Art by Yousef Amairi

Art by Yousef Amairi
the struggle continues

April 05, 2016

Is Getting Rid of Thomas Mulcair the Best Way for the NDP to Regain Relevance? By Justin Ling April 04 2016-04-05 for VICE NEWS

By Justin Ling  April 04 2016-04-05 for VICE NEWS

Thomas Mulcair did not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.Thomas Mulcair grabbed defeat, wrenched it from the bloodied teeth of electoral success, planted that defeat in the cold hard ground, and grew a 10-foot-tall loser tree, lousy with loser fruit. Mulcair and his inner circle harvested that loser fruit to make organic cold-press loser juice. His strategists took the bows from the tree and made loser wreaths. His defenders sat in the tree's cool loser shade and played loser songs on their loser guitars.

And now, Mulcair is readying an axe to chop down his loser tree so he can mill the wood, varnish it, and make a loser house of it.

In a thousand ways, Thomas Mulcair and the NDP are stuck in political oblivion. Their awe-inspired bungling of the last federal election has rendered them so incredibly irrelevant that the only conversation being had—and, really, the only conversation worth having about our third party—is whether they will turf their political apparatchik.

That discussion will culminate in a referendum on Mulcair's leadership at this week's convention in Edmonton, where he's hoping to stave off mutiny after the party's largest fall from grace in its history. His charm offensive has paid lip service to a litany of leftist causes in recent weeks, and has even led the bearded wonder to call Republican frontrunner Donald Trump a "fascist." Because, when you're trolling for lefty credibility, you may as well throw in the kitchen sink.

But, basically, if even 20 percent of his members vote to review his leadership—codeword for 'ask that he go away'—he'll likely step aside, and the party will begin the process of picking someone else.

Let's follow the trail of breadcrumbs that lead us here: The NDP eschews its economic leftist flank by ruling out new personal income taxes on the rich. It abandons its pro-Palestinian contingent in a quest towards political group-think with its competitors. It declines to fill out its feminist bingo card by killing a motion endorsing the decriminalization of sex work. It lets down its stoned masses by failing to back marijuana legalization — instead, pushing it off to someplace in the future. The breadcrumb trail goes on for kilometers.

And it brings us here, where Canada's leftist party, its potentially unelectable moral conscience, has been reduced to smoldering rubble after hawking its core principles in a fire sale. And, rather than learn from its mistakes, the party leader has stuffed himself into a Bernie Sanders T-shirt and vowed responsible, even-keel, steady-hand-at-the-till, pro-market Marxism. He's trying desperately to help his membership forget that he was outflanked on the left by a more likable, more appealing politician.

I've written about all this before: How ignoring social and economic inequality for the sake of pro-capitalist socialism that lacked both the social- and the -ism had led to the NDP's ruin and, conversely, to the Liberals' fortune. How Mulcair's pretenders to the throne may be few but they are not unpalatable.

But this is a direct appeal to the frustrated body of the NDP membership that will trudge to Edmonton next week.

My request is simple: don't subject us to four more years of Tom Mulcair and his loserdom.
Thomas "No-Please-Call-Me-Tom-No-Really-Please" Mulcair is a nice guy. I genuinely like him. He may be one of the smarter men in our parliament. He would have made a great finance minister.

He's also a bastard. He's a bastard who knows how to do politics. He knows that praying to the altar of "serving the people" and "the public good" are generally just bumper stickers. Politics is the art of pigfucking, and few hogs have escaped loving in Mulcair's quest for power.

But we need bastards. Without bastards, nothing works. Doe-eyed Trudeau has an A-team of bastards behind him. Obama's bastards are legion.

Bastards, however, rarely know when they're beat. John Diefenbaker would refuse to leave his office after his drubbing. Joe Clark ran in the leadership race to replace himself as leader. Jean Chretien was invited to pass the torch and instead started a fire. Stephen Harper wouldn't step aside despite his clear dismal destiny.

But bastards don't always make good leaders. Mulcair took over a popular party with the moral high ground, and ground them into meaningless gruel, and no anti-war granny or pro-pot protester was going to get in his way.

Mulcair was the answer to "who can professionalize this Kumbaya circle into a real political party?" The party should have realized that the question, not the answer, was the problem. People don't want serious political parties. The average voter, these days, either wants to throw a brick through Parliament's window—or have some raging anti-establishment candidate to do it for them—or they want someone who can offer them some optimism. Mulcair is neither of those things.

We don't need a centrist NDP. Not for all the Earl Grey tea in St John's could you convince me Canada is better served by two parties, the NDP and Liberals—or, for the love of Drake, the Conservatives—occupying five feet of ideological real estate on the nominal centre-left of the political spectrum. We don't need that groupthink. We don't need policy-making from the five-degree sliver of the political spectrum that seems most politically-palatable to the brain-trusts in these political war rooms.

Our system works best when there's more than one ideological opponent in Parliament. We don't need an advocate for tinkering, like Mulcair has been thus far, the country's political system needs a firebrand advocate for something different.

Ousting Mulcair is also a chance to actually inject diversity into Canadian politics in a meaningful way. With the recognition that contemporary power structures—media, politics, academia, finance, business, Starbucks baristas—are lamentably white (/straight/male/cisgender), this seems like a prime opportunity to fix that. And yet, that the NDP, supposedly the diverse voice we've all been waiting for, features a leadership—in both staff, and senior players—that is a single-page book of skin tones is regrettable. This is doubly true of the NDP's utter failure to become the go-to advocate for Indigenous issues, despite its depth of talent amongst its Aboriginal MPs.

So break the system. Oust Mulcair. Install a human being. Solve for X, where X is the value of diverse public dialog multiplied by the will for genuine ideological engagement on a level that resonates and speaks to people. Remove Y from the equation, where Y is the value of who-is-electable.

Look to the Conservatives. A party enraptured in an identity crisis. A party lousy with talent and healthy philosophical divide. Kevin O'Leary, the Trumpian-anti-Trump; Lisa Raitt, the likable pragmatist; Maxime Bernier, the kooky libertarian; Peter MacKay, the smiling bastard; Tony Clement, the Tony Clement. And that's just a few of the options.

The NDP could rediscover its value to the Canadian political system while reinventing itself to reflect itself.

But it can't do that with Thomas Mulcair.

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