The thing is they don't even think of themselves as neoliberals. They see themselves as Conservatives or Liberals or, yes, New Democrats. They're not identical, of course not, but they are in general free traders and free market fundamentalists.
It's reached the point where to not be neoliberal would be to become revolutionary. And there's nothing revolutionary about the Liberals or the NDP. Nothing. They all seek, with varying degrees of success, to run the existing neoliberal state and to perpetuate it.
They don't seek to dislodge the forces of corporatism that have come to co-govern our nation. They don't seek to reclaim the elements of our national sovereignty that were yielded much like the natives who traded Manhattan for beads.
Canadians are like other nationalities. We're tribal people. We identify ethnically, socially, and politically. A lot of us want to belong to a team and so we choose the Liberals or the Tories or perhaps the New Democrats. Many of us, once enjoined, become intensely loyal even when that loyalty turns out to be just one way. It takes a lot for most of us to leave.
A lot of us self-identify as progressive. It's a nice word - progress. Surely that's good, eh? Yes, that's for us! Only, for a lot of self-styled progressives, it means very little. Perhaps to them it's anything to the Left of Conservative. There are some who think the Liberals are a progressive party. Many New Dems are convinced their party is decidedly progressive.
Reality check. Neoliberalism is the antithesis to progressivism. Neoliberalism is corporatism. It is our modern political dynamic. None of our major parties has any interest in reverting to progressivism. That doesn't prevent us from wishing they did, even pretending they did. We cling to this empty notion that progressivism still dwells somewhere within the body politic. Okay, show me where.
Nobody fights for labour any more, not even the NDP. Addressing social issues has degenerated into how to tweak tax policy. Empty gestures.
Nobody seeks to drive the moneylenders out of the temple. With each successive free trade deal, which usually has little to merit either "free" or "trade", we yield a little more sovereign authority to our steadily growing corporate co-governor. This defeats the very essence of progressivism. In the progressive state corporations have no vote, no voice in government. The progressive state regulates commerce for the benefit of its people, not for the benefit of the government - real or perceived. That is a distinction we have lost sight of and we're paying for it. The progressive state balances the competing interests of capital and labour to ensure that individuals can provide their state, their communities and their families with the fullest benefit of their efforts. We lost sight of that too and, with it, our once vibrant, robust middle class. A progressive state wouldn't tolerate today's corporate media cartel that utterly confounds any hope of achieving an informed electorate capable of choosing how best they shall be governed.
In today's neoliberal reality, the interests of the state are not coterminous with the interests of the people. I can give you proof positive of that.
My interests and yours are long term. They're the measure of my life and my kids' lives and their kids' lives and generations to follow them.
My government's interests rarely extend beyond the next electoral cycle. What do I need to do to achieve a result in four or five years hence? What policies will do that for me? Those are the policies I shall implement as though they were the best policies for the nation, the best policies for the people. Who can help me and what do they require in return?
Neoliberal governments don't actually govern. They administer. Too much of the sovereign power has been yielded to permit actual governance as it was once known. Neoliberal government is purposefully diminished governance. We have allowed ourselves to be inextricably knitted into a global fabric in which commercial interest and sovereign power must co-exist in a power sharing relationship.
We even have regulators and referees from the World Trade Organization to the IMF to the secret courts of investor-state dispute settlement pacts. In this way governments subordinate the public interest to commercial interests - effectively forever.
Don't look to the Liberals or even the New Democrats to extract us from this. They're invested in it right up to their eyeballs. They'll have no answers for you, my Sunny Jim.
We're on the path to illiberal democracy that has already claimed other friendly nations. We may not be there yet, not fully, but we are going in that direction. You might expect electoral reform to miraculously cure this contagion but if that's your delusion of choice I suppose you're welcome to it.
What do I think we need? A new political movement, a very broad-based effort not limited by left or centre or right. A movement anchored not by some narrow band of the political spectrum but by a dedication to the restoration of progressive democracy (which, coincidentally, seems to be the title of this blog). It has to be broad based, as inclusive as possible, for it faces a daunting challenge of throwing over the existing neoliberal scourge and that is not going to happen without a fight.
I don't know. Are you up for a fight?