So, What Now? Lead Now Supporters in the NDP
Now that the NDP Leadership Convention is over, many who supported electoral cooperation are wondering what their future options are given the election of Thomas Mulcair, who is adamantly opposed to any electoral cooperation. In particular members who joined via Lead Now may be wondering if they have a role in the New Democratic Party going forward.
I have been giving this much thought and for me, the answer is very much that yes there is a role for supporters like us in the NDP.
While the electoral cooperation issue may not be gaining any traction any time soon, the NDP still represents the most viable vehicle for achieving electoral reform, one of the key goals of Lead Now and other cooperation advocates. The NDP has a realistic chance of forming the next government and it is committed to proportional representation.
However, I didn’t join the NDP just because they had a leadership convention coming up or because I’m determined to do anything to bring down Stephen Harper’s government. I joined because it’s also the best match for my political beliefs, because I am a social democrat.
Electoral Cooperation Reality Check
All social democrats are progressives but not all progressives are social democrats. This is a critically important distinction.
It seems to be an article of faith for many in the progressive parties that a majority of Canadians are progressives. I’m not entirely sure that this is an accurate construction, as I think a lot of people supporting the progressive parties would actually count themselves as some sort of moderate middle. Even the non-Conservative parties aren’t exactly clear that they are all under some sort of progressive banner.
The Liberals for example, are clearly not a “progressive party” in and of themselves. They’re a centrist brokerage party with a progressive wing. That wing seems to be in ascendance but that’s their usual pattern when in opposition. They’ve had a bad habit of campaigning on the left and then governing on the right and their pseudo-participation in the two Conservative minorities shows that they are not strictly a progressive party. Similarly, watching Liberals flop around trying to come up with some sort of ideological positioning for their party that doesn’t sound like a desperate grab-bag of ideas to re-take power, will pretty quickly convince you that they don’t quite fit as a strictly progressive party.
It should also be noted that the main reason the progressive wing seems to be running the show for the Liberals is that it’s the wing wasn’t completely shot off during their downward crash.
In a similar vein, the Bloc Quebecois, as a party primarily focused on Quebec issues and with a preference for separatism, doesn’t necessarily fall into the category of progressive in my opinion. Left leaning, with progressive tendencies, absolutely. But given that their ultimate goal is to take Quebec out of Canada, at the end of the day they’re not going to be all that supportive of policies that make Canada a better place for Quebeckers.
So it’s not simply a matter of adding up all the non-Conservative voters and declaring it a win.
Bring Some Friends Over
Anyone who was paying attention already knew that the Cullen Plan wasn’t as simple as taking the non-Conservative vote totals, mixing with some common goals and voila new government!
The Cullen Plan was actually a very bottom up, locally based cooperation plan that gave local riding associations that option to take up a common cause with the local associations of other parties against a Conservative incumbent. It would have been a one time deal to create conditions where by in future elections progressive parties would be competing on a fairer playing field with the Conservatives.
The ultimate goal is to have a Parliament that more accurately reflects the voting intentions of the public.
With electoral cooperation off the table though for the time being, advocates for cooperation within the NDP should now turn to what is happening inside the party, We can continue to advocate for cooperation and cooperative parties within the party. We can also work to ensure that the NDP remains committed to proportional representation and push the party towards a speedy implementation of a plan once it achieves power.
We can also work within the party to create a governing progressive coalition. There are two viable avenues:
Encourage the NDP to broaden its ideological base to include more Progressives outside of the social democratic base.
Convince more Progressives that they should be social democrats as well or perhaps already are.
Strategy number 1 seems to be what many feared Thomas Mulcair was going to do, when in actuality I would suspect number 2 is going to be closer to the reality.
In either case, new voters are going to be drawn into the NDP from two main pools: those of other parties with progressive voters and those who are not current voters. Both are pools where cooperation advocates can be instrumental in helping the party to reach out, to broaden its appeal.
Cooperation advocates can reach out to their Liberal and Green friends and neighbours in a way that other partisans may not have as much success with. By explaining what their support for the NDP can offer for Canada and why maybe the should consider voting for us in the next election.
We can explain why a vote for the NDP will lead to a fairer Canada for people of political persuasions. We can explain how proportional representation will help Canada transition to a more cooperative political environment.
We can still offer them an avenue to a new political paradigm.
Anger is Never Enough
There are many who harbour hopes that the robocalls scandal will ultimately lead to by-elections or maybe even a new general election and that will result in toppling the current Conservative government. The unfortunate reality though is that right now an election is still three years out.
Anger and outrage can only carry a party and a movement so far. While dedicated partisans and activists can be carried a long way by anger, for ordinary people, they will need to be offered something more than frustrations when the next election comes. It’s not enough to be against the bad guys.
We have to offer Canadians something to vote for.
The best way to do that is to stay within the NDP and continue to encourage it to develop policies and options that will reach disaffected voters. When the next election comes around we can offer them a lot more than our rage at the current regime.
We can offer Canadians hope that their future will be a better one.
Check back on Monday April 9th for Part Two on a New Political Paradigm
And on Wednesday, April 4th check for my take on the current political situation here in British Columbia.