Playing the Indian Card

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tom and Max

So Tom Mulcair is out, and it was not close.

By conventional political calculations, this seems like a big mistake. Someone might rise to the occasion, but the NDP has nobody waiting in the wings who looks as good. Mulcair also had only one election campaign; he deserved another chance.

But I don't think the NDP is really that interested in electoral success. Given the party's history, party activists are not there for a chance at power or sinecure. It is more like a club, to which people belong for the sense of belonging. One could also say it was for the sake of their political principles, but then, flaunting those principles is a matter of signalling morality, rather than actually getting anything done. Otherwise, they would be more concerned with getting elected.

Mulcair was never really a full member of this club. He rose through the Quebec Liberal Party. He did not know these people personally. They might have felt more loyalty to a losing leader who was one of them. But if Mulcair could not deliver power, and easily, there was no further excuse for him. It did not help that he tried last election to push them to the centre, allowing them to be outflanked on the left by the Liberals. This had to alienate the majority of party activists who were there for the sake of self-identity.

In the meantime, they watched the British Labour Party veer left by electing Jeremy Corbin, while Bernie Sanders was grabbing headlines in the US. They probably felt sidelined, out of the game they came to play.

So not only are they in the mood to dump Mulcair; they are in the mood to get some of their self-esteem back by embracing the Leap Manifesto.

I guess this also means they endorse assisted suicide, at least by example?

The next leader, whoever it is, will probably lead them back into distant third-party status. But this is where they feel most at home.

Turning now to the Conservative race: pundits generally seem to be consigning Maxime Bernier to also-ran status. I think this is wrong. I think he has the best shot of all the likely candidates.

First, to hold on to its bona fides as a national party, the party should not select someone else from Alberta. Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day, and Preston Manning, in effect their last three leaders, were all from Wild Rose Country. That is a serious handicap for otherwise popular figures like Jason Kenney. Brad Wall, from neighbouring Saskatchewan, is not that much better off on this score.

Second, it looks as though Bernier will be the only Quebec candidate. He will surely be the most prominent. Quebec is a huge block of delegates, the second-biggest, and, unsurprisingly given the language differences, they tend to back a native son. Doing well in Quebec in the next election also matters to a lot of party functionaries elsewhere, who are in the business of trying to win political office. Many of them will support someone they feel could go toe to toe with Trudeau in a French-language debate.

Third, in early polling, the most popular candidates for the post are Red Tories, from the old PCs: Peter McKay, Tony Clement, Kevin O'Leary. Most party activists are probably Blue Tories. Maxime Bernier, a libertarian, has a good chance of becoming their standard bearer, and they might quickly rally to his side if it looks otherwise like a win by Peter McKay. In the meantime, the Red Tory vote may be split among several prominent candidates.

Then again, I cold be wrong. I never would have predicted Donald Trump.

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