The Centre Moves

The whole argument that the NDP should move to the centre ignores the fact that the centre moves.

Responding to David W. Campbell

I hear this ‘pragmatist centrist’ argument a lot, and though I don’t speak for the NDP, I am a member, have been for decades, and have been around this block before.

First, on the ambitions of the NB New Democrats, I’m sure Dominic Cardy can represent the view well, but I would say that the intent is to form a government, not to remain a ‘conscience of the government’.

It would be, though, a government with a conscience, which would be a nice change.

The thing about being in the centre is, it depends on where the edges are. The right wing has had a lot of success shifting the centre right by catering to the extreme fringe – the Reformers in Canada, the Tea Party in the U.S.

Another thing about the centre is, it’s where most of the people are, so if you can move the people, you can move the centre.

I am in the camp of ‘moving the people’. I think that if we can break through media monopolies and the politics of influence and money, we can see an era where people support governments that serve their own interests, rather than those of people with power and money.

I think the centre is moving, and demonstrably moving, not because the NDP suddenly became more right wing (ol’ jack would roll in his grave) but because people are beginning to realize that their interests are not being served by the Liberals or Tories.

One way the NDP does *not* become ‘electable’ is by selling out its constituents and its principles. None of the leaders (and none of the leadership candidates) is running on a platform of abandoning core NDP values – and it is a (typical) misrepresentation of the leadership debate to suggest it is.

For myself, and for what it’s worth, I am supporting Mulcair – not because he is ‘pragmatic’ but because he is smart, speaks well, is fluently bilingual, and believes in social justice. I’m sure Topp is very good, but I found him stilted and wooden, with poor French (not ‘radical’ or whatever you would like to term it.

But whatever. Any of the candidates would be far preferable to what we have seen in the PMO in the past. Because what was one ‘fringe’ is now ‘the opposition’ and stands a decent chance of being the government – all without adopting ‘new labour’ policies of appeasement.


  1. I am supporting Thomas Mulcair as my first choice for a lot of the same reasons that you mentioned. I also think that we have to Canadians--particularly people who voted Conservative in the last election--that the NDP is ready to govern. In order to attract those voters, the NDP will have to speak their political "dialect." The mentioning of "ordinary Canadians" and "working families" will probably not resonate with those voters. I don't suggest that we use the Conservative "taxpayer." "Citizens" or "Canadians" will work very well.

    In term of issues being promoted, they will need to be frame in a manner that non-NDP Canadians can understand. Yes, we can still promote health care and the environment. However, we may need to frame them within the context of the economy. For example, good public health care makes economic sense. A clean environment makes economic sense.

    Whatever political language Thomas Mulcair may use with Canadians, I think he will be a great asset as leader for the New Democratic Party.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Stephen. I like your analysis of the federal race and appreciate your comments on the provincial scene.


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