Monday, May 26, 2014

Sideline Snipers

The New Democratic Party, particularly in Ontario, has long been afflicted by sideline snipers who purport to be loyal New Democrats. Prominent Liberal Activist Basil Hargrove spent more than a decade pretending to be a New Democrat while doing everything in his power to ensure that the Ontario and federal NDP were electorally marginalized - and it took a full decade before anyone was prepared to call Hargrove out for his hypocrisy. His expulsion from the Ontario NDP in 2006 (for violating the party's constitution by supporting another party) was at least a decade overdue.

The approach of the sideline snipers has been remarkably consistent over the years. With crocodile tears about "principles," they pretend to act from conscience in demanding that the NDP campaign from a hard left platform. Yet at the same time, the same critics actively encourage NDP supporters to vote . . .  for the Liberals. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to determine the snipers' real loyalties.

Any NDP leader who threatens (or even tries) to be electorally effective is subjected to the same attack. It happened to Howard Hampton, to Alexa McDonough and to Jack Layton. True to form, the usual suspects were out in force last week, deliberately sabotaging Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath's campaign. The Liberal aligned Toronto Star and CBC were quick to claim that the 34 signatories were "prominent" New Democrats. Certainly a few of them were, but most were not, and a few (such as Judy Rebick) have actively identified as "former New Democrats" for years. But the letter was the usual hodge-podge of hypocrisy posing as principle. They essentially demanded that Horwath and the ONDP all but stand down to give the Ontario Liberals a free hand in this election.

A National Newswatch piece by political statistician and data aggregator Alice Funke (whose Pundits' Guide website is required reading for anyone who seriously wants to understand hte political scene in Canada) pointed out the fundamental incoherence of a strategy which calls on the ONDP to embrace electoral irrelevance as a means of advancing progressive ideas. She does, however, miss one salient point - that an electorally weakened New Democratic Party inevitably allows the Liberal Party and the entire national / provincial political discourse to shift significantly to the right. Yes, marginalizing the NDP can (sometimes) help the Liberals electorally, but it also ensures that any Liberal government elected is far to the right of where it might otherwise have been if it had to contend with a serious challenger on its left flank.

Funke effectively sums up what Horwath is trying to do:
She has made a bold calculation that the strong desire for regime change in the province, coupled with a fear of the extreme programme of the Hudak PCs, creates a unique opening for a modern social democratic offer that balances fiscal responsibility with progressive working class populism; one that actually stands a chance of stopping a Hudak majority, in the very regions the provincial Liberals are now weakest.

The weirdest part of the whole story is the claim by some of the signatories that the letter was never intended to become public. The claim is either startlingly naive or plainly dishonest on the face of it. The letter was written for one purpose and one purpose only, to become public in order to sabotage the NDP campaign.

The way to defeat right wing party's with right wing agendas is to defeat right wing parties with right wing agendas, not to cede the electoral field to other right wing parties with (possibly ever so slightly less) right wing agendas.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well said Malcolm. A bunch of feelies out for a grope who proudly proclaim as they look in te mirror, "may wasn't I ideologically pure today."