Musings —06.02.2015 11:53 PM—
TORONTO — Knowing the precise moment when New Democrat winners were transformed into New Democrat losers isn’t all that simple.
Was it when first-place Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow — whose victory was considered inevitable by most — had yet another uninspiring debate performance, or couldn’t conjure up anything coherent to say about the city’s suffocating transit problems?
Was it when front-running B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix — whose ascension to the premier’s office in Victoria was regarded as a given — flip-flopped on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, or chose not to respond to B.C. Liberal attack ads?
It’s hard to say. But lose Chow and Dix did, badly. And therein lies a cautionary tale.
In these exciting times, of course — when the Orange Crush is being spoken of once again, and the socialist sky is without a cloud — New Democrats don’t like to talk about losers. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is all that New Democrats can talk about. And that’s understandable.
But reflecting on the sad endings to the stories of Adrian Dix and Olivia Chow — and, before that, Ed Broadbent and Carole James and not a few others — is what New Democrats should be doing. There are more political lessons to be learned in losing than is winning. Always.
Herewith, some things for Dippers to consider.
Justin Trudeau: The Liberal leader peaked too soon, of that there can be no doubt. The myriad verbal flubs, the near-total absence of policy, the astonishing arrogance of his inner circle, the consensus that he “just isn’t ready,” and so on: all these factors have contributed to Trudeau’s current dilemma. No longer can he claim to be the only progressive alternative to Stephen Harper — after Alberta, now Thomas Mulcair can say that, too. But be forewarned, Team Orange: Trudeau seems to excel when he is underestimated. Don’t underestimate him. Patrick Brazeau did, too, remember?
You Dippers: The decline in the trade union movement helped you, it didn’t hurt you: it suggested to the electorate that you weren’t all that radical anymore. So, too, your wise decision to distance yourself from the Sid Ryan/York U. types who love deficits and detest Israel. Stick to the Roy Romanow/Brian Topp formula — balanced budgets, caution, Prairie common sense — and you will be more than a more one-term wonder, as in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
Angry Tom: Mulcair’s style — righteous indignation and finger-pointing prosecutorial anger — shouldn’t have worked, but it did. Mulcair was angry about everything at precisely the moment voters were, too. He aligned with the popular mood. But be careful, Dippers: TV is a cool medium, and so is politics, most days. Mulcair is the opposition leader: don’t have him audition in the election for the job he already has.
The research: Innumerable focus groups have been conducted in recent months. Out of these, moderators have distilled the three main party leaders down to their base elements: Harper is “experienced and serious.” Trudeau is “progressive and new.” Mulcair is “serious and progressive.” That is why you are ahead these days, federal New Democrats: your leader can say he possesses positive attributes of the other two guys — but the other two can’t say that, at all. Keep it that way, from now until Election Day.
The media: The Grit boss had an 18-month-long honeymoon, and then he didn’t. Chinese dictatorship, whip out your CF-18, budgets balancing themselves, Ukraine jokes, and on and on: all of those rookie errors, and more, have taken their toll. The news media now agree — Justin Trudeau might be Prime Minister one day — but he shouldn’t be Prime Minister this year, because he isn’t ready. New Democrats need to ratify the Conservative shorthand on Justin Trudeau — because they benefit from it almost as much. Don’t let the media change their collective view.
Will New Democrats heed the cautionary tales of Chow and Dix and others? Will they maintain the gifts they’ve received from Trudeau and the unions and their leader and the media?
We’ll see soon enough. But, for now, Election 2015 is theirs to lose.
(And they might.)