The next election campaign will start Tuesday morning

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

The meaning of the sudden NDP surge is this: It's a grasping for hope in a dispiriting situation in which all of the likely outcomes are bad. That grasping comes from within the majority -- from the 60 per cent or more who see Stephen Harper as a negative, anti-democratic force.

Above all, it raises the question of how to ultimately bring together this loose centre into one, uniting not only Liberals and New Democrats, but disaffected Progressive Conservatives and both federalists and soft nationalists in Quebec, perhaps leaving the Greens in the left-wing slot the NDP used to occupy.

Although surprising because we thought nothing could change in the federal voting landscape, the NDP surge is easily enough understood in the light of our Nova Scotian experience. The two traditional parties, caught up in an outdated political culture, failed in turn and Nova Scotians, despite our supposed social conservatism, voted in the NDP (despite a last-minute "red scare"). On the whole it's a stabilizing force, despite the complaints.

It's instructive that the place where the surge started is Quebec, where both the Liberals' and Conservatives' names are mud -- in spades -- after the Mulroney Meech Lake fiasco, then the sponsorship scandal with the Chrétien Liberals.

The Bloc Québécois became the default position, although voting for it was essentially a pointless and defeatist act. Bloc voters had become low-hanging fruit. No one was capable of picking it until, overripe, it started falling into NDP laps by itself.

It's true that anything may happen with this volatile NDP rise. It could bring about what it seeks to avoid -- a Conservative majority -- by splitting the non-Conservative vote. It could make the NDP the official Opposition. On the outer range of mathematical possibility, with all the split ridings, it could give the NDP a minority government.

Or the vote could shrink to insignificance by Monday, although that seems unlikely.

Already, although we're only talking about polling results, the rise has had certain effects.

For one, it has produced the enormous service of disconcerting Quebec separatists who only a few weeks ago saw imminent victories at both the federal and provincial levels as a signal for a new run at independence. That seems to be derailed, and the perception of that derailment is no doubt a big part of what's boosting the NDP elsewhere.

It has also produced another invaluable service: serving as the rallying point around which an apparent upwelling youth vote has emerged. Monday's results still have to be seen to judge the extent of it, but youth participation is certainly a cause for celebration.

Meanwhile, I haven't heard anyone for a couple of weeks tell me emphatically that they're not voting. That too may have changed. The use of social media -- largely a youth phenomenon -- is also a factor, with the anti-Harper tone of the blogging and twittering apparently breaking the right wing's domination of the medium.

So something is certainly happening. But whatever the result on Monday, the same large question will be present: how to re-align the forces of the centre-left into something useful instead of a squabbling and splintered affair that a hard right-wing minority can stickhandle around at will.

Ironically, this would be easier to do if Harper actually got his majority (with a minority of voters) and thereby demonstrated the impotence of the opposition and their divisions.

Harper with carte blanche to do more of what he's doing -- ransack parliamentary process, weed out anything connected to government that doesn't conform to his ideology, trash environmental regulations, cut social programs, give more to large corporations, entrench "deep integration" with the U.S., create more electorally-driven tax havens, put prisons and militarism into overdrive, and give us the full Bush/Cheney treatment -- would no doubt concentrate the minds of the opposition parties as well as the likely 60 per cent or so of voters whose own collective intentions will have been frustrated by a fractured opposition.

If, as seems the likeliest scenario, the NDP merely replaces the Liberals as the Opposition in a Harper minority, it will be harder to bring about any kind of fusion. The NDP will presume that it is in the ascendant mode and can do it alone, while the Liberals will dig in their heels -- both attached to their traditions.

But the heady eras of Pearson/Trudeau and Tommy Douglas belong to the history books. The time has come to look to sacrifice the romantic notions and try to stem the democratic decline.

For the abused majority of voters, the likely chore starting next week will be not just trying to restrain a right-wing -- majority or minority -- government from doing its worst, but beating together the heads of the obtuse minority parties they voted for. Or, put another way, the next election campaign will start Tuesday morning.

Ralph Surette is a veteran freelance journalist living in Yarmouth County in Nova Scotia. This article was originally published in The Chronicle Herald.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.