Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Free advice for the NDP's Ottawa set

This hasn't been the federal NDP's best week. I'm hardly the sort to tell the NDP to give the Liberals a free ride when they really deserve a good slap upside the head, but right now it's the NDP strategists I want to slap. In the hopes for a change in course, then, here's some free advice for any of that group who happen to be reading:

  • Yes, the Liberals got a post-convention bounce. So what? Did you really think that wouldn't happen? Just remember that all bounces are fleeting, take it in stride, and keep doing what you've been doing all along, hammering away at Harper and the Conservatives. You were doing such a good job, and it's not as if they haven't given you any fodder lately.

  • By all means, hammer away at the Liberals, too, when they do something arrogant or misguided. But why not wait until there's actually something to criticize before you join the Conservatives in their Dion-bashing? Trust me, there will be plenty of opportunities--Dion will have a tough time selling himself as the custodian of the environment when his record as environment minister was nothing to write home about. But kicking the guy when he first steps up to the plate just makes you look power-hungry and mean. Stick with "I am looking forward to debating with him and getting to work on the issues that are important to today’s families" until Dion gives you something concrete to work with.

  • Speaking of power-hungry and mean, what was with that insane email about Dion that the backroom strategists sent to NDP members shortly after he was made leader? Referring to him as an "out-of-touch academic" without telling us a thing about the ways in which he's supposedly out-of-touch is nothing but anti-intellectual crap. Am I "out of touch" because I have a Ph.D.? Is Dr. Jack Layton? Not to mention that it's hardly credible for the backroom people to try to malign Dion in this way when Layton himself has praised him.

  • Finally, Pat Martin questioning Dion's loyalty to Canada because of his dual citizenship doesn't exactly make him look like a defender of multiculturalism. As an immigrant Canadian who holds dual citizenship with my country of origin, I am appalled by the precedent this sets. People with dual citizenships aren't any less Canadian than those of you without any direct immigrant taint, and if somebody like me decided to run for the leader of a major party, my dual citizenship wouldn't make me any less deserving.
You're not just losing the soft NDP support with this strategy, you've got party members pissed off, too. We know you've got a great alternative vision, but right now we can't wait until you go back to presenting it so that we can stop cringing. You look like you're flailing. Quit it already.

[Update: My fellow oxymoron from Accidental Deliberations is much more measured, but no less right.]


Larry Gambone said...

They also have to put the needs of the people ahead of their own lust for power. The NDP is not going to form the next government, period. Don't pretend otherwise and give us another round of the Harpocrit.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Oh, gimme a break. The NDP can't "give us another round of the Harpocrit," that's up to the Canadian voters. The Liberals sound pretty silly when they try to say otherwise. The NDP should attack the Conservatives when they deserve it, the Liberals when they deserve it, and any other party when they deserve it--that's what being a separate party is about. The real problem is transparently trying to manufacture things to attack someone on. It just looks bad.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree. The NDP is producing the most lack luster and ultimately self defeating spin. I knew this was coming on the weekend and I prayed that they would change but alas a lack. On monday they hit the Globe and Mail with a shitty message and waste of money.

I swear this is the outcome of appointing loyal hacks in the place of real political talent. Given the NDP's whole organizational strategy seems to hinge on centralized spin as opposed to real organizing in communities they really need to get this right and they are getting wrong. It is too painful to watch.

JG said...

I got the email too, and my reaction was similar to the other NDPers you linked to. I like Dion - more than Layton - and his election is probably the best thing to happen in Canadian politics in the past while. So, while I was already feeling unsure about my attachment to the federal NDP in light of this pleasant surprise, that email did nothing to help. I guess we'll see what happens!

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I have no doubts about the NDP's ideals or even about the federal caucus. What I do have are doubts about the architects of this particular strategy. They're turning people off, and they need to stop now.

Anonymous said...

I was pretty pissed off at both of those things, too. Pat Martin was not my favourite Dipper anyway, but that e-mail coming at the same time was the icing on the cake. I can still defend the party with reference to policy, and I still support the party based on superior policy. But I shouldn't have to direct people past the spin to show why the NDP is great. The spin should lead them to that conclusion by itself.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

I shouldn't have to direct people past the spin to show why the NDP is great. The spin should lead them to that conclusion by itself.

Exactly! Isn't that what spin is FOR? Sheesh.

Kenn Chaplin said...

Thank you for so eloquently putting into words some of the burrs that have been in my cranial saddle.

JG said...

Well, I can't say that I'm likely to vote for Brison anytime soon, at least!

In any event, I suppose the real problem is Pat Martin and those like him who are acting as strategists. I've always found Martin to embody the sort of petty populism (e.g., complaining about Clarkson's diplomatic forays) that I hate, and he's the only NDP MP I'd sooner see not get re-elected. I expect more of the party of Douglas, Lewis, and Broadbent. While I'm at it, I'm very disappointed that Layton would follow Ezra Levant in saying that it's better to remain the citizen of one country. As one of the comments in the CBC "Your View" section mentions, the sort of questions of loyalty being lobbed in Dion's direction are little different from suggesting that Catholic politicians would take orders from the Pope.

Daniel wbc said...

As a would-be New Democrat, I am sad at the behavior of the party. Thank you for this criticism. From your mouth to Layton's ears. Do politicians ever listen?

Anonymous said...

If you ran for elected office in Canada, the States would strip you of your dual citizenship.  US law says anyone who accepts a managerial or elected position in a foreign government has made a de facto renunciation of their US citizenship.  (This rule may have been put in when Meir Kahane was elected to the Knesset in Israel.)

This law seems reasonable to me.  Perhaps someday I will be Canadian enough for it to seem silly.  Apparently a lot of Canadians are too Americanish on this matter.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

If you ran for elected office in Canada, the States would strip you of your dual citizenship.

I'm not sure that's true. They would have the right to do that, under U.S. law, but as far as I can tell, it never actually happens that way. Hard-right Tory Ted Morton, an immigrant from the U.S., didn't seem to have his U.S. citizenship threatened by his unsuccessful run to be Alberta's premier.

As for the rest, I actually would find this sort of sentiment far less odious if it came from Americans than I do when it comes from Canadians. Why? Because questioning the loyalty of someone simply for having dual citizenship goes against everything Canada claims to stand for. As I said back here:

You'd better be willing to accept the consequences of that line of reasoning, and support changing our current policies to correspond with it. Because at the moment, we have only one class of Canadian citizenship and one set of rights and responsibilities that go along with that citizenship. At the moment, if you're a Canadian, you don't have to choose between being that and being something else. At the moment, dual citizenship has no influence whatsoever on the rights afforded you as a Canadian.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, count me in among the pissed-off party members (and dual citizens). I mean, I'm used to Pat Martin being a bit of a wing-nut, but that Jack would even partially support this position made me extremely angry. Seriously, if I'd had to vote yesterday, I might well have voted Liberal. (Of course, the moment passed -- but really, I was that upset).

Anonymous said...

whoops, that was me above

-- maggie h

Mark Dowling said...

pyesetz the dog has it the wrong way round - Kahane surrendered his US passport because of an Israeli law, not a US one.
Fearing the loss of seats to Kach, Likud sponsored a bill requiring that any candidate for Knesset must, before running, surrender any non-Israeli citizenship.

Such a bill (directed against a single individual) is unconstitutional in the United States. Had Golda Meir been subject to this legislation, she could have lost her U.S. citizenship. The taking of Rabbi Kahane's U.S. citizenship was intended to cripple his ability to travel to raise funds. In the letter which accompanied the surrender of his passport to the U.S. State Department, the Rabbi (a citizen of the U.S. by birth) stated that he intended the renouncement of American citizenship to be conditional upon his re-election to Knesset. In 1990 Rabbi Kahane entered the United States with permission to contest this issue in Federal Court. The case become moot upon his death.

Feynman and Coulter's Love Child said...

And how many farmers (who aren't already members of the CFU) do you think the NDP will gain in support by defending the Wheat Board? Well, besides the ones in Ontario and Quebec who aren't covered by the board are are served by keeping Western farmers under government jackboots?