Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The future of Canadian politics

Just thinking out loud here and would appreciate any and all thoughts out there. I've been thinking about some of these things for some time now, but with all the formidable "rise" of the Greens in urban Canada stuff, I thought it timely.  

First, the problem as I see it. The Canadian political landscape is mired in brokerage politics in which our political parties, solely in the pursuit of power, increasingly disavow an ideological core in the name of brokering various regional, economic, cultural, and ideological interests. To be more precise, narrower and principled ideological positions that used to define political parties, have been replaced by a new fluid ideological core: pure opportunism, be all things to everyone and win at any and all costs.  Regrettably, brokerage politics has infected all parties, even the most regional and ideologically committed parties like the Bloc and the NDP. But let's also recognize that brokerage politics is a sine qua non of the Liberal and the Conservative parties, only made more insidious by the fact that obfuscated in their attempts to broker different interests (merely for the purposes of culling their vote) is an indispensable loyalty not to "the common good", but to one abiding interest: that of the wealthy. 

Brokerage politics contributes in no small measure to two of the biggest issues afflicting Canadian politics today: abysmal political participation (voters do not see themselves reflected in the political parties, they see that neither their individual interests nor those of the common good are being served), endless and unabashed negative campaigning (the byproduct of placing winning at all costs above serving the common good, above presenting a platform and vision to voters about which they may feel included and excited).  Of course, we also can't discount the systemic causes of this malaise (our electoral system, power/class relations created by capitalism and the ideologies that prop up this system of exploitation --ruthless individualism, narcissistic gratification, the myth of the free market which increasingly comes to mean the monopolized market, the myth of meritocracy, the Horatio Alger myth...).

Instead, I would like to see political parties that distinguish themselves by transparently and steadfastly pursuing an ideological vision; a vision of what they believe truly to be in the interests of the common good, a vision of their ideal society. I would like to take part in shaping a future society in which democracy and justice truly prevails, in which citizens are guided by bliss and passion, by beauty and truth, and the affirmation not the denigration of one another.  And I'd like to know whether or not the political party I support, am a member of, or vote for shares my vision.

Problem is, as brokerage parties the Liberals and Conservatives cannot be counted on to be stay the course or to steadfastly adhere to any vision. They can only be counted on to move with the polls and to chase votes by any means necessary. Second, were the Liberals and Conservatives ever to expose their deepest ideological cores it would be revealed that these are political parties beholden to very narrow economic interests and committed to a worldview of the war of all against all (they prefer the word "competition") with little desire for real democracy and justice. For liberal democracy is just a front for the rich to stay rich. Conservatives represent the vestiges of the former aristocracy (old money) and the Liberals represent the vestiges of the new business class in whose interest liberal democracies were created (new money). 

In the future, then, Canada will be a two party system. But not of the Liberal/Tory same old story variety (that is so 18th century). Rather, the political landscape will be governed by two principled political reincarnations of the old Left/Right political spectrum, both working towards similar utopias, albeit both in very different ways. Yes, the future of Canadian politics is the NDP and the Green Party.  Any takers? 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Democrats Beware, Cherniak's Giddy Again

re: Cherniaks's post on Feb. 12, 2008.
"I've always been somewhat naive. My goal is to enjoy life, try to make a difference and let others do what they need to do to succeed in a similar way... In the end, though, I’d rather be the naïve nice guy than the cynical jackass."

How naive do you presuppose readers to be? This is doublespeak in its purest manifestation. You may be many things, but naive is not one of them. There is not the merest word in this blog which isn't ruthlessly calculated and contrived solely for political effect (even if it sometimes backfires).

As for your willingness to make a difference and your liberal attitude to enable others to do the same. Your petty partisanship is incontrovertible. Your lack of scruples is matched only by your unquenchable desire to win and so you have found a good home in the Liberal Party.

As far as your not being "the cynical jackass", I've got two words for you: Cheri DiNovo. Readers with short memories, may want to revisit your role in the shameless smear perpetrated by the Ontario Liberal Party and aided and abetted by one, Warren Kinsella, on my MPP.

Forgive me if I have difficulty seeing badgering bullies as victims.
I thought since Cherniak has not approved any of my recent comments on his blog,  like the one above, I'd post a few short comments of my own.

I would invite people to peruse Cherniak's blog to gain a sense of the increasing contempt (see this tactical gem, for instance) and disregard (such as his wanton support for strategic voting and claim that a vote for the NDP or the Greens is a wasted vote) for the electorate. Sadly, this typifies contemporary Liberal politics and it is this kind of contempt which obviously facilitates the Liberal Party's recent blatant refusal to perform its duties as the official opposition in this government, at least a refusal to adhere to any principle or integrity in that capacity. Cherniak's arrogance and inflated sense of entitlement have long been an expected feature of Liberal brokerage politics. 

The shift towards unapologetic negative campaigning and an utter contempt for voters, however, I believe to be more recent turns. This does little to stem the trend of declining voter turnout, with which, as an advocate for democracy, I can't help but be disappointed. Now, as for the two major political parties whose sole and obvious obligation is to corporate and business interests, I'm not sure they're too worried. In fact, the demoralization of the electorate seems to be a pretty effective way for preserving and perpetuating existing power relations.

About the by-elections. First of all, if Cherniak wishes to disavow the trouncing received by the Liberals in Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River by pointing to low voter turnout (25%), would he argue that Martha Hall Findlay's victory should similarly be qualified and mitigated, since there was even a lower voter turnout (24.4%) in Willowdale?  Does he also cast doubt on Bob Rae's victory given the low voter turnout there as well (27.9%). Running two high profile candidates who previously ran for leadership of the party in extremely safe Liberal seats only resulted in the expected (although I highly doubt the same will be said of Gerard Kennedy who will be going up against Peggy Nash in the next federal election). The victories in Toronto were in no way surprising, nor were they resounding.  More telling is Cherniak's calm reaction to the results in Vancouver-Quadra, clearly the surprise of the night. I'm sure Cherniak was shitting himself (perhaps George Smitherman was nearby with an adult diaper), but what do we get from him? The results were closer than I would have liked, but a win is a win is a win. Blah blah blah. So why the giddiness?

This was a test of Dion's leadership and he was not vindicated. There is no Liberal momentum here and, without a doubt, Stephane Dion will never be Prime Minister of Canada. The truth of the by-elections, as Bill Graham unwittingly let escape last night as he introduced Dion at Bob Rae's victory party, is that in the Liberal Party there is "a new leader". As if Ignatieff wasn't enough of an affliction on the right side of Dion's caucus, he now must worry about a wart on the left side of his caucus.  Dion is already repeatedly upstaged by his "team" and Bob Rae will simply make Dion completely redundant in the Liberal Party. I can only hope Bob Rae does for the Liberal Party of Canada what he did for the New Democrats in Ontario.

As for the "rise" of right wing Libertarian environmentalists, I mean the Green Party,  that's a very worthwhile subject and one to be discussed another day. Perhaps we could start with some  Paulitics. How can we reconcile the inherent logic of capitalism, the enemy of nature, with environmentalism?  Especially an environmentalist approach that seeks to affect change solely by market manipulation and without any recourse to government regulation? Is anyone surprised that the NDP is routinely considered by environmentalists to have the best environmental platform of all the parties?