Maybe this will be a short post that will actually end in a short amount of time. This week, I attended the New Democratic Party’s first mixer of the Trudeau era, and I was quite happy that this sort of thing is happening.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Among the several key reasons I think the New Democrats lost a lot of their seats, support, and fairly secure electoral strongholds, was that they focussed too much on winning the election to the exclusion of everything else.
Now, I’m not going to write one of those old-style justifications of losing elections. That was the stereotype of the New Democrats back when I was growing up in the 1990s and early 2000s in Atlantic Canada.
Eastern Canada has never had a strongly rooted NDP presence, and the total Liberal election victory there last year shows how relatively weak the party still was. Even in supposed strongholds with noteworthy MPs like in Halifax and St. John’s.
So local folks in the NDP in Newfoundland often discussed the party's viability in terms of bringing issues into parliament and coming respectably third or fourth. Then I moved to Ontario, Jack Layton brought the NDP to national prominence and a leadership position against Stephen Harper.
Tom Mulcair’s leadership continued to build on the gains Layton made before – and definitely after* – his death, until about two months before the 2015 election. I’ve gone into the philosophical elements before.
* Because as someone who lived through Jack Layton’s funeral and last letter to the Canadian people, that man embraced his own death as a mass mourning event that mobilized hundreds of thousands. If not millions.
But today, I want to talk about a more practical aspect of the NDP’s campaign failure. They went on the defence: prioritizing all their money on the safest-seeming seats, but leaving less likely seats without resources to build a decent ground game.
When you’re out to gain votes and parliamentary seats, you can’t make your priority consolidation. You don’t have enough in the first place to make consolidating existing gains a safe strategy. Playing it safe exposes vulnerability.
Add that to the philosophical mistakes that the NDP leadership was making, all of which amounted to playing it too safe, and you have the disaster of our party’s choke on October 19.
And at the NDP social night, I met a bunch of people who were incredibly aware of this. Yeah, the party fucked up. Pretty royally. Now comes the time when we completely change how we go about politics. Bring the ideas of the LEAP Manifesto, Black Lives Matter, the Sanders campaign, the philosophy of basic income, and Idle No More’s call for justice to the everyday Canadian political conversation.
Reach out to communities in those beautiful racially-mixed communities around the major cities of the country. Show how NDP ethics are the most natural allies such people have in state politics. To us, immigrants aren’t a photo op to be rushed in before a deadline. They’re the the bedrock of a new era of economic prosperity.
And call attention as much as we can to the hypocrisy of Liberal Party leadership and culture. Like how you can’t balance the books of a province by selling off electricity infrastructure. Above all, show them that economic policies that promote inequality and concentrate wealth undercut socially progressive policies.
Bring those ideas to the wider Canadian public and you won’t have to worry about micromanaging and paranoiacally protecting your every electoral gain until they slip through your fingers.
I’ve said it before. Build the movement. The election follows.