Monday, March 26, 2012

Dobbins on Mulcair - Serious Doubts

Tom Mulcair makes Murray Dobbins uncomfortable.  In the latest Tyee, Dobbins succinctly lays out the problem:

Two things shocked me about this race and its final two days. The first is that so many NDPers, part of a tightly-knit, hyper-loyal political culture steeped in progressive values could so casually elect a man who contradicts so many of their principles. Besides the disastrous result for the party and all progressives in the country, the election of Mulcair raises profound questions about the health of the party. There are two possibilities, neither attractive. One is that NDPers, like increasing numbers of Canadians in general, simply don't read as much and that information about Mulcair did not get through to them. To what extent did NDPers devote time and energy to finding out about the candidates? In general, what is the state of member education and engagement in the party? 

 More worrisome is the possibility that many thousands of NDP members had indeed heard the negative aspects of Mulcair's politics and voted for him anyway. That's a very different problem. It reflects what I have observed about the NDP for decades now: its decreasing emphasis on policy and philosophy and the increased -- political machine driven -- preoccupation with winning seats in elections, often out of context of the political moment and oblivious to unintended consequences. One prominent NDPer I spoke to responded to my shock that he was supporting Mulcair with a sort of football game enthusiasm. "I think he can take on the bastard [Harper]."

Facing a ruthless tough guy? Get your own ruthless tough guy. And possibly create a monster you can't control. It is as if policy, philosophy, and vision for the country have simply been devalued to the point where they are an afterthought or some vaguely interesting historical relic. There seems to have been a kind of "We'll worry about policies later, let's pick someone who can win first."

...How will Mulcair's "negatives" play out now that he is leader? These are significant negatives: his vicious, public attack on Libby Davies in 2010 showed unforgivably bad judgment. His failed negotiations with the Harper Conservatives for a cabinet position should by itself be a deal breaker for what it reveals about Mulcair's ethics. When finance critic, he barely said a word about Harper's destructive economic policies, and so one has to suspect he was in basic agreement. He boasted in 2007 about having slashed the work force of the Quebec environment department by 15 per cent, referring to himself as first and foremost a manager. That fits with his history of union-bashing -- and support for NAFTA -- while in Quebec's Liberal cabinet.

...How hard will the caucus fight, for example, on the Palestinian question? Will the caucus be willing to allow a fight to get out into the public? Mulcair has demonstrated that he is more than willing to do so, the consequences be damned.

...Mulcair's rigid fiscal conservatism may be another problem that comes up very quickly. Mulcair's economic views are closer to Harper's than they are to Jack Layton's or any other recent NDP leader. How convincing will he be in attacking deficit slashing if he actually believes in it?

...On the critically important issue of Quebec, NDPers hoping that Mulcair is the man to retain what Jack built may quickly be disappointed. You would be hard-pressed to find a social activist in Quebec who thinks Mulcair is a progressive. He is widely disliked. With the Bloc resurgent, open rejection of Mulcair's leadership by NGOs and movement groups could be disastrous.

If Dobbins is remotely accurate, the NDP may have just shot itself in both feet.   This guy sounds nothing like a natural successor to Jack Layton, anything but.   And if his past portends his future the strains within the party are bound to turn fractious.  A guy who tried to wangle a cabinet post in Harper's government is now the leader of the New Democrats?   An austerity booster and union basher?  You may just have elected the first NDP leader who loathes progressivism.   Good luck with that.

Right out of the blocks Mulcair vehemently denounced any prospect of cooperating with the Liberals.   Now I understand why.  He may prefer Harper over the Libs.


Anonymous said...

What a bunch of Liberal BS. Yah the guy who ran for the NDP in Quebec (A place that only once ever elected a member) is somehow motivated by power. Keep trying to re-write history because that dog aint going to hunt.

The Mound of Sound said...

Well that was certainly intelligent, Anon. Do you actually have anything to rebut any of Dobbins' claims or are you content with festering emotions?

Anonymous said...

Considering the corporate financial support that Mr. Mulcair received to finance his campaign, I assume that the NDP have sold themselves out as corporate centrists.

So where do social democrats go now?

The Liberals have the opportunity to reclaim the social democratic centre-left, which, I think, is the position preferred by the majority of Canadians. Can they do it? Will they do it? We'll see.

But there's always the Green party, which seems to stand on a platform of social, economic and environmental democracy.

Or occupy.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon I share your worries but there's no point in speculating just yet. From everything I've read Mulcair's instincts are at odds with the traditional NDP views but I recall Tony Blair was in that position too when he took over Labour and drove out the Old Guard. We're just going to have to wait and see whether Mulcair will prevail over his caucus and party to shift it past the center in a bid to take power.

Layton showed the NDP ranks are awash with people willing to freely discard the party's historic values for rank opportunism.

The Libs moving to the left of the NDP? I have a hard time imagining that even if it became a viable option.

Edstock of Galloping Beaver suggested something interesting on this blog the other day - that Canadian progressivism might have to take refuge in a digital political realm.

Anonymous said...

One only has to look at Mulcair's record while in cabinet at the provincial level to see that he gets results and has the best interest of citizens.
He was widely liked and I'm not sure where the article gets the information stating that he was not progressive.

Saint-Jack was an opportunist jakcal - seems more like old-school NDP gripes against Mulcair.

crf said...

Mulcair should silently laugh any time he's disfavourably compared to Layton.

Jack had plenty of good values. But his two seminal political contributions were failures. He brought down Martin's government over healthcare, on the excuse that Martin's values were not as saintly as Layton's on this issue. Then Layton ensured Martin's defeat by having his party serve as a conduit for Zacchardelli to publicize the (false) claim Martin's government had leaked its income trust decision to Bay Street. "Congraturations" Jack: Stephen Harper is PM.

And Jack's second failure was the coalition with Dion. That it failed wasn't all his fault, but he didn't rise to the occasion.