August 14, 2018

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Opinion

Two ways of viewing the NDP leadership vote: NDP looks backwards with Selinger win

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Theresa Oswald concedes defeat to Greg Selinger after losing by 33 votes.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Theresa Oswald concedes defeat to Greg Selinger after losing by 33 votes.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/3/2015 (1246 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The NDP leadership result marks the beginning of the end of North America's most successful Third Way political party -- Today's NDP. It also marks, almost certainly, the beginning of a long period of Conservative rule and, possibly, the rebirth of the province's long-dead Liberal party. For this, Greg Selinger and his supporters have only themselves to blame.

Most often associated with New Labour (the British Labour Party under Tony Blair), the Third Way was a highly successful political strategy adopted by social democratic parties to counteract the electoral ascendancy of right-wing governments such as Margaret Thatcher's. To broaden their appeal and attract mainstream voters, they dropped the staunch anti-capitalist stances of the past. They removed the word "socialist" from party constitutions. They became pragmatic, focused on getting stuff done.

Third Way thinking really came to Manitoba's NDP under Gary Doer. Rebranding itself as Today's NDP while in opposition, the party distanced itself from the ideologically polarizing language of the past and the tax-and-spend socialist label. Under Doer, they supported the Tories' balanced-budget legislation as a strategic inoculation move. Once elected in 1999, they completed the project by banning union (and corporate) donations, balancing budgets and championing populist causes. Doer himself liked to talk about a Manitoba where everyone could own a home and a cottage. The message wasn't "tax the rich," it was "grow the middle class." And they did.

That project died March 8, with the election of an old white guy over a young suburban woman. History will appreciate that it happened on International Woman's Day as well as on the same day the NDP government fell in 1988.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/3/2015 (1246 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The NDP leadership result marks the beginning of the end of North America's most successful Third Way political party — Today's NDP. It also marks, almost certainly, the beginning of a long period of Conservative rule and, possibly, the rebirth of the province's long-dead Liberal party. For this, Greg Selinger and his supporters have only themselves to blame.

Most often associated with New Labour (the British Labour Party under Tony Blair), the Third Way was a highly successful political strategy adopted by social democratic parties to counteract the electoral ascendancy of right-wing governments such as Margaret Thatcher's. To broaden their appeal and attract mainstream voters, they dropped the staunch anti-capitalist stances of the past. They removed the word "socialist" from party constitutions. They became pragmatic, focused on getting stuff done.

Third Way thinking really came to Manitoba's NDP under Gary Doer. Rebranding itself as Today's NDP while in opposition, the party distanced itself from the ideologically polarizing language of the past and the tax-and-spend socialist label. Under Doer, they supported the Tories' balanced-budget legislation as a strategic inoculation move. Once elected in 1999, they completed the project by banning union (and corporate) donations, balancing budgets and championing populist causes. Doer himself liked to talk about a Manitoba where everyone could own a home and a cottage. The message wasn't "tax the rich," it was "grow the middle class." And they did.

That project died March 8, with the election of an old white guy over a young suburban woman. History will appreciate that it happened on International Woman's Day as well as on the same day the NDP government fell in 1988.

Let history also record how it happened — at the hands of a motley coalition of big labour and far-left academics and activists, surrounded by allegations of sketchy deals with unions, ballot tampering and coercion of staff.

The most influential people around Selinger now are academics such as so-called radical pragmatist John Loxley, anti-poverty activists and wonks associated with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. They are mostly old white men, class warriors hopelessly stuck in the past. They are "yesterday's NDP" (although many of them have not always been members of the party and some spent the last 15 years on the sidelines as critics, marginalized by Doer's popularity and success). Now they have the NDP they always wanted: ideologically pure, beholden to unions, Stalinist in tendency.

There will be plenty of time for obituaries after Airship Selinger crashes and burns next spring. One thing is certain already: The flames of that crash will be visible from outer space. Not that the pilots of Selinger's rickety ship will care — most of them will be shielded from regressive Tory policies by tenure, pensions and privilege.

Meanwhile, from the ashes of Today's NDP will grow Tomorrow's NDP. Modern, progressive, inclusive and forward-looking, Tomorrow's NDP will be led by people like my daughter, who attended her first NDP convention as one of almost 100 Young New Democrats. All of them were Theresa supporters.

Right now, however, tomorrow looks to be a long way off.

 

Wade Derkson has an M.A. in history from the University of Manitoba and was an NDP delegate at the leadership convention. He supported Theresa Oswald, but did not work on her campaign.

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