Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Orange

It's election season! Again! Or maybe it isn't - apparently it all really depends on which pollster or partisan footsoldier you talk to at any given moment and/or astrological alignment.

In what can only be some kind of political reaction-formation designed to exorcise the spectre of Stephane Dion, Professor Michael Ignatieff has announced that the Liberal Party is determined to overturn the parliamentary chessboard, Canadian public opinion be damned. Not that this is an altogether terrible idea - the government has proven it would sooner put the country into billions of dollars of deficit than show a little self-restraint on its tax-credit fetish, which might not be so bad if it wasn't accompanied by Stephen Harper alternately howling about a Coalition Government that (regrettably) hasn't been on anyone's radar since sometime last December and obnoxiously taking credit for an economic faux-recovery that is almost wholly due to a) the American stimulus package and b) a lull between economic meltdowns ala the 'Phoney War' of 1940.

(As for the Bloc, well, they're always up for a party.)

This effectively leaves Jack Layton and the Little Party That Could as the linchpin in the dam holding back the electoral floodwaters, which is interesting considering that in the past for reasons even more trivial than the possibility of extending EI to 70 weeks the NDP have been more than a little enthusiastic about kicking the chair out from under Harper's feet. So why does Layton suddenly look like he's actually considering resuscitating the terminal 40th Parliament rather than fall back on the NDP's typical electoral knee-jerking?

It isn't hard to speculate on why the NDP might be reluctant to go into an election at this exact moment; it is pretty common knowledge that the finicky and jealous God of the market economy gets downright wrathful when parliamentary wrangling breaks out. And, honestly, anyone with a brain knows that the last thing anyone in this country wants to do is sit through 6-8 weeks of painfully mediocre political hacks screaming at each other about whether the Liberals, Conservatives or "socialist" New Democrats (referring to the current federal NDP as socialist is an insult to any legitimate socialist) is ruining an economy the Canadian government doesn't have any real control over - especially considering that in all likelihood the electoral outcome is almost guaranteed to either give us an identical parliamentary configuration to what we have now, or worse, giving us a Conservatve majority that will be sure to delight women, gays, and poor people alike.

None of this is stopping the Liberals from threatening to blow the joint though, and when the Liberals are the ones balking at the prospect it very rarely would stop the NDP. So the question remains - what's the deal? Barring the rumour traveling through some political circles that the NDP put themselves in debt last fall and can't afford another election campaign, the far more likely reason we'll get to see Jack Layton go through rhetorical acrobatics justifying his support of Stephen Harper later this week is a little more selfish than a concern for Canadian public sensibilities; the numbers aren't working out in their favour and an election would see their parliamentary ranking bumped down from "ineffective" to "slightly more ineffective" (and slightly more broke).

Not that there's anything wrong with this, of course - for better or for worse our entire social system is built around the principle of every man for himself, and this rule goes doubly when it comes to the ugly art of politics. But what it does highlight is that the NDP most definitely do not deserve their romantic designation as "parliament's moral compass" and that when their back is to the wall and they're forced off the moral high-horse that comes with never having to touch the corrosive reins of power, they are in the end exactly like the big money-slicked parties they were initially formed to challenge. With the NDP there is no hope, no leftist alternative in Canadian politics - only more of the same. This isn't news to most people, but hopefully it is news to all the smart, dedicated and hardworking people frittering away their effort on a party that, even if it ever did achieve power, would in the end only betray them.

There is an old Nietzschean adage about fighting with monsters; pious NDP supporters might do well to remember it.