Political resolution: Because the left is fragmented and Because our hope for progressive change requires a new political alignment, lets Agree to overcome narrow partisanship and work for a strategy for change.
One of the key political frames from 2009 was hope, albeit a very American version of it. A very useful dissertation of that theme was by Marshall Ganz, keynote speaker to the federal NDP convention in August. Ganz described the Obama movement in terms of a grass roots organizing strategy. Each organizer was to be an informed leader that connected their own background and personal story to the goals of the movement. Each had access to the central data base and a significant degree of autonomy to take initiative. The organizing strategy was one of the key mechanisms to replace the “politics of disappointment” with the “politics of hope” through the engagement of a mass movement.
In August we were still in Obama’s glow, and there was a train of thought that we too needed a big tent movement where a million stories are all connected to the politics of hope expressed by an inspirational leader. Now, with the escalation of US military action in Afghanistan and the compromises over health care and financial regulation reform, I am pondering what happens when hope descends into disappointment. Were our hopes too high, too unrealistic? What hope are we left with, if it is only for a lesser of evils? Most important, what does that grassroots movement that elected Obama do now?
The best answer I have heard so far is from Paul Krugman who concluded his December 20 blog “the WYSIWYG President” in the New York Times with this advice: “If you’ve fallen out of love with a politician, well, so what? You should just keep working for the things you believe in.”
Americans are now coming to terms with reality. And so must we. Our hopes in 2009 had little to do with inspirational leaders or highfalutin rhetoric. The highpoint of hope was our chance to change the country and move it in a progressive direction with the Coalition. Our hope was not a personality, but a strategy.
The Coalition was Jack Layton’s finest hour as a political leader not because he called on Canadians to follow him (I am running for Prime Minister), but because he saw the potential for change and he acted in a way that gave us hope that it could be achieved. I think history will credit Layton with inspiring and organizing that “almost” moment, and I am hopeful that he can do it again.
2009 taught us that hope is an essential ingredient for change, but it does not replace disappointment. Hope has a precarious balance with disappointment, requiring a clear and constant appreciation of goals, challenges and actions to keep it on top.
To regain hope for change in this country, we need to hear how our fragmented progressive movement, divided between English and French, between labour and environmentalists, between the engaged and disenfranchised, and between the partisan loyalties each party commands and reinforces daily, can create a majority to stop and replace the Conservatives.
2010 Canadian reality has been well assessed by the Threehundredeight blog which on the basis of blending all major polls projects a minority Conservative government much like the present one. One of their last posts of the year put it this way: “Politically speaking, 2009 changed nothing when it comes to voting intentions.”
Canadian political reality is also that the Coalition is off the table, and that no less than 4 major parties will appeal to progressive voters to support them in the next election. Some of these appeals will be infuriatingly vacuous; others somewhat futile or entirely regional - but they will each find their audience.
We need leaders in 2010 who work to overcome this fragmentation through the hard work of politics and organizing. I am convinced that some deliberate steps in this direction are in the art of the possible, and a moment will emerge when we can hope again.
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