Thursday, May 11, 2017

BC election proves unabashed left-wing messages can win wide voter support

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan on election night
I wrote last weekend about how the progressive/socialist left needed to start winning elections in order to prove they (and not wishy washy centrists) should be leading the charge against conservative opponents. 

After so many disastrous electoral battles which saw left-wing candidates trounced by conservatives posing as the "safer" option, particularly when it comes to managing the economy, I had my doubts about the electability of leaders like Bernie Sanders.   Hence, why I and many other moderate progressives felt more comfortable backing Hilary Clinton for the Democratic nomination last year or Justin Trudeau for Prime Minister in 2015.   

But Clinton's defeat including her inability to win over angry, middle-class white voters in rust belt states gave credence to Bernie Sanders' message: progressives need to do a better job at connecting with working class peoples' lives and shed the stench of elitism that has taken over too many party establishments.

We'll never know if Sanders might've been able to win over those votes Clinton lost to Trump.

But Sanders' message and progressive or, dare I say it, socialist policies designed to diminish the gap between the rich and poor, not ignore or widen it, and help out the working and middle classes instead of governing just for the top 1%, may have much wider appeal.   

The British Columbia New Democrats under leader John Horgan just this week did something that party has failed to do in 16 years: connect with voters and almost topple the conservative B.C. Liberals.   At the same time, the B.C. Greens also pushed policies of fairness, equity, and democratic reform, including removing the stench of big money from politics.   Together, both parties increased their support in B.C. from a combined 48% in 2013 to a combined 57% this week and now they hold the majority of seats between them, barring recounts in the very tight election.

Despite B.C.'s buoyant economy and Premier Christy Clark's message not to shake the boat, B.C. voters did some major shaking.

So while the NDP didn't take it over the top, they made big gains and may indeed find themselves in government there soon as I'm sure Horgan will continue to push his message that province needs a government more in tune with ordinary people's needs.   This is instructive for progressives going forward.

The B.C. result followed the massive victory in France last weekend of centrist reformer Emmanuel Macron over right-wing racist Marie Le Pen.  Yes, centrists have long proven their ability to beat conservatives.

But now the B.C. NDP and Greens have taught us that unabashed left-wing platforms can also win wide support and topple nasty, elitist, out-of-touch conservatives, or at least reduce their power too.

If Jeremy Corbyn manages somehow to turn things around for his Labour Party in the U.K. ahead the June 8th election, it'll redefine what's possible for progressive, left-wing parties the world over.   I'll be watching very closely. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Far left progressives need to put up or shut up when it comes to beating Conservatives in key electoral tests

French Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron
Last year, we heard often from Bernie Sanders supporters and other sympathizers that the Democratic Party had forgotten about their poor and progressive base.   Choosing Hillary Clinton, the great centrist, part of the family machine that first defeated conservatives after a long period of dominance under Reagan/Bush Sr, was said to be a mistake that alienated ordinary, angry white folks who then turned to Donald Trump.

Far left progressives or socialist types have long lectured pragmatists who've learned to put some water in their progressive wines about the alleged errors of their ways.  They've often chastised such pragmatists for accommodating or cozying up to business interests and resembling some of their establishment conservative opponents.   We know there were many far left activists who saw no difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Now, of course, the U.S. and the world are suffering greatly because of those real differences. 

I agree that the partisan establishments of centrist parties like the Liberal Party in Canada, or the Democratic Party in the U.S., or even mainstream New Labour types in the U.K., are largely distasteful to most ordinary progressives.  I worked in politics - I know how sleazy backroom politics can be.  Many in the left rightfully yearn for progressive political leaders who are rebels, who can rescue us and rid societies of longstanding economic and cultural injustices.  The list of injustices sadly runs long.  Such progressive folks rightly suspect the establishment which has largely taken over the Liberal and Conservative parties will never on its own relinquish its power over them.  So the program and populist message of Bernie Sanders resonates.  But it's never been tested, at least not recently, in the current context which is seeing right-wing populism, or outright racism enjoying a renaissance.

We know that centrists can beat conservatives.  Justin Trudeau is the latest example of a moderate progressive who could beat conservatives.  Ironically, he bested Tom Mulcair and the federal NDP by veering far left, as Mulcair moderated himself into a typical centrist and blew the 2015 election.

Is it easier for a centrist Liberal to win by veering left and beat conservatives?  Or for a Socialist to win by veering to the centre?  Who can do that with greater credibility?  Who's had more success?

The British Labour party has rarely beaten the U.K. Conservatives over the decades and looks right now to be facing another massive defeat under leader Jeremy Corbyn, the hero of the Far Left if there ever was one.  After two years of lacklustre press, Corbyn is unleashing some passion in this campaign.  He's a firebrand socialist with obvious convictions promising to shake things up.   If Bernie Sanders was truly on to something with his populist message of reaching out to disaffected white people, then Jeremy Corbyn should win the U.K. election for Labour.   But so far, Theresa May's Conservatives seem to be far ahead in the polls.  The U.K. votes June 8.  

British Columbia also votes on May 9th in a provincial election which pits the 16-year reign of the B.C. Liberals, which are essentially a conservative/blue Liberal coalition, against the NDP under John Horgan, their main challenger.  Horgan has been channeling Bernie Sanders too with arguments that the incumbents are in bed with their big donors and the top 1%.  He's calling for political finance reform.  He wants the B.C. government to do more to make housing more affordable.  He's promising to implement a stronger plan to fight climate change. 

Meanwhile, the B.C. Greens are also attracting a lot of support in this race, polling around 20% in several polls.   It remains to be seen how many seats that vote gains.  Many think the Greens are taking votes equally from both the BC Liberals and the BC NDP.   Some voters tired of Christy Clark's Liberals who aren't willing to vote NDP might choose the Green option this time, putting all kinds of seats in play.

By any standard, after 16 years, the BC Liberals probably need a time out.  I'd like to see the NDP win this one and put in place a government in B.C. more in tune with ordinary people's needs.   Horgan has come across this election as a passionate, hard-working guy many would like to have on their side in government, a welcome relief after Christy Clark.  In some ways, this is another big test for a Bernie Sanders type at beating down a conservative foe. 

France votes even sooner this Sunday with a presidential run-off between far right fascist Marie Le Pen and centrist progressive Emmanuel Macron, a globalist who wants to cut taxes on business and individuals.  But he's had a difficult time getting some far left types to back him to stop Le Pen.

Those far lefties need to kick themselves and vote against the one candidate who can stop their country from dissolving into a racist hell hole a la Trump.  I agree with this Guardian writer that Macron is the person they should support this weekend.

So we have three major electoral tests coming up: one with a French centrist facing down a hard right conservative opponent, and two with a socialist party - the NDP in BC and Labour in the U.K. - as the main opponents to conservative incumbents. 

If the far left is to have any traction in leading the fight against conservatives, it has to start winning.   If the BC NDP get swept back into opposition, or Jeremy Corbyn's passionate defense of his policy agenda leads to a historic defeat by the Conservatives, while Macron wins, it'll be clear to me that the Bernie Sanders solution was not much of one at all.  

This won't mean that centrist pragmatists need to do nothing to win back the support of progressives who rightly want major policy changes, especially when it comes to dealing with economic inequality, and demand their leaders and progressive parties to do a better job helping average people.   Centrist leaders and parties most certainly need to do a better job of that as failing to do so is giving rise to dangerous right-wing populism. 

But more defeats for far left heroes will mean that pragmatic, moderate progressives are far more successful against conservative opponents and actually implementing any kind of moderately progressive agenda. 

You can't always get exactly what you want when you want it, but as long as progress is being made toward it, rather than regression under conservatives, isn't it a better option?   In my opinion, yes.   I'd rather live under a moderate liberal doing some good things rather than some conservative fascist.