Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Friday: open letter to Jack Layton

Dear Jack,

How do you get out of the bind that people think you're in?

I've been giving this some thought, ever since Michael Ignatieff, if perhaps inadvertently, put our party in a classic squeeze play. All partisanship aside, what's happening now is an interesting political moment, one in which mere tactics threaten to trump strategy, not to mention ideology. But that can't be permitted. We're better than that.

I meant what I said in an earlier post about backing off. This is an internal battle within the Librocon party, and the NDP should not get involved. Whether the blue-sweater guy or the American becomes the next Prime Minister, the show will go on as before: no major shifts in either foreign or domestic policy, corporate and US interests duly served, windy and pointless speeches, minor or sometimes major scandals, and the comfy pundits giving us their colour commentary on conflicting wardrobes and personalities.

But what does "back off" mean?

Simple. Abstain from the confidence vote.

Back neither horse. This wouldn't be a refusal to take sides, because the Harper-Ignatieff team is only one side. The current internal tiff will result at best in a changing of the guard at some point
. The other side--the people's side, if I may--is where our party has always been. The NDP raises issues that the Librocons never want to address: poverty, inequity, the plight of Native people on reserves, the environment, human rights at home and abroad. We've always stood up for working Canadians, and against the corporate machine that chews them up and spits them out.

Stay out of this, Jack. Abstain. And, when an election does take place, tell the voters why.

No, you can't prop up a government that you have rightly excoriated since it came to power. Everything you've said about them is true. A few EI goodies? Come on. EI was never a serious election issue, despite the best efforts of the Red Librocons, and they soon dropped it. EI reform resonates only with the unemployed. Most Canadians would like to keep the jobs they have, or, if just entering the job market, find one.

EI would be a poor, shabby excuse to sup with the devil. It's not nearly a long enough spoon. You'll be consumed by the flames. Your supporters will feel utterly betrayed, I promise you. Overnight the NDP will have become just another party--a Blue Librocon satellite.

But you can't vote with the Red Librocons either. Iggy got himself into this mess. Don't shore up his folly. Let him fight this battle on his own. Let him explain to the electorate why he wanted to force an election with no defining issue, and just as the economy is picking up. Let him attempt to make his distinction without a difference between his faction and the Blue Librocons.

In the meantime, put out our issues. Stand up for them as you always have. Define alternatives. Tell the truth.

The voters will not reward you with power in the next election. They're jaded, and more and more are staying away from the polls. The electoral system ensures that even many who do cast ballots will waste them. They're sleepwalkers, inhabiting a system guided only by its own inertia.

But, even in their slumber, they will remember.

Take the long view. Avoid this elementary trap, and stay true to our founding principles. The nearly one in five Canadians who voted for our party in the last election will be reassured. But of far more importance, you'll have demonstrated to all electors that we stand apart from the smoke-and-mirrors of current political culture. Because we offer something more than the comic-opera staged combats
that currently mesmerize them.

There's an opportunity here, Jack. Don't pass it by.


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