The most popular pundit advice to New Democrats in today’s leadership balloting is: vote for Thomas Mulcair because he’s so mean he won’t even feel it when those mean Harper Conservatives launch their awesome negative ads in the next election.
This theory is borne of the gentle notion that the Liberal Party’s laughable performance in the last election was really not their fault. Rather, that they and their implicitly electable leader Michael Ignatieff were savaged by devastating negative ads by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
New Democrats would be well wise to vote for Mulcair for better reasons than that.
Harper and his team may or may not be their competition in three years, but we do know that there is absolutely no evidence that Canadians rely on advertising to decide what they think of Liberal and NDP leaders or that negative advertising now decides Canadian elections.
Here’s what was historic about last year’s Canadian election: the Liberal leader had the shortest public service résumé and obviously had less political talent than the leader of the New Democrats. For the first time, the Liberal leader ranked third in public approval polls and, on election day, the Liberals came in third.
Being as mean as Harper isn’t the task for New Democrats today. To New Democrats who are tempted to pick someone a little less overwhelming as Mulcair, think about Bob Rae’s ambition and the ego and savvy of the Liberal Party of Canada.
The first job of the fortunate new leader of the New Democrats is to stay ahead and offer leadership to other forces naturally growing in opposition to the government of the day.
Thomas Mulcair, above all the others, has demonstrated the initiative, confidence, and the ruthlessness to not let that work fall back into the hands of the Liberals or anyone else.