Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Native Son

Yesterday the NDP chose a native son -- a Quebecer born and bred. In fact, the final choice came down to two native sons. One of the differences between Mulcair and Brian Topp is that Mulcair has a longer political pedigree -- going all the way back to Honore Mercier. But Mulcair is not the NDP's first native son. People forget that Jack Layton also claimed that title -- something which became immediately apparent when Layton switched from English to French and back again.

The choice of a native son used to be a time honoured Liberal strategy. From Wilfred Laurier to Jean Chretien, it served the party well -- until they chose Stephane Dion. Dion was always uncomfortable in English. He had a hard time making a sale in his second language. Chretien's English was not eloquent --. but his syntax in French was as fractured as it was in English. And people knew he said the same thing in both languages.

Dion's real problem was that he carried -- unjustifiably -- the baggage of the Sponsorship Scandal. It was his burden from his first day as leader until his last.

The choice of a native son has worked well for all three parties -- for the Liberals,  for the Conservatives, under Brian Mulroney, and for the NDP, under Layton.  Under Harper, the Conservatives  chose to ditch that model. People also forget that, during Harper's Reform Party days, lawn signs appeared in ridings like my own -- smack dab in the middle of Loyalist country -- which read, "No More Prime Ministers From Quebec."

The Harperites believe, with Henry Ford, that "history is bunk." Like their cousins, the Bushies of the last decade, they believe that they "make their own reality." In the end, reality came crashing down around the Bushies' ears. We shall see what happens here.


kirbycairo said...

As a socialist and a leftist, Mulcair makes me rather nervous. I am especially troubled by his Harper-like support for the State of Israel, a position that for me is a bell-weather and a deal-breaker.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Harperites have a genuine and deep-seated fear of Mulcair. He represents everything that they have always feared most - a pugilistic political brawler from Quebec who is moderate enough to appeal to many (if not most) Liberal voters but still NDP enough to make the argument for 'humane' capitalism in the face of rising inequality. I also suspect that he will fight back with as much strength and will as the Conservatives will heap upon him. To makes things worse for the Cons. there is surely a growing suspicion that their attack approach will eventually backfire on them (as it must given the long lessons of history), particularly outside of a campaign.

We saw the first rather pathetic volley from the Cons last-night calling Mulcair "opportunistic" etc. But even though I am a little suspicious of him he radiates a confidence and strength that no opposition leader has since the Cons came to power and for reasons that are not clear to me, some people have an image that deflects and nullifies attacks and I have a strange suspicion that Mulcair is one of those people.

I felt a collective shudder go through the Conservatives yesterday. Time will tell but it seems to be a continuation of mood change I have been talking about for a couple of months now.

Owen Gray said...

I understand your sense of unease about Mulcair, Kirby. I confess that I'm not entirely comfortable with him, either. But, frankly, I'm willing to wait and see what happens.

In the end, the NDP strategy is based on an understanding of the country which Harper's Conservatives have purposely ignored.

My hunch is that, in the end, their choice will do them lots of harm. I only hope that harm will not extend to the country itself.

Time will tell.