So yesterday was my state of mind as my political party kicked off its own leadership contest. I’ve become rather personally invested in its success. Donald Trump’s victory showed us* that a message of resentment, rage, anger, and nihilism
could move enough people to take control of one of the most powerful state governments in the world.
* Among one of the many things it showed us, this bizarre political ascension as shocking and otherworldly to experience as a lot of us found the Sept 11 attacks. An unimaginable was happening – it just took about 14 months instead of 102 minutes.
|What did impress me about Ashton was that she didn't pussyfoot around|
the NDP's pathetic loss in the last election. She knows that we lost
because the people were hungry for change after the chilling brutality,
slavish fealty to the petroleum sector, and unsettling nationalism of
the Harper years – but the NDP choked and gave in to fear that
standing by our principles will cost us power.
In the West’s political moment, we need leaders who can offer an agenda of hope again. A message of uplift for us all through a dedication to real projects that can build a better world for everyone.
I know quite a few folks who’ve given up on electoral politics. Every one of those people, among all their reasons why, return to the fact that political parties and elections don’t fix everything. And I agree with them.
But states are still immensely powerful institutions – they may not be able to fix everything, but they can get a lot done. Canadians have small but important securities like employment insurance and a public health care system because some people got into parliament a few decades ago, wrote some laws, and built some institutions.
So if a social democratic party gains power in my country, people’s lives can improve through laws, institutions, and moral mass conversations the state can create.
When I say social democracy, I don’t just mean old-fashioned socialism of direct state management of whole domestic industries. That’s just not possible in a world as globalized as ours. I mean a dynamic mind-set adapting social democratic approaches and ideals to the economic and ecological conditions of the 21st century.
|Charlie Angus made some good points on Sunday, but his comments|
about Mexico make me feel increasingly uncomfortable the more I
think on them. We're a globalized world, and all the exploited people
of Earth are in this together. That includes the Mexicans supposedly
taking Canadian auto sector jobs.
The New Democratic Party can provide that mind-set to the governance of the Canadian state, and be a major voice for those ideals in wider political discourse in Canadian society. If nobody messes up again
When I say it can, I mean that it just as easily will not if our leadership ignores or misunderstands the most politically necessary task for any progressive political party today – harnessing popular rage, anxiety, and exasperation at the continuing inequities and looming ecological disasters to a vision of hope instead of nihilistic violence.
I think some of our leadership candidates – at least in this first debate – are on target for messages and ideas that can lead the popular energies of our country and the West not only to resist Trumpism, but to bury it and help build a new era of peace, freedom, and prosperity’s further push around Earth. These are the stakes of Western and global politics for the 2010s and 20s.
|Guy Caron brings a remarkably sharp policy mind and a firm grasp of|
economic science. Thankfully, he also brings a sense of creativity
and moral principle that is sadly absent from too much conventional
economics. He also has a moral vision that perceives just how
dangerous nihilism is in politics today.
So where do I see our leaders in this question? Peter Julian gave a serviceable performance, but I could see little more than platitudes and policy proposals. He does not carry himself as if the world is on fire – and that’s a problem because the world kind of is on fire.
I went into this debate with my highest hopes in Charlie Angus. But when he spoke of troubles with NAFTA, he gave a brief list of multinationals who’ve moved Canadian plants to Mexico.
Angus’ words had a disturbingly Trumpist tone – scapegoating country of millions, many of whom are in equally vulnerable positions in today’s global economy as Canadians, as the destination of exported Canadian manufacturing jobs. I'm worried about this trend.
Guy Caron and Niki Ashton were the only ones to offer a more substantive social democracy for our unique and terrible challenges.
Caron embraces Universal Basic Income as the central point of his economic policy, as it should be. Reorienting government services toward Universal Basic Income would transform a lot of fundamental economic relationships in our country.
|These kinds of monsters!|
Caron also earned my respect by his gestures that he’s ready to confront the most important internal challenges New Democrats face as a community of party workers, activists, leaders, and supporters.
He acknowledged that many people see economic security as opposed to environmental security – that stepping back from pollution or emission heavy industry will send them into poverty. Caron knows this is a false problem, but he also knows that we have to deliver the message that economic and ecological prosperity can happen together.
He also bit what I think is the most troubling bullet for a Canadian social democratic party. Quebec is a huge base for the NDP, but a lot of Quebecois remain hostile to Muslim, African, and Asian immigrants.
We saw from the niqab debate in 2015 that our Quebec supporters on social democracy are not our Quebec supporters on multiculturalism. The NDP needs to take that danger seriously. And Caron was the most explicit acknowledging a problem of the party that’s bound up with that conflict – in a lot of our leadership and support, we’re pretty fucking white.
Ashton, meanwhile, confronts the most nation-shattering issue haunting Canada – bringing justice to our country’s indigenous peoples at last. Reconciliation, reparation, restoration, and institutional equality through asymmetric federalism. She brings her own experience working for more than a decade as an activist and MP in a heavily indigenous district.
She's also in touch with the danger of political nihilism, scapegoating, and rage. She embraces the necessity of a message and vision of Canadian society based on hope and multicultural brotherhood.
|I think her commitment to principle, even considering the possibility of|
a noble loss better than a compromised victory, will ultimately help
the New Democrats win over the next decade. Ashton won't give in
to the compromises that will cost the party its most dedicated
Even if she seems a bit too resigned to the disjunct of being principled from being in power. Another false choice.
NDP members and leaders often resign themselves to powerlessness over the levers of the state. We say that we have to stick to our principles, be the voice of Canada’s conscience in parliament.
Well, a conscience isn’t supposed to whisper to you that you’re doing wrong while you ignore it. Conscience is supposed to drive your actions – to live a life of empathy, love, and benevolence. As a person and a society.
Consider a principled NDP Prime Minister of Canada in the age of Trumpism, not only with a popular electoral mandate, but as the figurehead of a popular movement of a politics and government driven by hope, freedom, and brotherhood.
The world would pivot around her to a brighter tomorrow.
Did I give myself away?