Chantal Hebert writes in today's Toronto Star that, while the growing list of NDP candidates "has all the makings of a decent future NDP cabinet, it has few of the trimmings that project strong leadership." However, after the party chooses a leader -- Gerry Caplan writes in The Globe -- the party's success will depend on how successfully he or she makes peace within the ranks:
The leadership process makes conflict almost inevitable and deeply divides the party. In politics, a party leader is a big deal. If you decide to run it’s because you’ve come to believe you’re the best person for the job. From there it’s a short hop, skip and jump to being convinced you’re the only person for the job, indeed the indispensable one. Soon you have not a soupcon of doubt that if anyone else won it would be a disaster of irreparable, epic proportions.
As the campaign goes on, and especially when the candidates are forced to meet repeatedly in debate – listening for the hundredth time to each other’s tedious gags, spin lines, talking points, personal stories, promises, banalities – their animosity, even contempt, for each other steadily grows. Only the potential need for a second-ballot deal prevents a public eruption. When the losers are forced to line up behind the victor after the final ballot, you can be sure they’ve been strip-searched for hidden weapons.
Politics makes strange bedfellows. Therefore, opportunism is the name of the game:
the bitter antagonists [are] obliged to work together or the winner choos[es] the loser as a lieutenant, as in Mulroney-Clark, Chrétien-Martin, JFK-LBJ, Obama-Clinton, Ignatieff-Rae. The high profile Romney-Perry fiasco has yet to play itself out of course, but it does seem likely one will punch the other’s lights out on national TV one night, a fitting climax indeed.
But if acrimony is the lasting legacy of the race -- as was the case with Mr. Chretien and Mr. Martin -- the party can destroy itself from within. Jack Layton wanted his legacy to be a country which could rise above its bitter partisan divisions. The race for the leadership of his party will demonstrate if those who wish to succeed him have taken that legacy to heart. The NDP's success will be depend on what kind of peacemaker it elects.