On the Campaign Trail in Lake Wobegon

First things first: I hate elections. Suddenly people you could have a normal, genuine conversation with start saying nothing but party talking points. You have to pretend to take debates and campaign promises and interviews seriously, as if they could tell you anything about how the candidate will actually govern in real life. And you can just speculate about any old bullshit that comes into your head and pass it off as serious political analysis. It’s insultingly easy to be an expert on things that haven’t happened yet.

So this is my caveat: 100% of this post is my completely unfounded opinion and by spending energy writing it all I have done is bring the universe infinitesimally closer to heat death.

I already voted NDP in the advance polls. I volunteer for the NDP. They don’t actually give you a card, but I am a card-carrying NDP member. The riding association people are probably going to chew me out for posting this, but it’s not like I have any input or influence anyway, so I may as well air my grievances: it is immensely disappointing to see the NDP once again adopting a losing strategy by “tacking right”. They did it with Olivia Chow’s mayoral campaign; they did it with Andrea Horwath in the provincial election; and now they’re doing it with Tom Mulcair.

You know what I mean by “tacking right”. Going on about the Middle Class and Small Business and Low Taxes and Wasteful Big Government and all that. It’s a bad idea for several reasons. It comes off as fake (and if you go back on it, flip-flopping); it alienates the party base; it makes the NDP less distinguishable from the other parties; and it’s a choice to compete for the same pool of voters instead of building support among other demographics.

We—I mean both voters in general, and the hardcore base—can tell when the party is changing its message, or downplaying its ideological underpinnings, in order to win votes. Now, some people don’t mind that kind of thing, but they can still tell, and playing dumb doesn’t do you any favours. As for me, if I was okay with a party abandoning its principles to get into power, I would have joined the Liberals.

I was so frustrated by the Horwath campaign’s tactics that, after much consideration, I chose to decline my ballot in the provincial election. Now, I think my MPP, Cheri DiNovo, is the bees’ knees. But, I reasoned, if the rank-and-file just keep voting for a party even if we don’t like what they’re doing, it gives them no incentive to change. Some people in my neck of the woods are still resentful about Horwath, and that has a tangible effect: we have to work that much harder to regain their loyalty.

After all that, I still chose to join and continue to involve myself with the NDP. What can I say? Everyone has their own line between “work from the inside” and “walk away”. As a millennial, I know that you have to accept a certain amount of unpaid exploitation before you get anything in return. The most you can do is choose who exploits you.

It wasn’t anything particular they did that got me fed up this campaign. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was probably some politician mentioning “supporting the middle class” one too many times. Like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, where “all the children are smarter than average”, in Canada there is apparently no class below middle. There are people living in desperate poverty, more people than ever are relying on precarious work. Ostensibly these people are going to be the greatest beneficiaries of our proposed policies. So why can’t we even acknowledge they exist?

Edit (Sun. Oct. 18, 11:20pm): Realized I forgot to mention this—it is not enough for the NDP to be the most progressive of the parties. Everyone wants a repeat of Obama ’08, but forgets what Obama actually did: he got people to turn out who would otherwise not have voted. For a lot of people who feel that politicians do not have their interests in mind, staying home is a pretty good option. It doesn’t matter that we’re better than the Liberals. We have to be better than not voting.

We have no right to stand around pondering why Those Poor People Vote Against Their Own Interests, or why The Youth Don’t Vote, when the purportedly leftist party doesn’t even treat them like voters. We have the power to set the agenda, to start our own conversation. We can no longer assume people will vote for us just because. Why not start catering to their demographic? After all…who the heck else is going to?

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