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Jagmeet's Sinking Ship
On The Disgrace Leading The NDP
I have to say, I never really got the whole Jagmeet thing.
Going back to when he was rumoured to be running for Leader, I’ve never understood the basic proposition of his candidacy. I wasn’t able to get it, whatever the ephemeral it was supposed to be. Who Jagmeet was running to serve, what political tradition he comes from, who his voters were, and how this was supposed to work. I’ve never gotten any of it, mostly because it’s never really existed.
He inherited a party with 44 MPs, although in fairness to Jagmeet you could have immediately written that off to 29, since 15 of those MPs were Quebec MPs who were never winning again, even if Mulcair had stayed as leader. Since then, he’s lost 4 seats net, turned safe NDP seats in regional Canada into Conservative targets while failing to win a single seat in Toronto. They are bleeding in both Timmins and Toronto, Skeena and Scarborough, Niagara and Northern Ontario. It’s a party in decline because the Singh leadership has been a failure. And right now, it’s looking to be a much worse one than it’s already proven to be, all for one reason.
There never was anything to get about Jagmeet.
The problem with the NDP runs much deeper than Jagmeet Singh, but he is the perfect illustration of what’s institutionally broken in the party. The party’s electoral base is working class areas like Windsor, Comox, Skeena, Timmins, Hamilton and urban seats in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. It’s a heterodox mix, but it gets even harder to balance when you acknowledge that the NDP membership is almost exclusively people who live in Greater Toronto or believe in what you might derisively call a very Davenport sensibility about their politics.
Their leader is a product of that – selected for his supposed ability to win the right, or more accurately, correct kinds of voters. The NDP membership had, at convention, embraced the Leap Manifesto in Rachel Notley’s backyard, telling the pragmatic, working class part of the party to sit down and shut up, and then it elected Jagmeet.
It’s worth focusing on what the NDP thought they were getting when they elected Jagmeet. They knew they were getting wiped in Quebec, and the choice of Singh and not Angus was pretty clearly a choice to go for urban social liberals over working class economic leftwingers. Whether anyone articulated the strategy as such explicitly or not, the strategy in making Jagmeet leader was dependent on Singh breaking through in more diverse areas.
Whether it was intentional or not, the NDP set Jagmeet up for failure, needing him to replace both Quebec and their working class flank with inner city seats and the heavily ethnic suburbs of Toronto and Vancouver. He’s been a failure at it – he’s never come close to winning a seat in Brampton or Mississauga, he’s failed to win a seat in the 416, and he only has one gain to show for it in Greater Vancouver.
Looking at the polls, Nanos has the NDP sub 20% in BC, most everything has the CPC up big at the cost of the NDP in the province that has over half the NDP’s seats, and they’re brutally exposed to the Global Fucking Realignment. Because the only places they’re fighting the CPC are working class seats that are trending right across the globe, the NDP have no places where Conservative decline helps them and a lot of places where Conservative gains are going to be concentrated, which fucks them.
And the NDP’s problem is there’s no path forward without understanding what got them here, which is that they have no idea what the party is for. Their current crisis is due to their fundamental mistake in making a dangerously unqualified fool their leader, without a plan for what he was supposed to do. If Singh was meant to both keep the regional vote secure and win the cities, they misunderstood why Timmins et al vote NDP. If they brought him in to win Brampton and Scarborough on the basis that ethnic minority voters will vote for an ethnic minority leader without concern for his actual message, they’re vaguely racist idiots. And if they thought voters in Toronto wouldn’t see through his transparent bullshit they think less of the voters they’re trying to appeal to than they should.
Voters in this country, much as some don’t want to admit it, are pretty good at getting a measure of a politician. They saw through the idea that Stephen Harper was a dangerous fascist who would put soldiers on our streets and had some secret agenda, they saw through Michael Ignatieff’s blatant attempt to speedrun to the Prime Ministership because he would be bored up here otherwise, and they saw through Tom Mulcair’s hilariously fake 2015 campaign where he abandoned everything he had been as Opposition Leader. And they’ve seen through Jagmeet.
Whatever you think of Jagmeet as a person, and I’ve had more than my fair share of people tell me to lay off him because he’s a nice guy, he is playing Canadians for fools. He is lying to Canadians, he is presenting himself as against a system that he is actively propping up, every policy idea out of his mouth is moronic, and he is painting himself as an inauthentic fighter for the working class while wearing a Rolex.
He is the purest form of electoral poison, a politician who goes down badly with everyone. He has killed whatever nascent support the NDP had in Quebec, he has failed at his goal of making inroads in his battleground against the Liberals, and he is killing the NDP in the old industrial, working class heart of the party. He is a leader with no upside, who will risk at least a dozen seats at the next election.
I keep calling for him to resign not because I am under any illusions he will listen to me, because let’s be frank – the NDP are increasingly insular and disinterested in hearing from anyone outside of the tent, even as a literal NDP 2021 voter. They have decided that they’re going down with the ship, so they have decided to band together and ignore all the noise and all the progressive anger. Could they be doing something wrong? No, it must be the electorate’s fault that we are increasingly done with Singh.
The Liberals are, right now, in their worst run of polling in a while. Whatever you think of their long term trajectory, they are currently in trouble. They would lose an election held tomorrow comfortably. And the NDP would lose seats as well. They cannot take advantage of discontent with the Liberals, they cannot protect themselves against a Tory leader who is rolling onto their territory, and they cannot articulate a purpose for their own existence.
Singh has been a disaster as NDP leader, and while it’s possible nobody else could have done better at keeping the party together, it’s also pretty obvious that they need a leader who will abandon all concern for winning over seats that get the progressive left nothing in order to hold the line in the regions and start to win back Essex and Oshawa and Kenora, but no. The NDP saddled themselves with a leader who possesses the worst qualities of the left – intellectual vacuousness in the name of fringe causes that are irrelevant to most people in a failed attempt to show how much holier he is than everybody else. He is a liar, preying on ignorance and lies to pretend that Justin Trudeau is some monster while failing to reconcile the fact that Trudeau can only govern with his votes. Whatever he thinks about himself, he is hurting this country.
He won’t force an election because he won’t risk his pension, he tied himself to the Liberals and made the NDP the latest in a long line of parties taken down by coalition or formal partnership with a government that includes the Lib Dems, the German FDP, and New Zealand First, all for a deal that didn’t give him the only thing that would make it worthwhile, electoral reform. He is either an idiot or merely committed to playing one in public, either too much a fool to know how he comes across or too stupid to acknowledge the damage of his act.
It is almost the case I hope it’s stupidity, because to live in a world where all of this is active strategy cooked up by supposedly smart people is too frightening to contemplate. The day Jagmeet leaves public life is a day we will have lost one of our worst politicians, a dishonest and dishonourable figure who has done everything to poison this country’s politics all in the name of trying to win a few more seats. It’ll be a fitting end to his tenure that his efforts will be so obviously in vain.