I’m Voting For Nathan Cullen (And If You Want Stephen Harper Gone, You Should Too!)

So we’ve got about ten days until the NDP picks a new leader and after watching the race develop since day one, I’ve pretty much made up my mind that I’ll be putting Nathan Cullen first on my ballot.

If you go back to my initial (public) rankings a month ago, I had Nathan second after Niki Ashton (and in a ranking I did as a baseline at the start of the race which I never blogged about, I had him fourth.)

So why did Nathan rise to the top for me (and for so many others?)

Niki was my “first” first choice for a few reasons – obviously, there’s some peer pressure when a number of your more knowledgeable friends and colleagues are actively involved in her campaign.  But there’s also the fact that more than any other candidate, Niki checked off pretty much every point on my initial list of what I was looking for in the next NDP leader – youth, education, progressive ideals, multilingual, prairie roots.

But when I looked at that list again, I realised that Cullen checks off most of those same points as well – youth (check), progressive ideals (check), multilingual (oui! si!), highly educated (as far as I can tell, he only has an undergrad degree so am I moving the goalposts to say I’ll take his international development experience and community organizing as an equal substitute to some type of grad degree?  And at any rate, he’s been called the “by far, the smartest leadership candidate” by someone who should know a bit about these things.).  True, Cullen’s not from the Prairies but he is from the west (and like Niki, from a rural riding to boot) and whether you mean Alberta, the prairies or everything west of Winnipeg, it’s clear that the Canadian west is becoming (if it hasn’t already become) the new seat of power in Canada.

Niki’s slogan is “New Politics” but I really like that Nathan is actually embodying that with his rhetoric, his grassroots appeal and his big tent approach.  This is most obvious via his proposal to do joint nominations with the Liberals and Greens.  Whether you think this is a workable idea or not, the reality is that at least he’s willing to try something new and different, making a very legitimate point that if we’re willing to work closely with other parties after an election, there’s no reason not to do so before an election.

It’s an idea that resonates – 6 in 10 NDP *and* Liberal supporters think is a good idea (a number that is highest among women and young people.  As someone who’s not female and arguably no longer young either, that result gives me pause to think about what a Cullen-led NDP could potentially do, not only for the NDP’s future but for  democratic engagement in the country in general.)

What else do I like about Nathan Cullen?

  • Longest serving MP of all NDP leadership candidates
  • Only MP to defeat a Conservative to gain his seat
  • Puts his money where his mouth is
  • He’s arguably made the best use of social media of any of the candidates (definitely has the most appeal to activist social media users anyhow!)
  • …and after saying in my initial list of criteria, that we don’t need to look for a Jack Layton clone, I have to admit how comforting I find it that Cullen, more than any leadership candidate, embodies many of the most appealing qualities of “Bon Jack!” – humour, charisma, a populist yet pragmatic touch.

I started by saying that much of my initial support of Niki Ashton was due to my respect for the many experienced Saskatchewan NDP’ers who were already supporting the Manitoba MP.  But one of my biggest weaknesses in the political realm is also a potential strength – even with my ever-increasing involvement with the NDP,  I think I still have more in common with the “average” voter than someone who’s been door knocking for the NDP since they were in diapers. 😉

And since there are a lot more “average” voters to be reached than party insiders when we get to a general election, I think that the NDP need to think about how the candidate will be received by all voters, not just long-time party members (that’s why I’m struggling so much with where to place Brian Topp on my ballot.)

Even though I may not appreciate the party’s history or strategy as much as some, I think that a more important goal – really, the only goal – is ensuring we have the absolute best chance of removing Stephen Harper and the united right from power in 2015.  For a variety of reasons (the joint nominations idea being only one of many) I think Nathan Cullen offers the best chance to accomplish that goal if he’s the NDP leader in 2015.

Ultimately, what have we got to lose?

Comments 2

  1. Slim Evans wrote:

    Thanks for the link to my blog post. You should hit me up on facebook. I’ll keep checking your blog from time to time.

    Posted 13 Mar 2012 at 10:02 pm
  2. Nicole Burton wrote:

    I think your post brings up some good points, particularly on who Nathan Cullen attracts as an NDP Leader. It’s not the old guard… which is unnerving for some folks who have had that membership card for a long time.

    With something like 30,000 new members coming into the fold over the last half year, I’m sure some of those older members are a little bit curious (nervous, even?) to see how this new blood thinks. And instead of chiseling them all to fit the conventional NDP mode, I feel like Nathan is interested in having a conversation with them–a two-way street to define the new identity of the party. As a new member, I’m really not worried at all that, as the purists say, this will take the party to the centre. My prediction is that new members share the same principles as the old members, and differ predominantly on strategies to achieve those goals.

    I’ve also heard a prediction that voter turnout for new members will be much higher than for older members. They are the ones who are engaged in this race.

    My two cents.

    Posted 16 Mar 2012 at 7:03 am

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