My deflating optimism about the NDP leadership race
Sep 23, 2011

My deflating optimism about the NDP leadership race

For a while, I was feeling very energized about the NDP leadership race. We on the left were going to get six months or so to have a real and refreshing discussion of values and policies about where to go from here. With a relatively new One Member One Vote mechanism, I, and anybody else, could pay the five buck membership fee (if you are under 26 or un(der)employed) and be an active participant in this fundamentally democratic process. That the NDP rightly decided to drop the 25% mandated union vote was a step in the right direction and I had hope for a grassroots, bottom up, progressive process. Some of this excitement is expressed here.

NDP front runners Mulcair and Topp
Perhaps this is largely a problem with the Canadian media, but what I have observed is far from this. Every couple days, we get a new set of articles about the latest NDP big shot who has endorsed Brian Topp, the current frontrunner [example]. These articles typically don't identify any policy or value differences between Mulcair or anybody else. I know it is early, and I know debates and the like will come, but right now it feels like the decision to elect Topp is being made without me. It is being made by the party elites, not the grassroots, from the top not the bottom.

Last night the GOP presidential candidates had their third major debate in preparation for the 2012 election. This campaign has been long and spirited. However, it cannot be said it is a campaign about endorsements from party elite. The debates are about values and about policies in a large way. Polls of the GOP base come out all the time and the debates are speaking to the public members. don't get me wrong, I abhor much of what is discussed and disagree with the values and policies (the derision of gays, uninsured and death penalty victims has been particularly repugnant), but I do very much agree with the process.

While it is always worth saying what one feels, a lot of the problems in our democracy is voter apathy. I would still encourage people to get involved, to build grassroots progressive movements and become a member (and then again for the Liberals a year later). Certainly the way this campaign is unfolding does not encourage such participation, but this can't be a case for not participating. We cannot let our apathy get the better of ourselves.

Finally, it is worth remembering that even if it becomes a race between Topp and Mulcair with no reasonable third place and even Mulcair not having a shot, this does not mean there is no value in voting. There is always value in voting for lower tiered candidates, because it lets the establishment know the priorities of its members. A strong showing to a third candidate who is pushing a particular issue will result in whoever is electing likely moving in that direction.

For instance, one issue I care about is green energy and the environment - something I feel the NDP capitulates on when it comes anywhere close to causing pain on the masses through, say, rising electricity costs. This zero sum thinking is wrong and the NDP ought to refocus on environmentalism for all the progressive reasons it espouse on other issues. Voting for a candidate who thinks likewise, even if they cannot win, will have value in spreading that message.

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