Saturday, November 21, 2015

Why The Dippers Lost


Some folks are beginning to look through the embers to explain why the official opposition is now the third party. Geoffrey Rafe Hall writes:

Many observers, picking through the post-mortem of the NDP campaign, have laid most of the blame on the niqab debate and the eruption of identity politics, on Tom Mulcair’s flat performance in the first leaders’ debate, and on Justin Trudeau’s substantial personal appeal. All of these factors contributed to the result, of course — but not one of them was solely capable of toppling what should have been a well-run, sturdy election machine.

It may not seem obvious now, but the seeds of the NDP’s defeat in October were sown years earlier — before Jack Layton’s death and the breakthrough of 2011. Both were momentous events that had negative and long-lasting repercussions. Ultimately, the gains in the 2011 election fostered a climate of arrogance and complacency within the NDP’s senior ranks and shifted the focus away from building a robust election machine to operating the levers of power. Jack’s tragic death, which triggered a genuine and heartfelt outpouring of grief from Canadians everywhere, virtually guaranteed that the party would not conduct a critical analysis of events.

Layton's triumph  was also the party's downfall. Like Stephen Harper, Layton insisted on message discipline:

Career advancement was halted for anyone who failed to adhere rigidly to dogma prescribed in many cases by senior political staff — not the party leader. Greater emphasis was placed on centralized messaging and communications at the expense of organization, technical innovation, voter and volunteer identification and recruitment. In short, the NDP’s organizational strength was allowed to atrophy.

But, ironically, even though the party movers and shakers insisted on message discipline, the message wasn't clear:

From the get-go, the NDP campaign lacked a clear direction and message. Why did they want to win government? Was it to replace Harper? Usher in change? Provide economic stability? The party failed to answer these questions for voters, or to offer them any inspirational arguments for a NDP government.

The party seemed to have forgotten who they were -- and lots of traditional Dippers voted for Trudeau -- a message that Justin should heed.


Lorne said...

I was sorry to see Mulcair lose so many seats, Owen, given that he was an extremely effective presence in the House. However, I can't say his losses surprised me that much, given how he tried to reinvent his party into Conservative-lite the closer he got to power. It is the same thing Andrea Horwath did when she provoked the election here in Ontario, sacrificing the balance of power and many party principles for the chance of gaining power.

Owen Gray said...

For me, Lorne, Mulcair sealed his fate when he promised that his first budget would be a balanced budget. The latest economic update reveals how difficult it would be to deliver on that promise.

zoombats said...

I do agree with some of the historical points made here on the failings of the NDP. Having said that it cannot be denied that the desire for change really brings about no change at all. 1984 gave us nine years of Muldoon followed by a desire for change in 1993 with many plus years of ups and downs that gave us another dynamic shift for change resulting in the dark years from which we have now supposedly recovered, with sunny days ahead. I really see nothing different here and refuse to get excited and caught up in the new happiness and sunny days that is waiting just around the corner. It will really take a miracle and to be quite honest the last time I checked there was nothing immaculate about where JT came from. Nothing really changes, least of all the hysteria (desire for change) of the electorate.

Owen Gray said...

Neo-liberalism -- which has ruled the roost for forty years -- is still alive and well, zoombats. The question still remains: When will we send it to a richly deserved death?

Steve said...

I came to see Mulclair as an Orange Harper in disguise

Owen Gray said...

The content was different, Steve. But the style was the same.