Thoughts on the election, and a case for a more radical NDP

1. I knocked on a couple hundred doors in two ridings this election, and I had a unique insider perspective on the 2014 Toronto municipal race.

The parallels between the two are striking: left-wing social justice team facing gross, unpopular incumbent with a strong base, rebrands as the Sensible Default Choice and sees early lead evaporate in the face of the Next Best White Man.

Let’s say I had a pervasive sense of déjà vu throughout.

2. Contrary to Media Party™ claims, Mulcair’s chief sin was being unlucky. Most attempts to evaluate campaign effectiveness are bunk and consist largely of hagiography. It’s hard to evaluate a campaign’s competency outside of whether or not they were successful.

3. This election was obviously going to be referendum on Not Harper, and for a while the NDP had this in the bag.

The principled Leader of the Opposition was clearly well positioned against the scandal plagued dark side and the cynical, compromising prince-in-waiting. It was working!, and it worked well right up the end of the first month of the campaign:

(Note that the x-axis is misleadingly smooth, since it jumps from once-in-a-while to monthly-ish to weekly)

Then, the CPC went on the offensive and dominated all media coverage. We spent weeks discussing dumb bullshit that nobody really cared about, and Mulcair spent just enough time looking like a sap for the Natural Governing Party to look like the safe bet. Game over.

4. The notion that the Liberal party is ‘more progressive’ or ‘outflanked’ the NDP on the left is vastly irritating. Just a few years ago they were painted as unhinged socialists too irresponsible to govern. The most progressive party does not put Bill “carding is an effective policing tool” Blair on its roster.

It’s a Liberal talking point promoting strategic voting. The Liberal worldview is fundamentally about supporting the status quo.

Their spineless support for the surveillance state is disheartening. I’ll be extremely surprised if electoral reform comes to pass — or isn’t left out to dry like the OLP did in 2007.

Legal weed will be nice. For the love of god, please reinstate the long-form census.

5. It is pleasant that Harper is gone. I look forward to a government that isn’t actively, overtly hostile to me, my lifestyle and my friends. As an immigrant, as an urban resident, I was beginning to feel quite unwelcome.

6. This election was Not Harper’s to lose and you could feel this canvassing in downtown Toronto. Committed Conservatives or life-long Liberal voters would be curt or sheepish, respectively. You had an excited progressive base that warmly welcomed you at the door. But at the end of the day your tally sheet was filled with an ocean of undecideds.

People’s number one concern was getting rid of Harper. I had several conversations with people who were told me that they loved their current MP but they were anxious about another four years — no matter how many times you explained to them that it was nigh impossible for their riding to go blue.

This election was a sweep — but primarily targeted at the Conservatives:

7. You can most acutely see this with the turn out, which was the highest it’s been in twenty years. This election was a once in a generation event that moved all the soft support to the clear winner.

The vote broke at the last minute, and overwhelmingly so — soft conservative support and soft new democratic support threw their weight behind the Obvious Winner. People who don’t usually vote came out to vote. After an outlier year in 2011, there was a reversion to the mean.

That said, despite the rout the party still ended up with its second best electoral outcome of all time with 44 seats. If you look at the Toronto races, Peggy Nash, Andrew Cash and Craig Scott all lost within a thousand or so votes. Howard Hampton was a stone’s throw away.

There’s a lot of promise left.

8. The real story is, what is going on in Québec? What’s up with the Bloc? Where did that come from? What do they care about these days? English Canada does not give a crap about Québec, so it’s hard to find out.

9. The centrist move was laid out by Jack Layton. He was really well loved, but remember when the party produced historic wins in 2011? I invite you to recall that one out of five key platform planks was:

Capping credit card fees at prime plus 5 per cent, while taking federal sales tax off home heating.

The other four don’t get any better. I hope you like multi-partisanship, and job creation. The party picked up five seats in ON, and fifty eight in QC. Why shouldn’t you vigorously continue to seek to become the Sensible Default Choice by being boring and insipid?

Matter of fact is, Harper managed to totally transform the political environment in which we operate in. He was the most dominant political figure for a generation, and successfully shifted the discourse on to his own terms — to the point where, faced with a collapsed, ineffectual centrist party, the ‘conscience-of-parliament’ NDP found its messaging pulled towards that median voter.

10. If we’re lucky, the right will split once again. Can the CPC continue to exist as a party of western alienation? What’s going to happen to all of the unmuzzled social conservatives?

11. We’re stuck with a Liberal majority. Barring any colossal fuck ups, or economic meltdowns outside of his control, Justin Trudeau will probably be prime minister for another six to eight years.

It’s time to do some soul searching. Dippers do have a fundamentally different vision for Canada, and it’s time that was brought to the forefront. In a post-Harper world, it’s time to fully move past the Layton years. The “outflanked to the left” talking point stings partly because it’s hard to defend to the casual voter.

If we’re going to be perennial losers, we should at least feel good about the fight.