The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Still singin' those social democratic blues?

I wrote this article back in August about the New Democratic Party's woes over the last decade. I think that it's still relevant, especially on this day, a day that the Dippers will pick a new leader to, they hope, lead them back to prominence in federal politics.

What do I think the reasons are for the federal NDP's poor performace?

There's no doubt that the political centre has drifted over to the economic right (lower taxes, a reduced role for the government in the economy, less regulation of busness) over the last twenty years. This, I attribute more to high government debt levels and government spending in areas that were not that popular. Canadians are not unwilling to pay taxes for government services, but they do like their taxes spent in an efficient manner. If many voters see their tax money going to fund things that don't directly benefit "them" (a term that changes depending on just which voters you're talking about), they tend to demand that the spending be cut. That is what I think that we've seen play out over the last 15 or so years.

And, of course, lower taxes are always a vote-getter. If you can lower taxes in a way that the new, lower rates can still fund government activity, then you've really got it made. This is where the federal Liberals have got something right. The federal tax cuts from 2000 were made after the budget was balanced, and the government is still projected to run a $10 billion surplus, which will go to debt reduction. This sells. The NDP has not, in my opinion, figured this out.

I should not at this point that National Post Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife (hardly a bleeding-heart lefty) has opined that the drift to the right has ended, and the political centre is drifting back to the left, partially as a reaction to the excesses of the right-wing governments and ideas. The Liberals' pollster, Michael Marzolini, said as much in a paper presented to the New Liberalism conference. Hey, this sounds familiar... the rise of the neo-cons was fuelled, in part, due to the excesses of left-leaning governments and ideas.

The NDP should also get out of the business of slagging "the rich." First off, if you go by their 2000 campaign, anyone earning over $60,000 a year is "rich." This includes a lot of those union members who support the NDP through their unions, and have gotten their good wages through hard bargaining with their employers at contract time. The NDP has to show that its ideas will not penalize people for earning a good income, while at the same time making it possible for those of meagre incomes to get a better income, and quality of life, through education, training assistance, etc.

When you slag those who are supposed be your core support as "the rich," you lose their votes.

The NDP also has been suffering from the fact that there were NDP governments in Ontario and BC recently that were unsuccessful and unpopular. That's hurt their prospects in areas that had traditionally elected NDP MP's before 1993. Only time will get rid of that "hangover." You may see a few more NDP MP's from Ontario in 2004 (?) but in BC, the NDP will be hard-pressed to send anything more than their current two MP's.

While my hard-core NDP friends often like to blame the media for their party's ill fortune, I think that they're off-base.

The federal NDP has never been the choice of the mainstream media outlets and their editors. It likely never will be. That never stopped the NDP from getting 30 or 40 seats federally, because the party and its message got through to the voters. Here are some more things where the press and the people disagreed:

In the time of Franklin Roosevelt, 95% of American newspapers were Republican Party organs and slagged everything that FDR did and stood for. Their owners and editors wistfully pined for the days of Herbert Hoover and Silent Cal Coolidge, but the people sent FDR back to the White house again and again.

In 1992, almost every media outlet was promoting the Charlottetown Accord as the solution to all of Canada's ills. The voters said something rather different.

And don't forget the 2000 federal election. The Sun newspaper chain and the Southam papers (owned by Conrad Black at the time) gave the Alliance full editorial support, and the National Post did all that it could to promote Stockwell Day as the Second Coming. Talk radio was blaring Alliance apologia 'round the clock. It didn't help the party. The voters saw through the spin.

They also saw through the spin on the NDP in 2000. The verdict was still not good for the party. They lost seats and barely managed to retain official party status in Parliament.

Blaming the media is a mug's game. It's the sign of a loser, and that applies to all parties and all politicians, regardless of their political stripe. There will be media outlets that will try and dig up all manner of dirt on politicians that they don't like, but the voters will be able to decide whether any mud-slinging campaign initiated by a media outlet is valid or not.

Canadian Alliance loyalists blamed the media "elites" for the Stockwell Day follies. Nonsense. Day was to blame for his own downfall.

NDP loyalists say that outgoing leader Alexa McDonough never got the press that she deserved, and that she was ignored. Bull. She had hardly any impact outside of the Maritimes in her seven years at the top for a reason: she didn't jump up and get the attention that she, and her party, needed. Now the party has the chance to capitalize on a shift in the voters' mood back to a position more favourable to the party. I wish them well, but woder if they can pull this off.

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