Friday, October 30, 2015

Mulcair -- Tom the Circus Bear

 A few months ago, most people thought that Canadian election was the NDP's to lose.  They were right -- and the NDP did lose. Now, everybody blames Tom Mulcair.  As we pointed out last time, Justin Trudeau should be on a Gap billboard.  But Mulcair?  Yup, must be his fault!

  • His hair is thinning 

  • He has a beard

  • He is chubby 
  • His best friends are lobsters.


Tom Hugs Lobsters


Mulcair actually looks like a grizzly. But whoever saw a smiling grizzly -- except in a circus.   And that's what Mulcair's people had him doing -- pretending to be warm and friendly.  

Don't get me wrong, I love large, furry animals,with teeth -- I just don't want them demeaned to riding bikes to the hoots of the yahoos. And they should eat salmon.  Not hug lobsters.

Mulcair Bear

Apart from that: the small matter of issues and values:

Murray Dobbin says it better than I can:

The Liberal/Conservative mode of doing politics doesn’t suit a political party that wants to change the political culture. Such a party cannot achieve change unless it becomes part of the community it claims to share values with and that is exactly what the NDP has been moving away from. This is why the party consistently underestimates the desire for change in its support base and miscalculates its response to the politics of opportunism. If the NDP is confused about whether it’s a party of change or just another competitor on the field, it’s no wonder its potential supporters are confused. 

Shared Values

 

Dobbin (whose website you simply must visit)  is talking about the same kind of thing that happened in the UK with Miliband -- who also tried to tack to the NeoLiberal wind, ignoring what the community wanted and needed....  The thing about neoliberalism is that it is inherently elitist.  It assumes that community values can be imposed from above -- that ordinary people just don't know what they want.  

 

Do you drink the juice with 20% sugar -- or do you drink the 100% stuff?

 

Why vote for NDP neoliberalism -- Conservative Lite, when you get the real stuff?  When you can get 100% elitism, with JT or Harper?

 
Canned fresh juice -- of any type by the way --  is not really any healthier than the kind with sucrose, if it lacks fiber. It's still of fructose -- which is just another simple sugar.   "Fresh" juice only looks healthier. You're screwed either way.   Ditto: canned politics.

When the NDP said it would balance the budget -- without raising taxes on individuals -- it hugged a bottom-crawling crustacean with claws-- austerity

Cutting up your life -- austerity


You would have thought that the NDP would have learned from Miliband in the UK, who had come to a sad end earlier..   Nope!

This is Canada. This is the NDP.  We do not learn from others' mistakes.  We don't even learn from our own.

The Canadian Way

What is needed is a Canadian Corbyn -- somebody who respects the voice of the people.

The Comfortable Middle?

Somebody who eschews the conventional wisdom of  the Comfortable Middle ,the soft overhanging belly of the country, those people with jobs, education and a place to live, who think whatever is easiest to think.

 

Somebody who appeals to the heads and hearts of the Precariat -- those threatened by austerity and the neoliberal corporate welfare state.

 
Precarious Times

You don't have many in the NDP, who fit the bill. Perhaps only Niki Ashton.

 

One reason for this dearth of talent is that the NDP has been pretending, trying to gain the friendship of the Couch Class -- who, unfortunately, are married to the Liberal Party.  At the same time, our version of New Labor wants to preserve ideology by helping the less fortunate, but this is mostly pretense, since it is not possible without doing things differently.  

 

 "Hey we are the Party of Change -- but -- don't worry -- we're not really going to do anything different". 

 
Mulcair: Victim

So it was that Tom Mulcair, an honest man, but a representative of a different social democratic perspective than mine, spent a lot of time smiling, when he should have been biting something..  And talked conservative economics,when he should have been arguing Keynesian at least. 

 

He also let himself to be persuaded to posture  -- rejecting  debates which Harper would not attend -- debates where he could have focused on larger issues such as TPP, civil liberties and proportional representation became sideshows.  

 

As Dobbin says:

Such a party cannot achieve change unless it becomes part of the community it claims to share values with and that is exactly what the NDP has been moving away from...


You cannot be an agent of change, unless you can engage withe community --  viscerally on those things which affect quality of life-- jobs, education, and the freedom to live your life as you like.
TV ads don't do it.  Speeches don't do it.  Talking to people does do it. And channeling the people as Jeremy Corbyn now does in Question Period also does it.  


As Marx says:

It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness

No, people don't want austerity.  It doesn't work.  They don't want student debt. It doesn't work either.   They don't want their civil liberties impinged upon.  


By extension they do public ownership of things that belong to the public.  They proportional representation so they can actually participate in their democracy.  They want equality not only before the law -- but of opportunity, too. 


Mulcair did oppose TPP and the already moribund Keystone pipeline -- but he really couldn't get beyond his absurd tilt towards "fiscal responsibility" -- and his need to put down "Justin". And  niqabs hide more than the face -- in  this election, they also hid rid issues.  


Mulcair dithered.  


First, he supported only decriminalization of cannabis and then began hemming and hawing about "legalization".  He looked like a old, bearded guy ...um...with throat mucuous --not a sin -- just a little icky. Grumpy Gramps.   At the very least, he could have admitted to smoking joints in the Parliamentary toilets to help his lumbago. 


It's all about looks

 

Seriously, Tom?

 

For Justin Trudeau, it was indeed  all about looks -- as I suggested at the beginning in my last blog post. For Tom the Circus Bear it was more about just Looking Out Of It .   

 

Contemplating Post-Harper Healing

Stephen Harper, the most anti-democratic prime minister in our history, may have done democracy a favour by mandating the longest election in Canadian history. One-month elections only exposed the breakdown of our so-called democratic system for a relatively short period. It didn’t last long enough for us to really sicken of the spectacle, and then we focused on the lies, manipulations and corporate sell-outs of those newly elected to run the country. But this time we have experienced what amounts to full-immersion baptism in our truly absurd and pathologically unresponsive system of “representative democracy.”
Of course part of that absurdity is rooted in the anachronistic first-past-the-post system which regularly produces executive dictatorships with less than 40% of the vote (and just 24% of the eligible voters). It finally seems that we might now get a change to some form of proportional representation for the next election. But promises (especially Liberal ones) are as easy to break as they are to make and a post-election mobilization of the disillusioned multitudes will be required to seal the deal.
But at the risk of being cynical about such a change before it even happens let’s not be too sanguine about the overall impact of a change in the voting system. Even the best election rules are not going to solve our democratic deficit unless we dramatically increase the level of civic literacy and citizen engagement.
The desperate need for proportional representation has to some extent distracted us from just how inadequate and unresponsive the rest of the system is. It has taken the likes of Harper to actually push the other parties to suddenly call for change when they have for decades supported first-past-the-post because executive dictatorship is an attractive form of governance to those who run political parties.
Given this history it is hard not to conclude that political parties themselves are the biggest barrier to genuine, participatory democracy. Parties have with rare and short-lived exceptions have always acted in their own interests whenever faced with a choice between that goal and working for the country. That has always been true of the two Bay Street parties and now that the NDP has drunk the we-can-win kool aid, they join their ranks adopting a strategy that replaces principle with opportunism.
There is still a chance however slim that the party can recover from its new and catastrophic direction established by Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair. That new direction entailed accepting the rules made by the big business parties – rules that suited their style, their access to money, their privileged position in the media, their control of the bureaucracy and their deep connections to elite influence and power. It is painfully obvious that the more the NDP adopts the machine politics invented by and for the Liberals and Conservatives the more it becomes like them in terms of policies, ethics and political strategy.
If the current election-machine NDP wants to win an election it will have to do so as a liberal party that has reached an accommodation with globalization and finance capital. Little by little the adoption of Liberal and Conservative political strategy has corrupted what remained of a social democratic party. By the time they win an election on this basis they will be completely indistinguishable from the Liberals they are determined to replace.
But if they want to win as a renewed and principled social democratic party then they can only do so through a commitment to a long term redefinition of the rules of the political game, rules designed to benefit a genuinely democratic party that engages the population in a program of civic literacy – equipping people to deal with modern communications techniques that are used to manipulate them. By doing so and actually mobilizing the tremendous appetite for progressive change in a majority of the population, the NDP could actually begin to force other parties to play by its rules. When they did that in the 1960s the rewards were considerable and included Medicare, still the principle legacy of the progressive Canadian state.
The Liberal/Conservative mode of doing politics doesn’t suit a political party that wants to change the political culture. Such a party cannot achieve change unless it becomes part of the community it claims to share values with and that is exactly what the NDP has been moving away from. This is why the party consistently underestimates the desire for change in its support base and miscalculates its response to the politics of opportunism. If the NDP is confused about whether it’s a party of change or just another competitor on the field, it’s no wonder its potential supporters are confused.
But when it comes to promoting civic literacy and building values-based communities civil society groups are not much better. To date they focus on two political themes but pay scant attention to the question that ultimately matters most. The first focus (this is the one I am most guilty of) is to pile up the list of political crimes and misdemeanors of the Harper government. Close to a dozen books have now raised the alarm. The trouble is the same alarm has been ringing for 10 years. Harper is a still a threat.
The second theme – and at least this breaks from the left’s almost pathological attachment to the negative – is to describe what is possible. Imagine (as the Leap manifesto has done)what we could have in this country if we hadn’t experienced fifteen years of massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations – somewhere between $40 and 60 billion a year has been pilfered from our collective, community coffers to feed the greed of the powerful.
But listing all the good things we “could” have “if only” things weren’t as they are is just an exercise. It isn’t politics, it isn’t organizing and it doesn’t address the reality that prevents people from going into the street and demanding the change we claim is doable: they see nothing on the horizon that suggests any of these things that they want will ever come to pass.
The really important theme that the left devotes virtually no time to intellectually, or strategically is the question of agency. That is the term given by political theorists to the process by which change is actually made: if you truly want change who will be the agent of that change? In other words it is not so much what is to be done (make your own list) but what model of organizing can begin to accomplish it. Change doesn’t just happen because millions of people say they want it. Post-election this will be the critical task of all progressives – take what we know is possible and use it to rebuild community, reclaim the commons and build a broad based social movement with the power to challenge the status-quo

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