Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rehabilitating Andrea Horwath's leadership and the danger of a short political memory

In an absurd attempt to rewrite the recent past that would be farcical were it not for the earnestness with which its proponents are proclaiming it and the willingness of some on the left to accept it, Andrea Horwath and other leaders within the Ontario NDP are trying to claim that they have been a bunch of stalwart leftists whose "ideas" are now being "stolen" by the Liberals.

This is all the more troubling as we both head into a provincial election year and as former ONDP Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh campaigns for the federal leadership while both his advocates and even many of his opponents try to portray him as a charismatic figure unencumbered by any kind of divisive or ideological baggage (though for different reasons).

To be absolutely clear,  after the disgraceful, reactionary, faux populist farce that was the ONDP's 2014 election campaign Horwath and her caucus have no right to lay claim to anything other than having directly helped to delay initiatives like the roll out of the $14 and $15 an hour minimum wage that is now under way.

While it is absolutely true that Kathleen Wynne's sudden social justice conversion on the road to her electoral Damascus is cynical and driven by a strategic desire to again outflank the NDP on the"left" (used in only the loosest terms), equally as cynical is any attempt by Horwath to portray herself as having been in the forefront or vanguard of any fight for these developments.

Nonsense.

As just one example we see papers like the Toronto Star (ironically regarded as the enemy by NDPers), as well as a variety of folks on social media saying (in a direct quote from the Star here) that the ONDP "has long pushed for a $15-an-hour minimum".

But this is simply false.

The ONDP and everyone who campaigned for it in 2014 -- and the $14 Now movement was alive and well and holding monthly rallies at that time -- went door-to-door on a poverty wage "plan" that promised $12 an hour. This was only slightly higher than what the Liberals were offering and was a repudiation of the living wage movement in Canada and North America.

While activists, unions and social movements were fighting for living wages the ONDP directly helped to aid right wing narratives that sought to prevent where we are getting now and the party only embraced the $15 minimum wage last year. The Liberals now embracing it as well -- and actually implementing it in law, one might add, not just in theory -- is a reflection of the power and depth of the broader living wage movement.

It certainly has nothing at all to do with the ONDP who actually campaigned against the plan supported by the living wage movement in 2014 by offering something far inferior, along with all their other pocketbook populist right wing narratives at the time.

It is worth remembering basic facts like these when folks like Horwath try to claim they have been flying the red flag all along.

Even now the silliness continues with Horwath saying she has proposed a universal pharmacare plan that is not, in fact, a universal pharmacare plan and trying to rhetorically portray Liberal initiatives that will actually be in place in many cases prior to the election as somehow "not getting it right" (?). But the obvious retort is, "where were you in 2014"? Why should anyone trust Horwath anymore than Wynne? There is no evidence from any actual electoral campaign that actually happened in the real world that we should do so. Rather the opposite.

When the Liberals and Conservatives have had their pandering cynicism on full display in Ontario, Horwath and crew have been lining up to say "us too"!

Singh, based on little more than a Justin Trudeau style narrative, has been seen as something of an enigma as he enters the federal NDP race. It is as if he was never ONDP Deputy Leader at all or as if he was not involved in the ONDP's disastrous 2014 outing. But he was, of course, and there is nothing enigmatic about that.

Much of the mainstream media and the apolitical have very short political memories. Leftists cannot afford to. There is no reason at all to think that Horwath and the ONDP have shifted to the left, no reason based on their recent actions to take any such claims seriously, and no reason to anticipate that any such claims are anything more than little whisperings to keep the rank-and-file placated as they prepare to haul out yet another say nothing, do nothing platform centred around cutting into the votes of the right in marginal ridings in the hopes of being the opposition under a Patrick Brown Conservative government.

See also: In the case of the Ontario $15 minimum wage the moral imperative is just as great as the economic

See also: The ONDP's timid 'pharmacare' plan played right into Liberal hands

2 comments:

  1. Excellent article. And since we're remembering, let's also not forget that the ONDP's 2014 platform dropped their promise to restore corporate tax rates to previous levels, and they dropped the ONDP's own Ontario Pension Plan concept (which Wynne meanwhile pretended to adopt).

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