Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The NDP strategy 2008

Jack Layton is letting his strategy hang out.

For the most part, I like it. I like the positioning as a future prime minister, because regardless of whether it ends up ever being effective, it will make him look like a stronger leader. I like the ignoring the Liberals as long as they don't do or say anything too ridiculous or misinformative, because Harper is the primary opponent this time, both for government and for seats in a lot of individual ridings.

The part that makes me cringe are the rampant analogies with the U.S. Democratic Party. No, cringe isn't a strong enough term--"horrified" is more like it. I know that they're trying to play off of an completely idealized vision of Obama. I know they're trying to benefit from the way Canadians have been paying more attention to the glitz and glamour of U.S. politics lately than they have to the frustrating gridlock of Canadian politics. And it might just work, and that would be great, of course. But I still hate it. I just hate it.

As long as the analogies stay superficial, I can live with it, but if they actually start trying to emulate the U.S. Democratic Party on policy, they will be hearing from me more than just in my blog. Because Canada's New Democrats are still lightyears away from the U.S.'s Old Democrats on things like health care, crime and punishment, security, and human rights issues. And as a new Canadian who the Democrats frustrated enough to flee that country to the south of us, I'm still very very very happy about that.


Skinny Dipper said...

If Layton copies elements of Obama's style and not the policies, this might help the NDP get new support while maintaining their core supporters. At the same time, if Layton wants to get new supporters, he will need to explain his policies that suits the needs those new supporters. For example, how will Layton's funding of public tranist help voters who may live in the suburbs of Canada's cities where people don't usually vote NDP?

Skinny Dipper said...

Rule of thumb: attack the governing party until two weeks before the election date. Only change direction of attack to a different party if another party takes the lead position. Second place parties don't matter when looking for someone to attack.

L-girl said...

Nice! A big "me too"!

West End Bob said...

And as a new Canadian who the Democrats frustrated enough to flee that country to the south of us, I'm still very very very happy about that.

We're with you there, IP!

I've volunteered for two NDP campaigns here in Vancouver - one for our MLA and the other for our MP. The NDP would do well to not swoon over the south of the border Democrat's policies, however. In fact, a name change for the party that doesn't include "New" or "Democrat" would be fine with me.

Although Obama is relatively impressive, the actual positions he espouses are not that different than what we've heard in the past. Corporations are the real power in the US - politicians are really just the puppets on their strings. Unfortunately, that same situation seems to be creeping across the 49th - especially in stevie's case.

Is there any way to get rid of the syrupy-sweet adds with that man in a sweater vest? How annoying . . . .

The Jurist said...

I think I've mentioned it before in slightly different terms, but I'd think it's entirely reasonable to pattern the NDP's campaign on the relative change Obama is pushing for (in long-repressed mathematical terms, the delta between where the U.S. is now and where he would take it).

Again, that doesn't mean accepting Obama's end results in areas like foreign policy or health care where the U.S.' starting point is radically different from Canada's. But it does mean championing a similar amount and type of change in those areas (less militarism abroad, more universal health coverage) in a way which can parallel and draw on Obama's momentum south of the border.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


It's so cool to watch you getting involved! You actually hit the campaign trail even sooner after immigrating than I did, and that's saying something. Which riding is it?

Yeah, like you, I like Obama well enough, but don't expect any real change out of him. When the whole system is rotten to the core, all you can expect is "not nauseatingly horrible."


You're not wrong, and I do realize I'm not entirely rational about this. It's just not a strategy I'm ever going to be comfortable with, even if I realize where it's coming from. It doesn't seem to bother anyone but former American New Democrats, though, so it's probably a winner.

Anonymous said...

In a slightly different vein, I had taken the homage/O'mage to Obama as a way to connect with all the young people who've been inspired to become politically involved again.

When Layton took over the NDP leadership, the party was old, white, english, broke and going through the motions policy-wise. Look at what's been accomplished since then, and you have to give the guy at least some of the credit. It's so great to see young folks out at meetings again.

Anonymous said...

a new Canadian who the Democrats frustrated enough

Is "whom" now completely dead, then?

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Elitist. *g*

Chet Scoville said...

From what I can tell, Jack's learning from Obama's campaign themes but not copying anything else. For example, his statement that (paraphrasing) if you're applying for a job you don't talk about the other applicants is about as far from Democrats as you can get. During the primaries, I kept wishing that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would lay off each other and talk about Bush instead and what they'd do about the mess he made. Alas, forlorn hope.

Greg said...

IP, have you seen the new ad? The way Jack says NEW Democrats is kinda scary.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Actually, I love the ad, and it even made me feel a little bit (read: a very little bit) better about this part of the strategy. "We're not just the Democrats, we're better than the Democrats." I can deal with that.

Deanna said...

I liked the new ad too. ESPECIALLY in comparison to the current Con ads, which are stilted or unbelievable. Seriously. You have an election ad where you spend the whole time talking about your son? I know it's meant to make him seem friendly and approachable, but it just comes across as fake.

Meanwhile, Jack is hitting him hard on the leadership front. I like it.

L-girl said...

a new Canadian who the Democrats frustrated enough

Is "whom" now completely dead, then?

Whom may be alive or dead, but in this instance, "who" is correct.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I'm a linguist, not a grammarian, so I don't deal in "correct." But it is true that 'who' in this case is a direct object, so regardless of whether 'who' is acceptable, 'whom' would also be acceptable.

West End Bob said...

Which riding is it?

Vancouver Centre - currently Hedy Fry - Liberal - has it since 1993. Spent yesterday handing out flyers in the 'hood. It will be a tough one for Michael Byers - yes that Michael Byers - to pull out. (Maybe I'll get him to lay off the idea of changing the NDP to "Democrats". :)

Speaking of the new ad, I like it a lot. The focus on harper is great. Head and shoulders above stevie in his sweater vest talking about his kids. Gag me . . . .

Chris said...

Looks like the strategy is working. NDP support is climbing, especially here in BC.

Deanna said...

Thanks for the link, Chris.

After reading the article, I want to offer a hearty fuck you to CTV for claiming that NDP support in BC comes from "lower income women" and "those with lower education".

Yeah, cause that's where a province wide 30% of support is coming from - the underclass and (implied) dregs of society.

I'm a well-educated women whose single income beats the average family income. So CTV can bite me. I only wish they allowed comments on that article. (Instead, you get to hear me rant.)

Deanna said...

Not, I should point out, that there is anything wrong with being poor or having only a high-school education. It was just the tone of the article - they were really aiming for being insulting to NDP supporters. (Hey, you're all stupid and poor!) They were one step away from claiming that NDP supporters are all drug addicts and criminals.

It's well known that the NDP have more support from women - of all classes - than the Conservatives. And polls show that the more educated we are, the more likely we are to vote NDP. So way to not use statistics to back up your claims, CTV.

(Okay, I'll stop posting now.)

Chris said...

Maybe I've been desensitized from the micro-analysis coming from American Presidential coverage, but I completely ignore demographic statistics now. It's meaningless.

catherine said...

I watched Jack Layton and Elizabeth May on the Agenda (TVO) and am don't see how Layton will capture swing Liberal-NDP votes with his current approach. All the swing voters I know do see a difference between Dion and Harper and May makes more sense on this issue than Layton.

The voters who focus mostly on the environment will support the immediate implementation of $50/ton of the Green Party plan and I can't see any CPC voters feeling comfortable with Layton's pledge to withdraw our troops on a days notice or with his economic plan.

So, I don't see who this new approach of Layton's is meant to appeal to. Is it primarily meant to shore up the base which believes Tory-Liberal and Harper-Dion are all the same?

I highly recommend the videos of Layton and May on the Agenda to see this point play out.