Success in Growth, or The Ones Who Call Him Zoolander Will Never Listen Anyway, Jamming, 13/12/2015

I'm a member of the New Democratic Party. My campaigning in southern Etobicoke this summer and fall was all over Twitter. Sometimes, older members of my family will tell me I shouldn't mention this on the internet, because employers would discriminate against me for my political beliefs.

But seriously, as much as the 100-year-old people who joined up back when it was the CCF rant about socialism, the NDP isn’t a hard left-wing party anymore. At least not in the old communist sense. 

Justin Trudeau having a great time at Pride Vancouver.
He is epochal now. Deal with it.
I was damn disappointed in this election, though. I genuinely think the NDP would have made the best government for Canada, or at least, we should have held the balance of power in a Liberal minority to make sure their policies remained in line with what was best for the people.

Instead, I found myself in conversations – in real life and online – with people who had been lifelong supporters of the NDP. These people accused Tom Mulcair of being a hardcore, right-wing, pro-austerity conservative. They thought the NDP had betrayed all its basic values, and were voting Liberal.

I've written about the party’s failures to communicate before, both here and at Rabble. That’s not what I'm talking about today.

Instead, I want to talk about successful communication. That's why I want to talk about Justin Trudeau.

We all know the narrative now. Trudeau thrived on being underestimated. While everyone thought of him as an empty-headed pretty-boy who was coasting into parliament on his father’s name and legacy, he was networking with leadership circles all over Canada to build an enormously diverse team of politicians.

People who may never necessarily have thought about running for parliament, especially for a decimated Liberal Party that looked to be dying off, were inspired to join the Trudeau banner. They worked their communities, their neighbourhoods, and peddled the message of hope that was at the centre of Trudeau’s campaign.

Justin Trudeau combines his father's intelligence and
Machiavellian deviousness with a genuine love of
interacting with everyday people.
And they won. It was the same with everyone who voted for them.

A few years ago, I read a book by John Ibbitson called The Big Shift. It was about Harper’s plan to remake the Canadian state so that its services would no longer supply the progressive social programs that a century of Liberal dominance built. And the people would love their new, more cruel, more harsh country.

But they didn’t, even as Harper kept winning larger parliamentary shares until his majority in 2011. Once Harper had a majority government and no longer had to wheedle and downplay how radical his changes to the Canadian state institution were, Canadian people came to hate it

Harper’s strategy to stay in point in the 2015 election smacked of obvious desperation. Double down on demonization of everyone opposed to you, or even a little critical of you. The opposition parties, the media, social movements. They were all mocked and insulted in Conservative party communications. 

Hate and resentment are the last acts of desperate people. It stirs up a paranoid, spiteful base, but it doesn't appeal to anyone who isn’t already filled with the hatred you’re encouraging.

I probably won't make it to the NDP leadership
convention in Edmonton due to work commitments, but
I will support Tom Mulcair stepping down. I think he's
a good leader, but his public image has been completely
ruined by the conservative messaging of the 2015
campaign. He has no more credibility to lead the NDP
against a Liberal government that's already positioned
itself in the public eye as more progressive than he is.
Mulcair may talk about being "the progressive
opposition," but Canadians don't believe him anymore.
The NDP were softer in tone, but ultimately no better. Worse, since our campaign made two mistakes instead of Harper's one. NDP campaign communication staff tried to rile up our base with messages about the evil and destructiveness of Harper and his cronies. And at least they targeted those properly.

Yet the mass media messages turned the NDP base away at the same time. We were trying to appeal to conservative-leaning people, especially with balanced budget messaging

But conservative people will never support the NDP, even the modern social democratic version. Many of them still believe all the hype about New Democrats being communists. 

So the NDP played it super-safe, aiming to sound like reassuring, conservative voices when the people were desperate for genuine radical breaks from the Harper years. 

The NDP communications and campaign leadership painted us as compassionate conservatives because they thought the key to victory was winning over people who were already regular voters, but simply voted Conservative last time. 

The result? Our vote collapsed in absolute quantity and in share of the total. Frankly, I’m amazed we pulled through to the degree we did.

Trudeau is the victor. Hands down. It’s impossible to ignore. And he will dominate Canadian politics for the next 20 years. At least. I hope the Liberal Party is able to control the corruption that will reappear once they become Canada’s “natural governing party" again.

To all the conservative supporters who hate his smooth media image, or who think they can rile up hatred for him because his childcare workers are government employees:* you dismiss him at your peril and you do not understand.

* And not the real reason you should be upset, which is because their pay is still shit.

Because Trudeau did more than simply win an election. Voter turnout this October was 68%, the highest turnout percentage since 1993. There were 17-million ballots cast. More ballots than any other election in Canadian history. His victory was built on inspiring people who had never voted before to cast ballots.

My conservative friends would be horrified at the prospect,
but I seriously think that Trudeau's potential impact on
Canadian society can be even greater than his father's.
That means more people were inspired to vote, to take part in choosing the leader of the Canadian state, than ever before. They voted Trudeau and Liberal. Many of those were young people, who will carry their party preferences forward for most of their lives. 

The campaign galvanized them. All those media appearances that conservatives think are a sign of Trudeau’s empty-headed vapidity? These mass media images lock down the loyalty of an entire generation of politically engaged Canadians.

Until we realize the magnitude of all this, the opposition to Trudeau and the Liberals, whether from social democrats or conservatives, will fail.

Justin Trudeau set entirely new terms of politics in Canada. He made a whole new epoch. We now have to learn it and get used to it.

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