Musings —04.11.2016 10:43 AM—
Spare a thought, this morning, for Tom Mulcair.
Before Sunday, no one – not even the NDP leader – knew his fate. Before Sunday, before New Democrats brutally passed judgment on Mulcair’s leadership at their weekend gathering in Edmonton, no one knew what to expect.
But 52 per cent? And here I thought Liberals were vicious.
The assembled Dippers having summarily dismissed Mulcair, they now collectively face the prospect of a leadership race that will be divisive (at a time when they clearly need to unite) and expensive (at a time when the bottom has fully fallen out of their fundraising efforts). They are leaderless, and they have no obvious successor to Mulcair.
But they probably had no choice. If the NDP had decided to keep Mulcair around, he would have no longer been Angry Tom: he would have become Wounded Tom, bleeding all over the place, like in Polanski’s Macbeth. The mutineers would have continued their mutiny, meanwhile, and the media would have continued to delightedly document the ongoing rebellion – because, as is well-known, those of us in the media see our role as coming down from the hills to shoot the wounded.
Either way, it was going to be messy. Flush him, and end up leaderless, penniless and directionless. Keep him around, and it’s Mulcair as Julius Caesar – with Peggy Nash, the Canadian Labour Congress and some young Quebec New Democrats swapping the role of Brutus.
Having been through a decade or so of Liberal Party leadership wars, with myriad scars to show for it, let me offer my socialist pals three sage pieces of advice. As they sit and contemplate their future, this cold April morn, they need to reflect on certain hard truths. Here goes.
One, Tom Mulcair made some mistakes, sure. He embraced the losing electoral strategy of Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow: he moved to the ideological Right. On deficits, on defence, on virtually any issue, the New Democrat leader didn’t sound like a traditional New Democrat. In his mad dash to get to the centre, he left behind his bewildered NDP voters, who accordingly wandered over to the more-progressive Trudeau Liberals.
But, guess what, NDP caucus, and NDP candidates and NDP core? You enthusiastically applauded all that, every step of the way. You didn’t say a word – not a single word – objecting to any of it when you could have. You, like Mulcair, had witnessed Rachel Notley’s rush to the centre, and her resulting historic victory. And you figured you could do the same thing federally. You figured wrong.
So, did Tom Mulcair snatch defeat from the proverbial jaws of victory? For sure. But so did you, Team Orange. So did you. Your fingerprints are all over the crime scene, too.
Second piece of advice: as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, when you strike at the King, you must kill him. On Sunday, the NDP did that.
To succeed, half-measures won’t ever do. You can’t do what Nash, the CLC et al. were doing, which was try and nibble their beleaguered leader to death, like a gaggle of geese. If you decide to execute the monarch, get everyone onside, then swiftly march the King out to the village square and straight to the gallows. Don’t hesitate or prevaricate.
And, per Emerson, make sure you do the job right the first time. In Edmonton – to everyone’s shock – the peace-loving New Democrats did that.
Jean Chretien, who I proudly served (and arguably still do), is one tough SOB. Get in his way, and you’ll get the Shawinigan Handshake. Way back when the Martin mutineers were gathering out at shabby hotels near Toronto’s airport, secretly plotting to overturn the election result and replace the man who millions of Canadians had just handed a big majority, they forgot one key fact: Jean Chretien doesn’t respond well to threats.
If the Martinettes had been respectful, and given my boss the time he deserved to make an exit on his own terms, he would have departed sooner than later. But, instead, they disrespected him – and he gave them the Shawinigan Handshake. Their leadership reviews and Gomery Commissions and anonymous leaks came to the naught. Chretien took much longer to leave than he’d planned, and the Martin-led Liberal Party would promptly commence a decade in the wilderness.
And therein lies the third piece of advice, Dipper friends: when you start down this path – with the recriminations, and the bitterness and the finger-pointing and blame-shifting – you usually end up with a plateful of cold ashes and bad memories. Generally, all this infighting leaves voters asking one simple and salient question: if they can’t manage their own affairs, how can I trust them to manage the country?
As he contemplates retirement this morning, spare a thought, then, for Tom Mulcair.
With the outcome of the vote in Edmonton, he has obviously lost.
But the New Democrat mutineers have lost, too. They just don’t know it yet.