Monday, October 26, 2015

Has the NDP Sown the Seeds of Its Own Destruction?

An interesting analysis from the American publication, The New Republic, questions whether the New Democratic Party, already facing a difficult future, can avoid self-destruction.

Senior editor Jeet Heer writes what NDP faithful refuse to hear - that they spent the last decade colluding with Harper to destroy the Liberal Party of Canada.

Harper’s deepest political goal was not just to defeat the Liberals politically but to eliminate them as a party. Gerry Nicholls, who worked with Harper in the 1990s in the right-wing lobby group the National Citizens Coalition, wrote in a 2011Globe and Mail column that Harper’s “desire to eliminate the Liberals is something he and I discussed way back in the days when we worked together at the National Citizens Coalition. His theory, as explained to me, was that conservatism would be better served in this country if Canada had a two-party system, one that pitted right against left, free enterprise against socialism, Conservatives against New Democrats. He believed that, in such a polarized political environment, a conservative-oriented party would have a huge advantage over its left-wing rival.”

Over the last ten years, until this recent election, Harper has been remarkably successful in trying to build up the NDP as the main rival and tear the Liberals apart. He’s done this partially by aiming his most destructive fire on the Liberals and also by occasionally working with the NDP, building them up as credible opposition. Harper’s polarization strategy reached it’s peak in the 2011 election when the Liberals under the hapless Michael Ignatieff received less than 19 percent of the vote and only 34 seats. The New Democrats became the official opposition for the first time, with nearly 31 percent of the popular vote and 103 seats, while the Conservatives won a majority with their 40 percent of the popular vote giving them 166 seats.

Heer writes that both Harper and the Layton/Mulcair NDP were adhering to Duvanger's Law which “states that a plurality electoral system with single-member districts (like Canada’s first-past-the-post system) will tend towards a two-party system (split along left/right political lines).

The NDP under Thomas Mulcair made a fatal mistake in hugging too close to the center. This allowed Trudeau’s Liberals to carve out a political space on the left by promising Keynesian deficits and infrastructure spending to jumpstart the economy. The Liberals found a sweet spot of winning over both disaffected progressives and also centrists who distrusted the NDP’s socialist past and lack of governing experience.

...In the desperate last days of the elections, Harper started making some strange moves, even going to an event hosted by the disgraced former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. This embrace of Ford marked the end not just of a squalid, racist campaign but also Harper’s dream to live in a Canada where the Liberal Party was extinct. Although the Liberal Party remains an affront to both Harper and political theory, it regained its role as the voice of the Canadian center-left, which is where most voters are.

In fact, the party that is facing the existential question posed by Duverger’s law is not the Liberals but the NDP. While the NDP can and does win in provinces like Manitoba and Alberta, it is facing a bleak national future. With the Liberals once again presenting themselves as a progressive alternative to the Conservatives, does Canada need two left of center parties? If Duverger’s law ever does hit Canada, it could be the NDP that gets kicked to the curb.

At this point it's up to the NDP rank and file to decide whether they'll survive or, instead, simply double down on the bad bets they made under Layton and Mulcair. If they insist on going that route their disappearance will be no great loss and may even clear the way for a new, genuine party of the Left.


Anonymous said...

"existential question posed by Duverger’s law is not the Liberals NOR the NDP." but the lack of PR... so the establishment can continue to manipulate hapless voters...

Anonymous said...

Anyong said: Where have I been all my life? I thought Canada is a free enterprise country.

Mark said...

The People's Front of Judea will survive as long as they hate the Judean People's Front more than they hate the Romans.

Ben Burd said...

The only left party that can get eected will be a "centre-left" one. Anything else is doomed to 20% at the most of public opinion, and we know where that is - nowhere.

With that in mind we will see just how centre-left the Liberals will be? If, as suspected they move into Toryland, as opposed to harperland then the NDP is in good shape for electoral success.

All I can say to the 'doomers' who think that the NDP has wandered off into Blair Country is that the centre-left will look very good after the Liberals have ruled for six years.

As you know where I am coming from Mound let's have this discussion in four years when the AV system of ranked ballots deliver a majority with less than 50% of the votes cast. The PR people will still be howling!

The Mound of Sound said...

Ben, there's a rift developing in your party's ranks and it's drawing a lot of attention. As Caplan argues, the NDP threw away principle as the price of a shot at power.

There are some similarities between what the NDP is going through and the divisions about to wrack the Tories, if there is something remaining identifiable as Tory any longer. I read an item, I think at the Ottawa Citizen, that Mulroney will be calling for a revival of the ProgCons during an address in the first week of November.

Fascinating times, Ben. Don't be a stranger. Four years is a lifetime.

rumleyfips said...

Heard this morning. The CPC caucus meeting and election of head boy will be held a the same time as Muldoon's speech. A cynic would say that young Jason has pulled some strings.

There was a nomination race in Ontario ( forget where ) with a Kennyite facing a Mullroonyite ). Kenny won.

Expect dirty tricks from both side as young Ben seeks to ascend the throne that his daddy thinks is rightfully his.

Dana said...

It's beginning to become laughable that dippers and cons are unable to comprehend that the campaign that defeated them was run by a very bright, tactically adroit, flexibly responsive team led by a guy who was able to 'go over the heads' (to borrow a catchphrase) of the Conservative media juggernaut.

They seem to be operating under the misapprehension that these people are suddenly going to become significantly less bright, less adroit, less responsive as they form government.

I suspect the dippers and cons are in for a very disconcerting surprise because, oddly enough, I think Justin Trudeau meant what he said and really does intend to fulfill those campaign promises.

Everywhere I continue to read and hear that he's an intellectual lightweight and so on.

Do the dippers and cons not understand that by saying this they only make themselves look more incompetent and foolish that they could lose to this guy ?

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Rumley. You've given me a headache. Thanks.

@ Dana - Well put.

Ben Burd said...

"Ben, there's a rift developing in your party's ranks and it's drawing a lot of attention. As Caplan argues, the NDP threw away principle as the price of a shot at power."

Last word on this Mound. As a long time member and twice a candidate I don't think by abandoning Keynesian economics and the need for deficits to develop growth is throwing away principle."

quote from wikipedia: "Keynes died in 1946; but, during the 1950s and 1960s, the success of Keynesian economics resulted in almost all capitalist governments adopting its policy recommendations."

But Tommy Douglas (wiki quote - "He left federal politics to become the Saskatchewan CCF's leader and then the seventh Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961") Didn't feel it necessary to use such devices.

Only the people not committed to demcratic Socialism, as opposed to the Third Way or actual Socialism are the one s that are bitching about "principles", and as you know if you have been to any NDP convention these very same people are always bitching about the lack of purity and the leadership selling out the members. Caplan is not cricising the Party for advocatinf growth through non-deficits, his beefs were about the way the backroom ran the campaign.

As to the original quote I think you will find at the next Convention the people who talk about "principles" will be in the minority, as always, whilst the majority of us will talk about the mechanics of the campaign that we all think we should have won.

Edstock said...

.5% overnight Prime made it a whole new game, and only the Liberals understood this simple fact.

Stevie was busy starving the Canadian Government and pounding it into everybody's brain that only he could do so, the NDP allowed as how they could sort of do that too, in a master-stroke of brain-fade to try to look serious or respectable or something.

Justin points out that it will never be so cheap to borrow money to re-build the Harper damage to Canadian society. Simultaneously, the web-linked progressive opposition across Canada gets organized locally in an unprecedented fashion = First Nations' ridings run out of ballots = while thinking globally and nationally = ABC =.

Finally, the wizards in the NDP lose focus and initiative on Stevie, and start hacking at Justin, and it's all over.

Scotian said...


Agree with MoS, well put. I've been mystified by how many people on both wings of the spectrum have completely misread Justin Trudeau's real leadership abilities. It wasn't like they weren't on display before last Monday's majority win, I know, because I cited them time and again in many places to underscore that he actually was ready and more than that, able. While I find HDS to be a complete piece of crap like BDS was during GWB's tenure, I am starting to believe that Trudeau Derangement Syndrome might actually be a real thing. For he hasn't had the political history to generate that kind of anger/contempt/hatred, all he has is his existence and his family name. Yet for over two years straight I've been reading/listening to it come out of CPC and Dipper alike. I warned them that Trudeau was not be taken lightly, that if you wanted to know how he would fight this campaign he would do it the way he beat Brazeau in the ring, and when I look back at it that is pretty much what he did.

For the first period he took blows essentially turtling up with some soft jabs to keep the hits from being unbroken. Then in the second phase he started to stand the ground with stronger and stronger jabs while still taking the odd hit. Then in the third phase he essentially unloaded on his opponents and left them reeling unable to effectively respond. Certainly sounds like the last two years and election campaign to me.


When we know the Bank of Canada is literally pleading via its actions for the government to start borrowing and spending so as to get the Canadian economic engine revving again and the governing party does the opposite with austerity instead, it is no wonder things have been as lousy as they have been. Whenever the CPC P&P show did an economic panel with Goodale representing the Libs he kept making this point over and over again, and sounding to me like not just the the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind, but someone with actual full binocular vision in that kingdom. I get why the CPC acted as they did in the election campaign, the real question is why the NDP were this foolish/moronic, and thought going after Trudeau for this common sense approach that the bloody Bank of Canada clearly was begging for was a good idea.

It really makes one wonder whether there really wasis rampant Trudeau derangement syndrome going on within the NDP circles, it is as plausible an explanation as anything at this point.