There’s Just No Way to Come Back, Advocate, 08/01/2016

So originally, I was planning to talk more about Antonio Negri’s political philosophy today. Maybe the analysis of colonialism in Empire. It’s a solid one, and doesn’t conform to a lot of the platitudes that today lend themselves to the perversity of camp politics.

But a Facebook conversation with my old friend the Madman made me lay that to the side. Instead, I want to lay some political chips on the table. I’m the Vice-President of the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding association of the New Democratic Party. And I have something to say about the upcoming leadership convention and review. 

Thomas Mulcair looking optimistically toward the
future. Ironic, I know.
I’ve already laid out my position to my colleagues, so this is nothing new to them. But the debate over the future of Thomas Mulcair as leader of the NDP has finally begun in public

I probably won’t make the convention because of work commitments,* but I’ll lay out a case among the NDP activists of Toronto that he should step down. Here’s why.

* I can only ask for so much time off from my service job, and I’m not yet sure how flexible my contracts’ schedules will be. And I’m prioritizing my panel at the Canadian Philosophical Association about Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity and how to continue philosophy outside the university system.

I already laid out the problem in these two articles that I published during and shortly after Canada’s federal election last year, on the NDP leadership’s fear of the “Bob Rae Hangover” in riding-rich suburban Ontario, and a general diagnosis of how the party choked like a Canadian NHL team in the finals.

For the rest of 2015, the New Democrat membership generally kept its talk among itself. It was a mark of respect, I think. No matter how much you may have opposed Mulcair and his campaign communications team, you had to give him the basic respect of a defeated contender.

Even if you opposed him from the beginning, which many in the NDP did. I went to the 2012 leadership convention where he was chosen as leader. It was a contentious vote, and I faced a lot of criticism (and even a little condescending bullying) from supporters of traditional Big Union man Brian Topp.

And I didn’t even support Mulcair myself. In our ranked ballot system, I actually ranked him second** after Nathan Cullen, whose involvement with Occupy and Idle No More impressed me more than Mulcair’s career as a moderate left Liberal Quebec cabinet minister. I did greatly respect Mulcair’s environmentalist politics, though.

What would Canadian politics have looked like if Romeo
Saganash had become NDP leader in 2012? I'm not
even sure what the conditions of that possible world
would be.
** Ideally, I’d have ranked him third. Romeo Saganash, the Cree MP representing a district that’s two-thirds the land area of Quebec, was my top choice. But his leadership campaign couldn’t attract enough support or donors, and he had to drop out before the vote.

But Ontario provincial MPP Cheri DiNovo is the first to declare publicly that Mulcair has to step down. She articulates many of the same reasons I have for thinking so: his brand as a leader is ruined.

The contention that most Canadians were conservative-leaning people, or at least that the best tactic to win the 2015 election*** was to win over soft conservative voters, informed the NDP’s campaign strategy.

*** And the 2014 Toronto mayoral race and Ontario provincial election, and the 2013 British Columbia provincial election.

Despite his stands on social democratic principle throughout Harper’s majority government, Mulcair tailored his messaging accordingly. We saw the result. 

You can talk all you want about the current caucus being the second-largest in the federal NDP’s history. We still lost more than half of our MPs, and some of our best leaders. Every seat in Toronto. Every seat in all of Atlantic Canada.

All the messaging that in only a few months cost the NDP its reputation as Canada’s progressive party, all that rests on Mulcair’s image.

Now, it’s also on that of his staff and internal leadership. But Anne McGrath and Brad Lavigne didn’t have their name on subway ads and TV spots. Thomas Mulcair did. I know he’s a committed politician and activist for many important causes. I want him to continue that work. But he can’t do it as leader of the NDP anymore.

After this election, nobody believes him, and nobody will anymore.

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