03.16.2014 07:19 AM

In Sunday’s Sun: the pendulum swings back

Are progressives on the march?

Some days, it sure looks that way. From the European Union to the Americas, progressives – Liberals, Democrats, New Democrats, Liberal Democrats – increasingly seem to be pushing back the blue conservative tide.

It wasn’t always thus. Less than two years ago, I wrote a little book called Fight The Right. (It makes an excellent Christmas or Hanukkah present, by the way.) The subtitle of Fight The Right was “A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse.” And that was the book’s central theme – that conservatives, from Europe to the Americas, were increasingly winning elections.

A couple years ago, conservatives were on the ascendancy, for all sorts of reasons. They were better funded, thanks to their well-heeled big corporate backers. They were better organized than at any time in their history. The corporate, rightist media adored them. The politics and economics of the era seemed to favour them, too.

And – up here in the Great White North, at least – there was plenty of division and disunity on the left, and lots of splitting of the vote. The right was taking advantage of that, election after election, and coming up the middle to win.

Two years ago, there was a rising right-wing tide everywhere. From Rome to Riga, from Maine to Miami, from Whitehorse to Witless Bay, conservatives were the team to beat. Most of the European Union was governed by the right, with nearly all of the EU’s 28 member states being ruled by conservatives.

In Canada, conservative parties ruled the roost in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and of course nationally. There were (then popular) right-wing municipal bosses, like Rob Ford. And, down in the U.S., the Gallup poll was reporting that just about half of all Americans considered themselves conservative – or very conservative.

Only a tiny percentage of Americans – a miserable 20% – called themselves “liberal.”

Well, that was two years ago. Times are a-changin’, to quote the bard.
In the U.S., despite facing a Republican challenge financed with billions of dollars, Barack Obama came back with a convincing victory. In the European Union, many of those conservative leaders – in Italy, in France – are gone.

And, here in Canada, Conservatives can’t seem to chip away at the popularity of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Despite spending buckets of dough on attack ads, and despite lots of nasty politicking, Trudeau has maintained a healthy lead in the polls for many months. The NDP’s Tom Mulcair remains competitive, too.

And that’s just the temporal world. Even on the spiritual level, it seems like progressives are winning the day. A year ago this week, Francis became pope – and he immediately became the world’s most influential progressive leader, challenging the Roman Catholic Church’s orthodoxy on everything from capitalism to gay rights.

Pope Francis has been a revolutionary, in virtually every sense of the word. He has hammered the greedy excesses of capitalism in apostolic exhortations. He’s suspended bishops who are more into those who have bling, rather than those who were broke.

And, just recently, the pope was featured in glowing stories on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine – did you ever think you’d live long enough to see a pope on the cover of Rolling Stone?

Rumours of the left’s death were premature, to say the least. My own prediction of a right-wing hostile takeover wasn’t entirely accurate, either. The ideological pendulum – which had been careening off to the right – is now swinging back to the centre, and the left.

There’s all kinds of reasons for why that may be. Post-recession jitters have faded. Stimulus spending worked. Austerity measures are increasingly unpopular. Voters are just plain sick of conservative policies and politicians.

Whatever the reason, one thing can’t be disputed: progressives are getting competitive again, from the Vatican to the EU to the Americas.

And those on the right? Check your rear-view mirror.

That’s the lefties you see – and we’re getting closer.



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    Cameron Prymak says:

    ‘Voters are just plain sick of conservative policies and politicians.’

    I’ve learned something about the mindset of the Liberal and Conservative parties after two politicians made inappropriate comments on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.


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      david ray says:

      gives great gazebo, flags not so much.

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    Steve T says:

    Good article, and true from the perspective of the existing “conservative” politicians. However, I continue to believe that what society (or Western society, at least) really wants is a socially liberal but fiscally conservative party. And the party would need to be principled and ethical – above reproach.

    On the fiscal side, what we seem to get are parties that are all fiscally liberal; just in different ways. Each party, once they achieve power, seem quite willing to cut spending in the areas they don’t like – but they just increase spending in their favored areas. It is disheartening to true small-c conservatives (like me).

    On the ethical side, again this is an area where all the parties have their own selective ethics. Righteous and pious in some, but scheming and deceptive in others. We also need politicians who are principled and stand for what they believe – even if it isn’t popular or the “flavour of the day”.

    Until this occurs (which will probably be never), voters will continue to have to choose between the lesser of the evils.

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    doris says:

    “That’s the lefties you see – and we’re getting closer. – See more at: http://warrenkinsella.com/2014/03/in-sundays-sun-the-pendulum-swings-back/#comments

    I see nothing wrong with this in theory but it breaks down in practise due to party politics. The hardcore libs despise the dips and vice versa. Joining the parties together will not work due the stubborness of the dips and the arrogance of the libs. There has to be a better way!

    More talk of coalitions might do the trick. In the meantime the progressives in the Chow campaign will show the way. We are doomed for more Harper if we don’t.

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      Paul Swinton says:

      Yup…. we have the Red Grits and the Blue Grits and the twain shall never meet…. and then there are the Chretienites and Martinites….. but now it’s just the Justinites ….. and not to be confused with the Bieberites.

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    Jason Hickman says:

    “They [conservative parties] were better funded, thanks to their well-heeled big corporate backers.”

    That’s not why the Conservative Party was (and still is, by a narrower margin) better-funded in this country. Until very recently the CPC was winning the fundraising battle because of a considerably larger number of people even if the average donation-per-donor was actually smaller. That’s something the LPC in particular finally realized needed to be addressed and at least for the time being (we’ll see if the progress they made in ’13 will continue), the LPC has done so. But in Canada, it wasn’t huge corporate donors that put the CPC on top $-wise. If anything, before the changes brought in by Chrétien and Harper, corporate and big-$ donations went just as much or more to the LPC.

    I’d quibble as we’ll about whether the current Pope moved the goalposts in terms of the Vatican’s views on capitalism in particular. People forget that John Paul II was quite critical of what he considered to be the unfairness of it all.

    Last: As to your broader point, there may be a swing to the centre-left in some places; but of course, it’s not universal. The Australians gave Labor the boot in favour of the centre-right Lib/Nats just recently and France doesn’t seem overly impressed with their Socialist president these days. THe US mid-terms will be interesting if the Republicans don’t nominate unelectable candidates (a big ‘if’, yes). BC voters just rejected a chance to swing left. And even if Justin T’s lead holds here (and we’ll see about that), he’s something of a mix: he talks about lifting middle class Canadians up to be sure (who doesn’t?) but he hardly talks about following the economic plan of his father.

    And I guess that’s where I’ll leave it: Even if progressive types are looking more competitive, they are not by and large talking about making transformative shifts to the left. Arguably they’re considerably to the right of what would be considered “progressive” in the 70’s and 80’s and (less so) the 90’s.

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    Ryan Spinney says:

    Fiscally leftwing is what this country needs, not so called fiscal conservatives, but governments who intervene in the economy to help those who need it, protect the enviroment, rebalance the wage gap, create opportunities, keep the economy going, encourage innovation, fund research, education, healthcare, and so on.

    Instead so called fiscal conservatives cut taxes on those who sit on thier wealth and ship over seas, spend money on riduculus things like megaprisons and failed military advetnures, and then cut social apending which kills social mobility, starves the economy, kills dreams and hopes, recklessly endangers safety and so.

    On the socially “liberal” front victory after victory is occurring, even the Tories are relatively socially progressive on issues like gay rights, although thier is major room for improvement and both Tories and Liberals have they throwback so con cacus types.

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      Steve T says:

      Fiscally leftwing is what the country needs? Ask some folks in certain European countries how that worked out for them.

      And please don’t cite the usual red herring about tax-avoidance being the big problem in Greece, etc.. Lavish social benefits were the primary downfall of all those countries.

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    Ryan Spinney says:

    I will agree that Justin Trudeau isn’t a left leaning liberal, he’s opposed to the gun registery, supports keystone, FILPA with China, no tax increase for corporations, in fact outside of pot, which is not a leftwing rightwing issue, I don’t know of a single progressive policy Justin supports.

    Now Wynn, aside from a few regressive stumbles, is reasonable progressive, but wheather that is because Andrea Horwath is forcing her or allowing her to be is uncertain as its doubtful Wynn will win a majority in order to test the theory.

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    e.a.f. says:

    this time, if Quebec votes to leave, the rest of Canada just might not care. The economy, except in Alberta, isn’t growing. People are up to their eye balls in debt. Various levels of government have done enough damage that a lot more people are hurting. When enough people are hurt, they will decide they have had enough of the pain, and decide to get over the co-dependant, destructive relationship they are in.

    For some provinces leaving Canada maybe a good way of getting out of the free trade agreements, which haven’t done much for Canadian manufacturing. When manufacturing leaves a country so do the jobs which pay enough for people to make a “living wage”. Ontario really hasn’t recovered from NFTA. Now the agreement with South Korea will inflict more poverty on Ontario.

    All a few smart campaign people need to do is list what the Conservatives have done to hurt people, and they may well vote to eliminate the pain. Yes, some will go with the devil they know, but many may try something new, especially young people who haven’t been able to progress with their lives.

    The federal Cons have negatively impacted most people in Canada. Trudeau and the NDP offer an alternative. If the two parties can avoid snipping at each other and focus on Harper and his ilk, they may change things.

    Low taxes means no money for the government to run programs which many Canadians need. Just ask the Veterans, Women’s groups, scientists, etc.

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    Paul Brennan says:

    the coming world economic meltdown and resulting longterm depression and the problems that will bring will out do anything else…

    as a businessperson who beleives in capitalism whats happened and happening is ridiculous/shameful and disastrous – libor fixing problem , now international look at fx fixing , gold manipulation , bankers commiting suicide in all major centres, all the crap on wall street not fixed , canadian banks braying about how great they are when they operate in a very protected environment and no more than rob Canadians ,

    Many people are going to be horribly hurt and more govt spending wont save the day ..

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    Marc L says:

    Liberals are “lefties”? Really? Not from what I saw when they were in power. And, that’s a good thing.

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    Pat O'Grady says:

    Alas, we tend to disagree – you come out smelling like roses in this one. Happy St. Patrick’s Day:

    Forwards and Backwards

    Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston, did not attend this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade because marchers with gay propaganda were to be banned. Parade organizers argue that to allow them would conflict with their Roman Catholic heritage. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also boycotted his city’s parade in protest.

    Protestant evangelist Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) concurs. He also praises Russia’s Putin for his aggressive crackdown on homosexuality and “gay propaganda” : “Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue -protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda – Russia’s standard is higher than our own?”

    Notions like these reveal the delusional world this milieau live in. By conservative estimates, there are over one million homeless minors in Russia living on the street – where they are preyed on by vicious pimps – protecting children ranks low in the Putin realm. The KGB/FSB (Putin’s lifelong fraternity) built a spy empire by maintaining a small army of prostitutes to seduce both men and women into compromising, blackmailable situations. As dissident writers like Solzhenitsyn pointed out about the notorious Article 58 (“counterrevolutionary activity”), the vague charge of “propaganda” which neither lawyers nor analysts can exactly define, is and will be used as a “blanket” charge like the 58. Be certain a good many heterosexual dissidents will be charged with “propaganda” dissemination – unless they are simply summarily executed.

    Both Catholic and Protestant operatives are scanning the globe to exploit similar conflict zones in which to target non-heterosexuals – “Blessed are the merciful” has been excised from Catholic and Protestant bibles. For example, the U.S.-Ugandan security partnership outweights other issues; Jennifer Cooke director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says, “We tend to not speak out as forcefully as we should because of the security concerns.” Hence, while Obama issues the token critique, powerful North American religious lobby groups helped create the law whereby non-heterosexuals can face life imprisonment for “sodomy” (originally, the bill called for the death penalty.) Robert “I am the Hitler of this time” Mugabe has supported the laws in Uganda that mirror his own; in 2013 Mugabe also urged for the heads of gay men to chopped off and said gays were worse than “pigs, goats and birds.” While the Jesuit trained Mugabe is now banned from EU airspace, he finds refuge in Vatican City as a base from which he and his trophy wife can launch their infamous five figure shopping sprees.

    Like Russia, beside actually targeting non-heterosexuals, these scapegoating operations are part of a broader totalitarian complex suppressing all but the powers-that-be. It is a very serious symptom of very serious disease. The Uganda Public Order Management Bill requires police authorization for all meetings of more than three people – no freedom of assembly. Uganda’s support for the M23 rebels, who are wreaking havoc in neighboring Congo – genocide as a holy war. Uganda’s involvement in South Sudan’s civil war – genocide as holey war. Indeed, they are utilizing “religion” in the exact same manner as Putin uses Russian Orthodoxy as cover for his dictatorial schemes.

    “Progressives” have backed themselves into a corner. There can be no serious critique of Uganda or Zimbabwe under the cover of anti-racism and anti-colonialism. There can be no serious critique of Russia under the progressive doctrines of globalism, multi-culturalism, the notion the Soviet Union was the cradle of Communism, and the general Rusophilia that pervades the intellectual class. There can be no serious critique of the parades under the doctrines of cultural sensitivity and religious freedom. We are quickly moving to a time where non-heterosexuals, non-“traditional” women, Jews, Aboriginals, small ethnicities, “witches,” albinos, and many other vulnerable groups are expendable non-persons under the doctrines of progress, building the Great Society, and ethnic pride.

    I once asked Warren Kinsella – a militant progressive – how he got that scar on his upper lip – a souvenir from defending his younger brother from bullies. Likewise, I place direct intervention far above the abstractions of the Pope or Franklin Graham, Putin or Obama, Uganda or Ireland. St. Patrick, who it must be remembered was enslaved by pirates, would lament these violent and Draconian gangs. He would support those that are willing to put themselves in harm’s way, to take some heat, to defend against pseudo-humanitarian bullies. This is progress. Progressives must liberate their minds from thought terminating cliches and warmed over Marxistspeak – talk is cheap – and simply act; or in the case of the mayors, refuse to act as a statement of protest. This is the way forward in a world sadly going backward.

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    steve says:

    The right has failed, its clear from GWB, to Stephen Harper and down under Tony, its clear the right prescription for living means death for us all. When best practice collides with profit the right throws wisdom out the window.

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    JH says:

    Sorry – I’m in Florida at the moment and progressives are not on the march. Recently lost an election here and latest Sunday Boston Globe says Obama is at lowest favourables ever. Plus the GOP is now expected to control the lower house after the mid-term elections and have Senate control now. Meaning Barry’s final two year agenda is in the toilet.

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      smelter rat says:

      Yes, well, Florida. Where you can murder a black kid carrying a bag a skittles and get away with it.

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        JH says:

        Well I guess that ends the discussion. Never mind the Boston Globe and other major media reports about O’s swan dive.

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    Paul Swinton says:

    Now that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have been blackened for the last 10 years, we must now go to phase 2 of our political election strategy — offer Canadians the solution, the answer to their angst. The knight in shining armour to lead Canada out of it’s disappointment, disgust, disdain, disheartenment.

    Voila, nouveau-minted Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the saviour of Canada from the thoroughly discredited Conservatives…… who else?

    Btw, where is Justin?

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      Kaspar Juul says:

      If only you were a fraction as witty as you perceive yourself

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