There’s a peculiarly funny bit in this Ottawa Citizen story covering the first event of the People’s Social Forum, which happened to be a march on Parliament Hill yesterday. It’s about the child of labour leader Chris Wilson:
Wilson’s eight-year-old daughter, Sasha, held a sign that read: “No more Harper. Not cool.” Asked why she doesn’t think the prime minister is cool, Sasha said, “I don’t know. My daddy says so.”
It’s funny because that’s pretty much indicative of progressive politics in Canada these days. Ask why they hate the Harper government, and they’re more likely to sputter out insults and invective rather than hand out anything resembling a reasoned argument.
They don’t really know why they think the Harper government is bad for Canada; but they know what “Daddy” says. And “Daddy,” in this case, is the popular “groupthink” of the Left, the hyperpartisan set of so-called counter-Establishment thinking that constitutes an Establishment of its own, the one that hates conservatism simply because it’s too intellectually lazy to consider its merits — not to mention their own deficiencies.
But here’s the thing. These people often forget that Stephen Harper did not become Prime Minister of Canada all on his own. He got there with the help of about 5.8 million people, the ones who voted Conservative back in 2011.
Now of course the Left will haul out that hoary old chestnut about how that’s a minority of the total votes cast. What that line of reasoning conveniently omits is that the remaining votes were split between the other four national parties (and yes, the Bloc and the Greens are national parties), which means that the Canadian Left simply failed to coalesce behind a single party.
Which means that the Harper majority is not just a result of Harper’s efforts, but of the Left’s failures — most particularly, their failure to sell a progressive vision of how Canada ought to work. Not merely to mainstream voters, but to each other.
A lot of punditry will complain that Harper’s politics are about division — dividing the electorate instead of unifying the country, et cetera. But they somehow forget that division is democracy. Arguing for one idea may be persuasive, but it’s hardly democratic. For that, you need two or more ideas in competition with each other, and theoretically once they’re all argued out, the one that makes the most sense wins. One of the reasons why the Canadian Left tends to be mocked or ignored in favour of the so-called “politics of personality” is that they’re rendered too incoherent by their own hatred of the Establishment to mount an effective counter-argument.
The marchers of the Peopls Forum hate Harper. Okay, it’s good to get that off your chests. They just need to remember that emotion does not necessarily translate into action — and that the people who voted Conservative in 2006, 2008 and 2011 won’t change their vote just because the Forum participants say so. That, too, is democracy.