouch for and want to promote positivity? Do I encourage dissent in the ranks and possibly encourage further splits in the left? I certainly do not want to do any of those things. As a card-carrying NDP member, and delegate at last weekend's Leadership Convention, I feel connected to the party, I certainly do not want to hurt the party.
But damn it, there's still freedom of speech in this country. I will not muzzle myself and I will not hide the truth for the sake of promoting a political agenda. Besides, I only became a member last April. After nearly a decade of admiring - but giving myself free range to criticize Jack Layton, I finally decided my loyalty. But by gally, that loyalty is being tested.
That fact of the matter is, I have written hate disapproval mail to Jack Layton. I have called him down when I think he went astray. I have freely spoken my mind. So I feel I should be able to do that with Tom Mulcair. I mean, if the feeling in the party is that we can't criticize the leader, then things really are bad.
So here's how it is. As my previous posts stated, I did not want Tom Mulcair to win. I thought he probably would, but not in the way that he did. I honestly thought Peggy Nash would rank as #2 in the first ballot, and I thought Dewar & Topp would jump in to support her and perhaps it'd be a close race between her and Mulcair.
I felt that Topp was too inexperienced as a politician, and had the personality of backroom person and should stay that way. I felt the Broadbent endorsement was similar to a "we're a stick in the mud" type of perspective. That being said, I knew Brian Topp had designed most of the NDP things that I loved. He had influence on the policies, the rhetoric and the movement I loved. I felt that Dewar, Nash, & Topp were the closest aligned to my principles, and of the 3, Nash had the most skill in the debates and in the House of Commons.
So, I voted Nash on the first ballot. The results were definitely disappointing, with her in 4th place with only 12% of the vote. Dewar was in 5th with 7% and dropped from the race. Topp was second. I thought that if Nash and Dewar swung their voters to Topp it might be hopeful. I wasn't exactly excited about having Topp as the leader - I honestly didn't think he'd be a great leader. But having the party go through a weak time while maintaining themself would be better than the alternatives of Cullen and Mulcair.
Cullen was charismatic, but a true radical. He was anti-monarchy, and pro-joint nominations with the Liberals and Greens. Most of the policy work he talked about in debates centered around the environment. I don't disagree with that, but I like humans more than trees, and I'd rather a leader who focused on social justice.
Mulcair offered nothing in any debate that excited me. While he was admittingly very skilled, he was also extremely vague. If I hear 'beyond our tradition base" anymore I might go insane. What does that mean exactly? Everyone thinks it's means that we'll become the new Liberal party, although Tom supporters consistently deny that.
Everything I've read about the guy - positive or negative - made him out to be a centrist, but a left-ish leaning centrist. Kinda like Dion. Dion wasn't a bad guy. Mulcair's main criticisms have come not from Conservatives (who tried to recruit him), but from the far left of the NDP. He has bragged about cutting jobs, he didn't object to enough when he was Finance Critic (therefore he agreed with the Tories), and when it comes to money, he's also down right, right-wing.
Hrmm. Admittedly, I have not heard too much criticism about Tom Mulcair regarding his social policies, or support for vulnerable populations. He mentioned in speeches that he wanted to stand up for students and families - of course, even the Conservatives try to sell themselves that way.
My biggest beef with Tom Mulcair is that he overtly, and honestly, ran his campaign on the idea of changing the NDP. But he wouldn't give any details. He just said he wanted to use new language to sell what we've always believed in. He likes that word "progressive" and I've heard rumors he wants to get rid of "social democrat" in some of the party policies - which is truly troublesome to me.
As history would have it, he won. I voted for Brain Topp on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th ballots. As much as I hoped, the other far-left candidates chose not to work together, and instead to fall in line and bury any hints of dissent in the ranks.
I was there, standing almost next to the stage when Tom Mulcair gave his (terrible) victory speech. I was there when people in #TM4PM shirts assured me "Jack was a centrist too, don't worry", to which I wondered if their brains were ok.
Sure, I was clapping, and putting on a good face for the cameras. I even went to the "Unity" after party, and shook the candidates hands, and congratulated Mr. Mulcair to his face.
But I just feel like my party has sold out. We ditched our ideals for power. Traditionally liberal-minded people in my life have said to me, "In order to govern, the NDP had to change. Sure, you've changed, but now you can form government!" Honestly, if the NDP forms government, I don't feel like it will be "my" party forming government, I feel like it will be the Liberals. In the quest for power, we have lost ourselves. And now there is no federal party that will represent me, or stand up for the causes I believe in, or fight for the issues that I care about. So how exactly is that winning?
Now, there is only a "progressive" party of the mushy middle, who is ran by a guy just as cut-throat, robotic, terrible with press, arrogant, and autocratic as Stephen Harper. They might agree with some of my ideals, but now that they're trying to sell themselves to the uuber bureaucratic liberals, nothing will ever get done.
Let's compare political parties to cell phone companies. Rogers (with red) can be the Liberals, and Bell (with blue) can be the Conservatives. Both companies had a monopoly on the system, they charged a lot, had all kinds of hidden fees, terrible customer service, and a really insensitive "big business" attitude. Then along comes Wind mobile (with an orange logo). They are different. No hidden fees, no time limits, no contract, good customer service. And a small "we care" company persona. However, they're a small company, so they can only provide coverage in big cities. Cool. Fine. But then, as Wind gets more and more customers, they want to expand their coverage. In order to that, they need to built more towers, they need to change their business model a little, hire more people, expand their services. Then, their service goes downhill, customer service is bad, they start rolling out marketing gimmicks similar to Bell and Rogers, and they are no longer the little company.
In a nutshell, that's why I'm critical of the stock market and the continual need to "grow" your company.
That is what I'm terrified of happening with the NDP. In the quest for power, we have become what we were opposed to. In a sense, I feel deeply despaired. And I'm not alone. Andrew Coyne has been highly critical of Thomas Mulcair, and wrote this little diddy just after the convention. His key points are that no fellow candidates threw votes his way, he won with only 57% of the votes and support of less than half of his caucas members. He equates Mulcair's attempt to change the party to a "hostile takeover." He had be clear with his criticisms of the party, but unclear as to what he stands for, and his acceptance speech did not reference party history or icons or ideals. Oh, and he has a nasty temper and will have difficulty promoting the civility in Parliament that Jack stood for.
There's others too, like Murray Dobbin on Why I'm Mourning Mulcair's Win. His refers to Mulcair as a "right-wing, Liberal bully" and highlights Mulcair's past with events like criticizing Libby Davies, bashing unions, bragging about cutting jobs, flirting with a Conservative cabinet position, and he's not as popular in Quebec as he makes us think.
This certainly makes Tom Mulcair out to be a man with no ideals who will work for whatever party will give him power. And then NDP just did. Combine that with the press stating Mulcair is as stand-offish and controlling as Harper regarding the media, and we might really have a monster on our hands.
Hope & Optimism
But as scary as it is, I can't let the ship go down that easily. I know a lot of NDP supporters who are walking away, giving up their memberships in the hopes of voting Green, or starting a socialist party. It's definitely tempting. But I won't.
I need to look on the bright side, and there is one. I fully agree that the weakest part of the NDP is the (false) reputation of being bad with money. If Mulcair can change that, then great.
I've stated again and again that a Liberal minority government with the NDP supporting it is almost ideal in Canada. The NDP can influence policy, and the Liberals can convince people to trust them with government. If I was ok with the Liberal leading, or with a Liberal-NDP coalition, I should be ok with this. As right-wing as Mulcair may be, he should not plausibly be more right-wing then Paul Martin, who I would have supported forming a minority government with NDP support. So it isn't that bad.
And even if Mulcair turns out to be very centrist, and if Canadian politics turns into a two party system of right-wing and centrist much like the USA, the centrist would still be preferred over the Conservatives. Barack Obama is extremely far right compared to the NDP, but I still have a magnet of him on my fridge because in comparison to the crazy Republicans, he's awesome. So, even if Mulcair has a hostile take over of the NDP and changes most of what I love about the party, and even if I dislike what he does as Prime Minister someday - he'll still be better than Stephen Harper. Namely, I know Thomas Mulcair would not cut funding to universities, and would probably put more funding back into the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (I need postdoc funding!). I feel confident that Tom Mulcair would reinstate pay equity claims as a human rights issue, and would protect women's right to choose, same-sex marriage, old age pensions, and Aboriginal working groups. I also know that he wants to fight for a federal childcare plan.
So there is some good. And even his centrist views can be beneficial to me. I'm pretty left on all things except 4 main topics: burkas, unions, marijuana, and israel-palestine. According to my research, Mulcair agrees with my personal views on 3/4 of those topics (I'm not sure about the burka. Given his French citizenship, he might agree with me on that too).
And to give the guy some credit, he has stood up for ideals and at the risk of obtaining power. Back when he was a provincial liberal in Quebec, he resigned over an environmental issue. People thought he committed political career suicide. In actuality, it was a great move to earn him respect from environmentalists. So, maybe Tom Mulcair has some true left-wing principles. But he certainly isn't articulating them yet.
I want to trust him, I don't want to seem like a crazy, orange-scarf burning lunatic. I want to push for those ideals like hope and optimism and unity. So, my decision was to reach out to Tom Mulcair.
I know he's busy this week, and will never get around to it, but I wrote him an email. I admitted that I was part of the 42% who voted for Brian Topp, but that I wanted to reach out and support him now that he was leader. However, I had a few concerns. I explained that the way he talked down to Niki Ashton and to young female reporters seemed like he was patronizing young women. I explained that if he slowed his French just a tad, he could be much more accessible to Anglophones like me (I could grasp Jack's French). I explained that he needs to reach out and make a gesture of devotion to a vulnerable population such as the working class, women, students, seniors, glbt, Aboriginal, and that I certainly expect him to attend community events for those groups.
I tried to keep the letter positive, about things he could do to make the far-left of the party feel more comfortable with him as leader, while maintaining his personal objectives.
If I truly have a problem with Mulcair as leader because I feel he does not represent my ideals, then now is not the time to denounce and stray from those ideals. If I believe in positive collaboration, then I need to use that as my tool to make this work. I do feel a twinge guilty for publishing this online, where the media and the haters can find it. But I remind myself that this is part of holding the govnernment accountable, and that lowering the bar for Thomas Mulcair would be more disrespectful - especially since I freely criticized "Saint Jack."
So, along with Jack Layton dies the New Democratic Party of Canada. But thankfully, it might be reborn.

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