When NDP Meant Something More than "Opportunism"
For me, the "old days" of the New Democratic Party were slightly post-Douglas, back when the party was led by firebrands such as David Lewis and Ed Broadbent. I didn't support the NDP back then. I was firmly in the camp of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. However I respected that NDP with something nearing reverence for their enlightened, uncompromising principle. They were indeed the "Conscience of Parliament."
I had some eye-opening (for me) conversations with Lewis while we endured the endless droning of the party's Convair 440 criss-crossing the country. The PCs and the Libs had 600 mph jets. We had an old ex-Scandinavian Airlines - hand-me-down to Great Shakes Airways of Sarnia, Ontario, prop job that guaranteed the flock of journos aboard less than half the local appearances to cover and twice as much time to drink. For that sort of assignment, it was as good as it gets.
At one point Lewis turned to me and said, "I think you're slightly left... slightly left of Attila the Hun." He said it yet I knew that he knew that I had actually absorbed some of his views. I wasn't remotely as leery of him when I stepped off that twin-engine beater as I had been when I first boarded weeks earlier.
It was a time when, just to survive in politics, the NDP had to be tightly anchored to some powerful social message; what they stood for and all the "red lines" they would never cross for compromise. The rest would shift along the political spectrum, elbow wrestling for advantage, but you always knew the NDP were rock solid. If something was wrong, it was wrong. Damn near Calvinist. For Red Liberals you knew you couldn't quite support them but you knew, deep inside, that you might not shun them always. You knew there might be that day, when the Right grew so powerful and ominous that you might need the NDP defending a bastion on the Left.
All that starch, that "sand," is now gone. Everything the true believers once condemned in the Liberals is now their own. There's no fierceness any more, save perhaps in Mulcair's dead, serial killer eyes or his angry beard. And that's not the fierceness we saw in Douglas, Lewis or Broadbent, the almost monastic dedication that left none, no matter their political alignment, in the slightest doubt of their sincerity and determination.
It's a bitch for me. Just when we need the NDP of Douglas, Lewis and Broadbent on the ramparts to repel the assault from the Right, their spirit which crossed generations has been ditched for blatant opportunism. The party no longer defends principle, it answers market interests not significantly distinguishable from the Libs and the Tories.
As a Green a lot of commenters rail on me for some Beau Geste romantic support of my party. "Throw in with us," they write, "for we alone can defeat Harper." What they should but won't say is, "Don't hold out lest our own people realize they're being hustled."
And you are being hustled. The shameful part of it is that you refuse to open your eyes lest you see it. I can't fault them for taking their lawful prey. It really is, ultimately, all on us. We don't have much or any choice that will have the slightest effect on the Conservatives. We do, however, have a powerful voice and real choice about change within our own parties and yet we've demanded next to nothing from them.
We know why droves of blue and white-collar Canadians become disaffected, leave politics and fail to vote for their interest at the polls. The parties used to blame these no-show voters as parasites on democracy, free-loaders. They refuse, to this very day, to acknowledge that the disaffection surfaces from their own disinclination to respond to the intense concerns of those people, i.e. young parents suddenly fear-stricken by how little this regime and that parties that would succeed it, will do to safeguard their kids and their grandkids, some of whom might not be conceived until around 2080.
There's a reason why Harper, despite all his abuses of power and his affronts to Canadian democracy, remains competitive and, according to some, likely to prevail in the upcoming election. In fact there are two reasons. I call them Mulcair and Trudeau.