Saturday, February 03, 2007

Passing Strange

It seems passing strange to see the congruence of criticism of the NDP by Progressive Bloggers, Liberal bloggers and Blogging Tories who all see Jack Laytons pragmatic politics of the possible as being somehow out of step with their classic liberal ideologies.

And of course for the right wing it was Bismark after all who said; Politics is the art of the possible. For Liberals and liberals John Rawls is embraced yet he advocates this very notion. And for the left there is the ex Frankfurt School philosopher Jurgen Habermas.

In order to remedy the difficulties arising from his lifeworld/system distinction, such as the inability of his theory to account for the possibility of legitimate political power,
J├╝rgen Habermas' attention turned toward greater abstraction through an appeal to legal theory as the basis of political consensus in the face of problems of diversity, complexity and pluralism in the modern world. This turn is made possible by an appropriation of some concepts of liberal theory, specifically John Rawls's ideas of "overlapping consensus" and "reflective equilibrium."

What Jack and the NDP are doing around the environment is no different than they did around the Liberal Budget. They are standing above the partisans politics of both the Liberals and Conservatives, and the narrow selfishness of the Bloc, and calling for a made in Canada environmental policy that does address Kyoto targets.

But this is somehow seen as getting in bed with Harper complette with sniggering comments from the pundits.

The latest rant is that somehow the NDP is abandoning Kyoto, which it is not. It just not barking about it at every opportunity.

Rather they have been extremely practical about getting the work done that would actually meet Canada's committments to Kyoto. And that of course was saving the Clean Air Act by creating for the first time ever in Parliamentary history an all party committee to rewrite the Governments flawed Hot Air Act.

And they forced the Tories to fund the rainforest reserve in B.C.

Some folks get it, the rest would like to continue the partisan attacks.

But the NDP will keep on keepin on until there is a parliamentary bill on the environment with teeth that will benefit us all. And thats not about getting votes or proping up the Tories its about the politics of the possible.


Jack Layton



Find blog posts, photos, events and more off-site about:
, , , , , , ,


Jason said...


I think it'll seem less strange if you try to put yourself into the shoes of those doing the grinning, griping and squirming, repsectively. Neither the CPC nor the LPC believe they can be remotely equated with one another, and opinion on the degree to which they can be equated is at least somewhat mixed in the NDP.

In other words, if you're a Conservative, you see Layton as an amusing and useful fool. If you're a Liberal, you see him as an exasperating and dangerous objective ally to the right. And if you're a dissatisfied NDPer, you might either wonder if Harper is genuinely just another crummy PM, or something worse. Or else, you might advocate a different type of parliamentary strategy.

I understand what you're saying; I've often said that the hard-nosed Pat Martin/Jack Layton style makes a certain sort of sense if you genuinely believe the Liberals are a wicked bunch that need to be seriously damaged or destroyed in order to make way for a much stronger NDP opposition. (My problem, of course, is that having experienced the LPC from the inside I believe that would be a tragic error.)

eugene plawiuk said...

I don't think its a moral question of the Liberals being wicked, rather they present themselves as progressive, when in reality they are as bound to the ruling class as the Conservatives are. However when it comes to the base of the parties, you are correct, the NDP sees Liberal voters, not supporters and activists, as being potential NDP voters. Hence the pragmatic politics that has influenced the party since 2004. Running as the Real Opposition, which was a switch from running FOR government. And running as an opposition party that can get things done. In other words accepting the need for a pizza parliament, minority government, until we can have an authentic pizza parliament when we finally get Proportional Representation.

Jason said...

Well, "something like wicked," at any rate. My point, though, was that while that was an internally consistent way of understanding Canadian politics and the NDP's best role (eschew a supposedly specious ideological proximity with the LPC - focus chiefly on becoming opposition) it is not the only valid way.

If some NDPers suspect that Liberals like me are something more than dupes and window dressing within our party, or if they simply think that the Tories are so far right that they have to be kept as powerless as possible, then they're going to be less enthused about a strategy of parliamentary realpolitik in tandem with Mr. Harper.

And, as it happens, they're right not to be. But at any rate, I don't mean to proselytize in an obnoxious fashion. I suspect that the current ambivalence will continue, and that Layton's fate will depend on electoral results more than the present rank and file unease. I might feel a teensy bit of schadenfreude at NDP cognitive dissonance, but I increasingly find the barriers of tribal allegiance on the left too high to hope for the result to be political conversions. And really, that's nothing to be happy about.

eugene plawiuk said...

Of course hard core party supporters in the NDP and Liberals, like yourself in the latter case as you have pointed out several times in posts, see each other anthanema. But the voters whom both parties appeal too see no such hard line differences.

Now as to party members, the supporters, the workers, they will always vote for the party they work for as true believers.

I think the closest we could come to an agreement of realpolitik between the 'progressive' parties either federally or in Alberta's case, provincially would be, along with the Greens, an agreement that lesser candidates of the party would run against each other in ridings which we know will go to one or other of the parties.

Having worked on campaigns provincially and federally I know that party members want the party to run so they can vote for it.

Those votes may make a difference in some campaigns, but in many cases running a name only, parachute candidate, garners only the votes of the true believers, which are not significant in changing a vote unless it is very close.

I think that is the closest we will get to an alliance between parties against the right.

The idea of unite the left, well that is not in the cards.

As for Jacks realpolitiks I support and have advocated it since the 1997 provincial election in Alberta where as Strategy and Communications Chair I fought hard to change the view of the party to understand that when you have NO seats you run as oppostion, you run for opposition, you make that your key message, NOT the old politic of we always run to be government.

I am pleased to say that resulted in us winning back seats then, and again in 2001 and it has influenced the Federal party.

Dennis (Second Thoughts) said...

I think it's pretty clear that Liberals are trying to take advantage of some unease within NDP ranks over Layton's moves towards the Tories on the environment. I'm not exactly sure what they're trying to accomplish, though. Like so much coming from the Liberals these days, it seem a strategy created more out of desperation than strategic thinking. I suppose they might pick off some supporters. Yet it won't make a dent in the overall electoral dynamic, as you keep reminding us. In fact, it only displays the partisanship you also keep reminding us of. Instead of "getting things done", the Liberals are mad at Layton. The environment? Oh yeah, that thing.

I also wanted to address this notion that somehow Jack is acting above the fray while it's Tories and Liberals that are slaves to their partisan instincts.

Jack attacks both Liberals and Tories on partisan ground all the time. He is also acting first and foremost in the interest of his own party, which is why it looks like he's willing to ease off on strict Kyoto compliance. So I'm not sure where this comes from that Jack is holier-than-thou while Harper and Dion are kids playing in the sandbox. Even May is playing politics with this issue. They all are. It's what politicians do.

eugene plawiuk said...

I don't think Jack or the NDP is acting above the rest, I think he his proping up the Tories as he did the Liberals, because they are a minority and historically its what the NDP has done and with great success, get us Old Age security and other social programs that the ruling parties were loathe to create when they had majorities.