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)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thomas Mulcair: putting “new” back in the word “renewal”

Ed Broadbent was an important leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party. He was the first to take over from the socialist giants of the Great Depression and he was the first to have to accept that private enterprise and activist government, in country after country, was producing better results than textbook socialism.
Ed Broadbent could believe in “democratic socialism or social democracy” and that Pierre Trudeau was not a “progressive.” No one suggested he was either confused or confusing.
He gave extremely long, Bill Clinton–busy speeches on industrial policy, unemployment, inflation, and Canadian economic nationalism. In 1988, he peaked politically with 43 seats in English-Speaking Canada. After 23 years of “steady progress,” last year the NDP under Jack Layton’s leadership won a whopping 44 seats in English-speaking Canada.
That’s the anemic pace of progressive renewal that Ed Broadbent believes the NDP must respectfully maintain.
Ed Broadbent is alarmed by the casual approach of leadership frontrunner Thomas Mulcair. Mulcair seems to believe that renewal actually means fundamental change—that the Broadbent-Layton leadership formula isn’t leading to political office or to a winning union of progressives in Canada.
Ed Broadbent worries that with Mulcair in charge, the NDP will get “too close to the center” and, then, will disappear.
He doesn’t draw any picture in policy terms. But that’s beside the point. “The center” for a New Democrat hardliner is one ugly constant: the Liberal Party of Canada. Not being a Liberal is the litmus test of a true Canadian progress. There’s something about medicine, childcare, taxing big business, growing wheat, growing old, and peace-keeping that Liberals just don’t get—at least, when they're in power.
Yet, if the Democratic Party in the United States can continue to hold together the interests and egos of the American left, then, surely, Canada’s moderate left can come together and give Canada’s Conservatives a straightforward challenge in the next election.
Ed Broadbent loathes the “center” but favors parliamentary “coalitions” with Liberals in minority parliaments. That, supposedly, is acceptable because you and your labels don’t disappear and it’s parliamentary. And parliamentary is British and that, at least, is not American.  
However, it’s less democratic, less forceful, and less straightforward than finding a leader with ideas and sufficient will to unite and excite sufficient voters to win directly—for instance, choosing a difficult character like Pierre Trudeau, who turned off many progressives like Ed Broadbent.
Old Labor in Great Britain isn’t being reborn out of the recent election defeat of New Labor. The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada is dead. The Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation is dead. They eventually got the message from the votes they needed: they had no winning future and they died. As was the case with the right, the future of the left in Canada, in the United States, and in Great Britain depends now not on old brands, elder statesmen, public subsidies, and voter loyalties, but above all, it depends on adventurers like Thomas Mulcair.

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