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Progressives are Stupid: Ibbitson

August 16, 2006

John Ibbitson has an interesting article in the Globe: “Time to give the Green light to progressive policies“. I’m sorry, it is behind a subscription wall, but I’ll give the main quotes and the gist of it.

Progressives aren’t very smart. Unquestionably, the majority of the voting public favours universal public health care, a healthier environment, access to low-cost child care, a peace-and-human-rights-oriented foreign policy and all the other priorities of the centre-left.

And yet progressive voters perpetually betray their own best interests by splitting their vote between the Liberals and the New Democrats.

This is foolish for two reasons. First, as former NDP strategist Jamey Heath has pointed out, the Liberal Party hasn’t been truly progressive since the days of Pierre Trudeau. Sops such as legislation on gay marriage fail to disguise a fiscally conservative and socially limp agenda, in which tax cuts and budget surpluses beat out social programs, and in which noble words — at least at election time — contrast with relentlessly pragmatic deeds, such as permitting the creeping privatization of health care. This is why so many moderate conservatives are quite comfortable with the Liberals, something that voters on the left never seem to figure out.

Second, progressives who reluctantly vote Liberal to keep the Conservatives out of power instead rob the NDP of seats, which may have actually helped elect Conservative MPs in the last election. So progressive voters are responsible for electing Stephen Harper. How dumb is that?

Ibbitson then discusses the Green Party and their leadership race, and contends that the main question is whether the new Green Party would further fracture the left or organize it. He then claims that the NDP has no big bold ideas and is becoming old, and that if the Greens come up with a great bold idea/agenda it would galvanize the left.

Progressives will succeed in controlling the national agenda only when the Greens and/or NDP hold the balance of power in a minority government and are able to push through legislation that brings in proportional representation for the House of Commons, which (at least at first) would favour centre-left coalitions. Then Canada would truly become a nation of peacekeepers and environmentalists, of universal medicare, education and child care, with taxes on, and rules for, everything. Which is why conservatives pray every day that the progressives never get smart.

Well, I guess I sort of agree with Ibbitson: Progressives are stupid, especially if some of them decide to vote for the Liberal Party in elections.

But I think Ibbitson is dreaming a little here. He seems to be pushing the Green Party, of all parties, to take leadership of progressive parties. You know, the same Green Party that has just over 8,000 members (the third bullet point), 4.5% of the national popular vote, and a grand total of, lets see… zero seats. The same Green Party that is so schizophrenic that it can’t decide wether it is a party of the left or right, so it claims its not on the political spectrum. This Green Party is going to be the great leader of all progressives? Somehow, I don’t think so.

But I do know of a party that can possibly do it, and it is the one that Ibbitson is so quick to dismiss. It’s called the NDP, you know, the party with a solid membership base, 17.5% of the popular vote, and 29 seats. I believe that the NDP is not getting old, but still youthful and that we still have great, progressive ideas to run this country. I think that the main problem right now is that we suck at communication.

There is three things that the NDP could do that could build up its profile, and these are long-term.

#1 is that the NDP should use the Blogosphere to our advantage. I mean, a blog can deliver any message we want. I also believe that the more independent thought of some bloggers would be a better way to convert somebody than say, a NDP propaganda message. The NDP should also give exclusive news to supportive bloggers to keep their spirits high.

#2 is that the NDP should create a official book detailing our policies, the “Orange Book” if you will and release it way before an election. People need to know what we stand for, and if we are constant in our policies and messaging, we can do what the right wing has done and start defining the terms of debate. If you are reacting to something, you are not controlling the debate.

#3 is that the NDP should officially go into municipal politics. For one, municipalities are only going to get more important as more Canadians live in cities, and progressive policy there is as important as progressive policy on the provincial and federal levels. Secondly, municipalities are a great place for our politicians to get experience in governing and to increase their profile.

So Ibbitson is correct in saying that progressives are shooting themselves in the foot because they vote for the Liberals, however, he is wrong to suggest that the Greens even have a chance to lead progressives. It shall be the NDP that shall lead progressives; but we must get out their and communicate. Simpler said then done, so its time to start now.

Categories: Federal, Greens, Liberals, NDP
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