A Bad Week for the #NDP: Federal NDP Lose Election Then Leader. Sask NDP Lose Election Then Leader? #skpoli #canpoli #yeg2016

So it’s been a pretty tough week for Team Orange…

The Saskatchewan NDP got a shellacking in the provincial election last Monday, a loss which many are blaming at least partly on still lingering divisions between the 50.3% of the party that supported Cam Broten and the 49.7% of the party that supported Ryan Meili in the last NDP leadership race.  This setback for the Sask NDP was capped by the shocking loss of the Leader Cam Broten’s own seat.

Then the Federal NDP had their convention this weekend which many are also portraying as evidence of a party divided – between those who would defend the resource economy and the workers who rely on resource jobs against those who want to LEAP into the future via a quick shift to a green economy.  This convention was capped by the shocking defeat of Leader Tom Mulcair in a leadership review.

This never-ending dichotomy between the pragmatists and idealists reminds me of the post I did after the last Sask NDP Leadership Race summarizing some reading I’d done about how there are two differing approaches to politics – the naive (embodied by idealistic progressives like Naomi Klein) and the cynical (embodied by more pragmatic centrists like Rachel Notley) in a constant push-pull between ideological purity and making concessions to appeal to the broadest swath of citizens so as to gain power and actually have the potential to implement your positions.

Given recent events, that post needs revised though.  Both Cam Broten and Tom Mulcair have shown that there is one faulty assumption in the definition of these two approaches, namely, the conventional wisdom that a strong focus on centrist policies, top-down control, safe over risky in all things, etc. is your best bet for electoral success while “radical” left wing candidates are unelectable.

In fact, with the quick rise of democratic socialist, Jeremy Corbyn who was elected Labour Leader in the UK and leads the official opposition there; the meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders from fringe democratic socialist candidate at the start of his Presidential campaign to challenging and often defeating the best positioned political candidate in history to yes, even Mr. Trudeau, who true to Liberal form, ran as if he were a leftist and ended up being rewarded with a resounding majority for his efforts (yet is back to centrist positions), something different seems to be happening.

People appear to have a hunger for something different – authenticity, honesty, trustworthiness, inspiration – that they’re not getting anywhere else but from the candidates that are normally easily dismissed as being too idealistic.

Given that, it’ll be interesting to see where the Sask NDP and the Federal NDP end up with their respective leadership situations.

(Quick clarification – As I said in my initial post a couple years ago, the lines between “naive” and “cynical” aren’t always 100% in one direction or the other and are more along a spectrum that mixes aspects of both.  Or as a colleague put it, “Why are people shocked to hear that supporters of the NDP can hold and consider the pros and cons of two opposing positions in their head at the same time?”  On that same point, I think it’s safe to say that Mulcair/Broten were both chosen because they were “safe” centrist candidates who were seen as giving their parties their best chances for electoral success.  Yet even those two clashed on certain policies even though they otherwise had many political similarities.  These variances are partly due to the spectrum and partly due to different perceptions in different parts of the country about what is “moderate”, what is “progressive” and so on.)

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