It's beginning to look like -- after the smoke has cleared -- we will have a new and different government. Murray Dobbins writes that will mean we will get some kind of proportional representation. But he warns that:
The desperate need for proportional representation has to some extent distracted us from just how inadequate and unresponsive the rest of the system is. It has taken the likes of Harper to actually push the other parties to suddenly call for change when they have for decades supported first-past-the-post because executive dictatorship is an attractive form of governance to those who run political parties.
Given this history, it is hard not to conclude that political parties themselves are the biggest barrier to genuine, participatory democracy. Parties have, with rare and short-lived exceptions, always acted in their own interests whenever faced with a choice between that goal and working for the country. That has always been true of the two Bay Street parties and now that the NDP has drunk the we-can-win Kool-aid, they join their ranks, adopting a strategy that replaces principle with opportunism.
The current system encourages the reproduction of political clones:
If the current election-machine NDP wants to win an election it will have to do so as a liberal party that has reached an accommodation with globalization and finance capital. Little by little the adoption of Liberal and Conservative political strategy has corrupted what remained of a social democratic party. By the time they win an election on this basis they will be completely indistinguishable from the Liberals they are determined to replace.
The Liberal/Conservative mode of doing politics doesn't suit a political party that wants to change the political culture. Such a party cannot achieve change unless it becomes an integral part of the community whose values it claims to share. This is why the NDP consistently underestimates the desire for change in its support base and miscalculates its response to the politics of opportunism. If the NDP is confused about whether it’s a party of change or just another competitor on the field, it’s no wonder its potential supporters are confused.
After this election, Canadians will have to address the issue of civic literacy. In the end, the change we seek has to come from us:
If you truly want change, who will be the agent of that change? In other words, it is not so much what is to be done (make your own list) but what model of organizing can begin to accomplish it. Change doesn't just happen because millions of people say they want it. Post-election, this will be the critical task of all progressives -- take what we know is possible and use it to rebuild community, reclaim the commons and build a broad-based social movement with the power to challenge the status quo.
There is a lot of work to be done.