Monday, March 26, 2012

Challenges For Mulcair

Yesterday, I mused about Mulcair presenting a challenge to the Liberals. This assertion doesn't equate to some belief that a Mulcair led NDP will sweep the nation and form government, only a relatively strong obstacle for the Liberals themselves, as we try to reassert ourselves on the political landscape, particularly "traditional" ground. In fact, there is much to wonder about when it comes to Mulcair as we move forward and the NDP attempt to solidify themselves as government in waiting.

I'll refrain from commentary on facial hair, because frankly if that's your big contributing insight one day out of a leadership finale, you should probably seek other employment, this clearly isn't your calling. For my money, one of the more intriguing commentaries on Mulcair comes from Judy Rebick, harsh but full of refreshing candour, this particular passage something to watch:
The third narrative is what has been called a whisper campaign against Mulcair. It was a pretty loud whisper turned into a shout by Ed Broadbent. No one can get along with this guy. He is a bully who doesn't brook opposition. Kind of like a certain Prime Minister we know. It was also suggested that Mulcair had nothing to do with the victory in Quebec. Quieter but just as widespread was the knowledge that not very many women who have worked with him for more than a few months were supporting him. I was shocked by how few women were among his published endorsers. Some of these whispers are true from what I can tell.

Personality, this could well be Mulcair's chief Achilles heel. Also relevant, our current PM has personality issues of his own, but has shown an ability to bring his own people together in common purpose (power tends to help in this regard as well, which should be mentioned). "No one can get along with guy", that is where it can all unravel, especially when he takes the helm after an era of the Layton style, wherein inclusion was a centerpiece ideal. Mulcair must bring people together, that is a leader's primary job, should he fail to give voice to others, domineer and dismiss, we will see his leadership undermined, there will be problems moving forward. While Broadbent's comments were ill timed, the underlying message conveyed a problematic aspect to a Mulcair rule, the idea that people who have worked closely less inclined to support, a red flag moving forward for sure.

Lost in this Mulcair victory I think, the fact that the early rally behind Topp, particularly the Layton loyalists, looked very much like a pre-emptive strike to undercut Mulcair. There was a very QUICK move to put up an alternative to Mulcair, this inner circle obviously feared something and they pivoted quickly from mourning to maneuvering, the speed quite telling. Smiles and standing ovations now are irrelevant, the real test will come in the months ahead as we watch to see if all oars are enthusiastically pulling together, or if under the surface tensions distract from the task at hand.

Mulcair is not a populist, one wonders if he can resonate with his type of personality. You listen to Mulcair in interviews, I find him engaging, thoughtful, interesting and compelling, he has gifts no question. However, I can recall many a failed politician- some recent Liberal examples come to min- who sounded great one on one, but failed to touch the electorate in any compelling way. I found Mulcair's victory speech incredibly flat and frankly it bored me to tears, I packed up halfway through as it was felt like sitting through the credits after a long movie. How Mulcair performs on the stump, walking the streets, interacting and engaging, this is a large unknown moving forward.

Those of us who follow politics closely know full well Mulcair has a nasty temper, as well as a habit of saying certain outlandish things. Fine when you're an attack dog, a subordinate, quite another when you're perceived as a possible PM in waiting. Again, one can point to our current PM and allay any fears on the "angry guy" front, but I contend to this day, Harper is largely the benefactor of good timing, rather than a wave of affection that brought him to office. In other words, I don't consider his rise a template to copy, anger is not normally a preferred trait when it comes to "lik3ability". Layton thrived because he was likeable, we did want to have a beer with him, he had that common touch, authenticity, sincerity and above all a sense of compassion. Mulcair has big shoes to fill, particularly within a party which isn't as angry by nature as some others, if you "get" me. I think Mulcair did a masterful job during this campaign of holding his perceived anger in check, he looked a statesman, his message was positive, so perhaps we overstate these concerns. Still, history is just that, so I'll be looking for flaring nostrils, red faced rants and how that could potentially play.

Like every new leader, Mulcair will be a work in progress. Leader of the Opposition is never an easy gig, at many times thankless and you always appear wanting and incomplete, perceptual hurdles a given. Let's see if Mulcair can handle the heat, both in front of the cameras and perhaps more importantly, behind the scenes within his own party.


Kyle H. said...

Insightful stuff, Steve!

Steve V said...

Thanks man. Turns out you were right, the online voting was abysmal! It was a bit disappointing, because there was really no way for anybody to "move", knowing there was such anemic online activity to truly make a typical convention impact.

Scotian said...

Another thing about the "angry man" comparison to Harper and why citing Harper may not be the best defence for Dippers is that Harper had spent years first as CA leader then CPC leader trying to overcome his angry image to become PM, and it took a massive amount of scandal on the then current Lib government for him to get his first minority and a non-stop barrage against the Libs (with clear cooperation from the Layton NDP more interested in replacing the Libs than stopping Harper) ever since to grow it. Mulcair has none of that and if one is to compare the two this way then Mulcair might need at least one or two more elections to win. Personally though I think more that by the time Harper wears out on the voting public (and something we politically interested folks always must remember is most people, even most voters really don't have strong political convictions, they just want what they see/believe will provide them with the most stability and good government) will not want another "angry" style leader but want to return to what used to be more normal in the pre-Harper Canada.

Do I know that this will be the case? Of course not, but I do think it is not an unreasonable possibility to be considering along with any other. Harper has taken this country in directions no one has ever seen and shown an arrogance and nastiness never before seen in a PM of any political persuasion. I suspect there will be backlash against that as well as him specifically when his time comes (may it come by the next election, it should never have come to this, thanks Jack) as well as the policy direction of his government and anyone that seems similar in tone may be tarred with a similar brush whether it is fair or not, and Mulcair may well fit that mold. We shall see.

The Mound of Sound said...

If Murray Dobbins is right about Mulcair, the NDP has just shot itself in both feet. He may be the first NDP leader who abhors progressivism. Mulcair, claims Dobbins, even tried to get a cabinet position in Harper's government. Really?

If Dobbins take on Mulcair holds any water, the weekend was manna from heaven for the Libs.

The Mound of Sound said...

Sorry, wrong link

Steve V said...

Interesting, thanks Mound.

sharonapple88 said...

Mulcair must bring people together, that is a leader's primary job, should he fail to give voice to others, domineer and dismiss, we will see his leadership undermined, there will be problems moving forward.

Hey, guess who wants to remove socialism from the constitution. If Layton wasn't able to convince people after his big win in 2011, I have a feeling Mulcair might have a tougher time on this.

Another thing about the "angry man" comparison to Harper and why citing Harper may not be the best defence for Dippers is that Harper had spent years first as CA leader then CPC leader trying to overcome his angry image to become PM

He did, but I also think it helped that Harper that he had no competition at the time. No one was going to back Stockwell Day. Peter MacKay said he wasn't going to run. Harper's two competitors in the Conservative leadership race were Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement. The party didn't have a choice -- it was Harper or nothing. It was sort of the last man on earth stragedy... ;)

Mulcair, claims Dobbins, even tried to get a cabinet position in Harper's government. Really?

Here's an earlier article about Mulcair asking for a cabinet position from the Conservative government. Take with a grain of salt, since the information comes from a Conservative source.

Steve V said...

A lot of core players leaving the NDP team. Given how shrewd and successful, replacing them won't be easy.

Jerry Prager said...

I wouldn't put it past the superficial to fill a basket that brings down Harper and Mulcair, ie the unattractive bully boy basket, they both get into it, and there is the tipping point: the Liberals find a democratic woman to lead the country into a global round of fair trade economic agreement, that bans slavery, guarantees the rights of those who enter into indentured servitude agreements around the world: and create fair share governments at home, based on credit union and cooperative principles.
If the Liberals 'free' enterprise from corporatism by repudiating neo-liberalism; by choosing democratic economic liberalism: they become the model for liberalism around the world,and the beast dies for good.

Jerry Prager said...

My guess is Layton's people are heading for the provinces. That's where the seasoned winning folks will go, an NDP in Quebec would get rid of the Liberal-Conservatism of Charest; McGuinty could fall, and Ontarions may have had enough of him, but dislike Hudak and his Lack of Common Sense Reactionary even more, so the NDP could benefit from Layton's crew during a campaign, who knows. Rob Ford is on a losing streak in Toronto, but mayoralty races are a ways off. As is the next next federal one.

The Mound of Sound said...

@Jerry - a "democratic woman" resembling the one I've been championing for years - Louise Arbour? If there is anyone who could transform the LPC, she's it.

JimmE said...

Alta election - April 23 2012
BC election -May 14, 2013
NS election -June, 2013
NB election -September 2014
ONT Municipal election -October 2014

I like the idea a lot, but I think she's be bored by the job

sharonapple88 said...

Personality, this could well be Mulcair's chief Achilles heel.

Going by his first day back in the House of Commons, he has made no attempt at fixing this. Taunting another opposition leader in that way is not classy.

sharonapple88 said...

My guess is Layton's people are heading for the provinces.

I wonder how much they learned during the 2011 campaign is applicable to any further campaigns? Some of the seats in Quebec were won with zero dollars being spent. Layton was such a strong brand, they elected people who'd never visited the ridings. They elected one person who'd gone to Vegas during the election. The emphasis on the campaign was always on Layton -- in my riding, they had Jack Layton signs, and my riding's nowhere near the Danforth (the signs were bigger than signs for the actual NDP candidate).

How many times could this be repeated? And is this something that we really want to?

daniel said...

I always had a strong feeling that, if Mulcair managed to become leader, that the foot-stomping and temper tantrums of the left wing of the NDP would follow pretty quickly. Typical reaction from a party that, traditionally, has preferred being right over being elected.

Yes, Mulcair isn't the most ideologically pure of the choices that were available - far from it. But judging from the only two provinces in the country in which the NDP are actually in government, a good dose of fiscal conservatism and reigning in of party purists is just what the doctor ordered. Gary Doer was no socialist, and neither are Greg Selinger or Darrel Dexter. If they were, they wouldn't have been premiers.

Brian Topp as leader would surely have satisfied the core NDPers.....of course, they would be the only ones who would vote for him in the federal election.