Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fighting over an “ordinary” brand for Canada’s left

It’s too much to ask for the drama of a heresy trial or the Republican primaries. The Canadian left is too old and too conservative for any of that. Nevertheless, the New Democratic Party’s leadership race is finally starting to generate news and a little feeling.
Last Sunday, in Winnipeg, we’re told, the gloves came off.
The “wedge” issue was created by front-runner Thomas Mulcair, who suggested that the NDP must refresh its slogans and renew its appeal if it is to win power—they might even, gasp, drop expressions of loyalty to “ordinary Canadians” every time they open their mouths in public.
Stunningly, he declined to withdraw these remarks. Several of his opponents not only committed themselves to stick with the “ordinary” but saw great benefit in plodding along according to the way they do things now.
Peggy Nash, who whispers the word “inspire” in every second sentence and hopes to be everyone’s second ballot choice, insists that the Party has already nicely renewed itself under the infallible leadership of the recently deceased Jack Layton.
Jack Layton occupies the same position of authority in the NDP that Ronald Reagan has among Republicans. While never winning a national election, his name permits most New Democrat politicians to stop thinking.
Unfortunately, for Peggy Nash and the other leadership candidates favoring continuity, Jack’s campaign rhetoric is pretty lame without Jack’s famous cane.
Mulcair deserves careful attention. He actually wants to win the next election against Stephen Harper. He knows that to do that he must keep his 59 seats in Quebec. To do that, he knows he must show Quebecers that he’s on fire in English-speaking Canada. He can’t catch fire in English-speaking Canada without being more interesting than Bob Rae, who’ll likely be a 67-year-old leader of the Liberal Party.
That means dropping stale, deflating slogans like “ordinary Canadians.”

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