Monday, November 27, 2006

Credibility: A Plan for the Federal NDP

(Author's Note: Today is by-election day in certain ridings* in Soviet Canuckistan; what follows is an open letter to NDP leader Jack Layton.)

Dear Jack,

For godssakes, man, what's wrong with you? I'm so far left, I should be over your left shoulder, and you've managed to turn me very nearly into a partisan Liberal. Certainly partisan enough to consider getting a group of my subversive pinko friends together to take over the local Liberal Party, and as much of the rest of it as we can manage, if only to yank the Canadian political spectrum out of its maddening rightward slide.

You, my friend, are not helping. What the fuck do you think you're doing?! If I were a shade more cynical, I'd suspect you're in cahoots with the CRAPs. Instead of thinking about what's good for Canada as a whole (which would be good for you), you're thinking about crude political gamesmanship and territorial pissing. Thanks a lot. That's fucking productive, really.

You seem to have decided that your job is to be a spoiler and mess it up for everyone else. Yeah, the Liberals fucked the dog, but if you hadn't upset the applecart, they probably would have coasted to a nice minority victory, leaving you with the power to make them do what you wanted, in order to get the votes they needed. (You'd make a craptacular Israeli politician, my friend. It's a damn good thing you're not competing against seven or eight serious contender parties; you have no sense of collaboration.)

First point: It's not about you. Get over yourselves. You have no chance, none whatsoever, of forming a majority (or even a minority) federal government any time in the forseeable future. Get used to it. Your boys Rae and Harcourt took care of that for you, kind of like how Brian Baloney took care of any hope of Canada's ever having a sane, centre-right party in your lifetime or mine. (God, wasn't that the shot heard round the world? What Brian Mulroney didn't kill off, the US think-tanks did.)

Ontario is the largest single bloc of voters, and all any of the opposition parties have to do to drain significant NDP support away to anybody else is say, "Bob Rae." (The idea of getting a Rae figure at the federal level scares the crap out of me, and I'm nominally on your side.) Maybe you don't remember how that turned out, but afterward, everyone was so disgusted with the NDP that there was this huge, tragic rush to the right that elected Mike Harris. The Liberals didn't do that. They fucked up, sure, but the root cause was a protest vote followed by rank reactionism -- and we Ontarians got rank reactionaries to show for it.

Next, we have Quebec, the second-largest bloc of voters. The left in Quebec is ably represented by the Bloc. Have you actually read the Bloc's platform? Have you seen what the Bloc has been able to accomplish provincially in Quebec? People vote for the Bloc in Quebec because they like social programmes and not because every second person is a raving separatiste. Hell, if I lived in Quebec, I'd probably vote for the Bloc too, because I like all that shit. Now, if you wanted to tip things leftward, you could try working with them. They have some good policy proposals. The only problem is that they don't really give a damn about anything that happens outside the Nation of Quebec.

In policy terms, if the Rae government had done as well in Ontario as the Bloc have done in Quebec, Canada would be completely orange, but your guys were more suprised than anyone when they actually got elected in 1990 and they dropped the ball. Subsequently, their support numbers in Ontario tanked, and have been there ever since. Between Rae and Harcourt, the federal NDP got roasty and toasty. Stick a fork in your party, Jack.

The third largest bloc of voters is in BC. People there have long memories. Most voters (which is most of us over the age of 30) remember stuff like the scandals that buried Harcourt's government.

I'll tell you a little secret: You guys don't have the same kind of standing as the Liberals do, and the CRAPs seem to have inherited from the poor old Red Tories (undeservedly, since they're a gang of right-wing loons). If you want to be trusted with the reins of power again, you're going to have to prove that you're not going to fuck it up. You're not one of the major parties, whether you like it or not; you're the #3 party. You need to start playing tactics that take advantage of being #3 that are actually beneficial to the public, and not just your party. Please don't even bother making the argument that anything that benefits the NDP automatically benefits Canada; that argument wasn't true when General Motors was making it about the US, and it's not true now.

I ask you: How the hell can we trust you if you come off as a bunch of cynical, politically-manipulative power-grubbers? You've got a classic "glass ceiling" problem going on -- take it from the original accidental feminist -- if you want people to take you seriously, if you want to beat out the big boys, you're going to have to be better and cleaner than they are. Surely this wouldn't take much?

The NDP need to start playing nicer if they want to get elected in Ontario, which is where it really counts, and basically prove that they're neither the Harris Tories in orange shirts, nor a continuation of the Rae disaster. As it stands right now, you're basically working for the CRAPs by splitting the vote, and you have no credibility.

I'm no particular fan of the Liberal Party, basically because they spend a lot of their time chasing the mythical centre, much like the "triangulating Democrats." They're also completely in hock to the University of Manitoba economic school of thought, and the sort of hothouse economic BS that McQuaig and Barlow have documented. I've had enough of "fiscal conservatism" and this overweening obsession with debt reduction, deficit service, and micromanaging the Canadian economy so it looks like a theoretical economist's model. Survey after survey has shown that most Canadians really want more social spending, and might even be willing to -- gasp! -- pay more taxes to get it.

However, without appropriate tension from the left -- which is your job, since the Bloc doesn't give a damn about anything that happens outside of Quebec, the economic discourse in particular in this country is sliding further and further into the Norquistian paradigm: Spend up all the revenues in debt reduction and tax cuts, then cut services because there's nothing left. It's a sneaky-ass shell game, and I don't see anyone currently doing anything to stop it. You've even incorporated the rhetoric of the "fiscal responsibility" crowd, and that scares the hell out of me.

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. Back in the day, probably sometime around 1995 or so, a friend of mine got invited twice to go speak at local NDP shindigs. Everyone was "Amen, brother!"ing at him as long as he was talking about what a bastard Mike Harris was, but as soon as he started in on corporations, they threw him out. Twice. That kind of makes me go "Hmm..."

So. Here's what I propose you do:

1) No more handing the CRAPs elections on a silver platter. Just don't do it. If the CRAPs get another minority government (perish forbid!), you go with your little hat in your little hand, and you go around to whomever will listen to you, Liberals, Red Tory splitters, Bloquistes, Independents, whomever, and you say "Let's form a coalition government." Then you learn how to bloody collaborate, and you outmaneuver, stonewall, and shut down any further CRAP encroachments.

2) Extend the olive branch to the Liberals. It doesn't, at this point, matter if they're willing to work with you; the gesture is what's important. Tell them you're bigger than petty partisanship, that you apologise for slinging mud at them, and that you're willing to work with them if they're willing to work with you. Right now, you're acting just a little too much like the Israeli hardliners who say, "If the Arabs would put down their weapons, there would be no more war. If the Israelis put down their weapons, there would be no more Israel." Something has to give, and you're the only party in any position to start fixing what's wrong.

3) Start putting out some real policy, and some real numbers. Give people something to vote for, and they might vote for you. Show people that there is room in the federal budget for social programmes and all those nice things that people like. Show people that the Norquistian economics that both the CRAPs and the economic-right Liberal faction are pushing are a con. I recommend a US Congressman, Henry Waxman, to your attention. He's a policy pitbull, and has released report after scathing report. Lock him in a room with Roy Romanow for a while and watch what happens.

4) Start acting like you're interested in governing, not just being in power. Right now, you're looking a little bit too much like what you care about is the party, rather than Canada. Canadians are process freaks and natural parliamentarians. We care about policy and procedure. Naked power-grubbing is a real turn-off.

5) Stop talking like bloody fiscal conservatives. Learn some stuff about framing and rhetoric, and put out your own compelling economic vision. Give me a call; I know about that stuff. Conservative economics is a failure and will only continue to be a bigger and bigger disaster, the longer it's left to grow and entrench itself here.

6) Tell your GOTV people to stop being so goddam pushy. This is Canada, remember? Also, if you call my number again, that is not Mr. Roommate's number. He doesn't have a listed phone number. (Holy hell, how can I possibly vote for a candidate whose phone bank guy asks for the wrong person, then uses the same damn lame excuse twice -- "We got the information from Elections Canada..." ["Well, Elections Canada's records are wrong; fix it!"] and whines on the phone? If your candidate can't get her shit together while running a campaign here in Boringville, what the fuck kind of a mess is she going to be ifwhen she gets to Ottawa. Cripes.)

Here's hoping your hand-picked candidates go down in flames tonight. You don't deserve to win.

Lovingly yours,



Anonymous Paul Lyon said...

Hm... I was going to mention Ms. McQuaig, but you already did. It strikes me that one might take her books, from Behind Closed Doors to All You Can Eat and retitle the series Neoliberalism does Canada: A Chronicle. It probably shouldn't surprise me that her columns in The Toronto Star are rather more sedate than what she writes in her books, but it did anyway.

(BTW, I followed the link from Echidne here.)

1:54 AM  
Blogger Interrobang said...

Neoliberalism Does Canada, yeah, although that might imply too much fun being had on the receiving end. It's more like The Neoliberal Canadian Chainsaw Massacre. (It's a stealth chainsaw. With silencers. And stuff. Yeah.)

All you lurkers and comment-readers out there, read some Linda McQuaig.

2:16 AM  
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