NDP condemning ‘strategic voting’ is self-righteous

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Jagmeet Singh seems like a great guy and he has a decent progressive platform.  But I get fundamentally incensed with the routine NDP rhetoric condemning “strategic voting”.

Singh has been arguing, “Any party that scares you for your vote to hang on to power, deserves neither.”

He’s also stated, “Justin Trudeau is trying to scare Canadians into settling for less – and that’s no way to lead.”

This rhetoric about “settling for less” is dangerous self-righteousness.

We live in a world in which a few thousand protest votes cast for third parties gave us Donald Trump as president.  We also live in a world in which when the NDP does well, it redounds to the Conservatives’ benefit.

This is a political system where letting the perfect be the enemy of the good would get us Andrew Scheer, who would tear up any meaningful action to fight climate change

For the working poor, for those who care about climate change, for women and the LGBT community who fear Andrew Scheer’s social conservatism — elections truly do have consequences.

As Shakespeare said in King Lear, “Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.”

The NDP has never held power nationwide.  They’ve never had to make the tough calls, to put a little water in their wine, to settle for half a loaf, to mix the (or perhaps to complete the Eucharistic) metaphor.  As Horace said, “It is worth it always to make some measure of progress”— compromise is not a vice if it advances the ultimate goal.

Moreover, worse than just the indulgent refusal to acknowledge the real politics in which we operate is the arrogance of the NDP.  They act as if only they have a monopoly on virtue; they do not.  They simply have never been tried and tested.

It’s easy to be a purist when you do not have to pull the levers of power.  It’s simple to say “you don’t have to settle for less” when you are under no obligation to deliver on anything.  As a Liberal candidate who I was canvassing with said, “they can promise the moon — they know they won’t win and have to deliver.”

Indeed, when the NDP has been in power, they’ve had to make the same grubby compromises as any other party: Rae Days, tuition cuts, pushing oil sands production.  It’s no wonder the Alberta NDP is so distant from the national NDP campaign: Rachel Notley knows that governing means compromising.

Oddly, the NDP even is compromising during this campaign, with a torturous refusal to truly oppose Quebec’s discriminatory Bill 21.

Thomas Walkom, writing in The Star, summed it up well: “In some ridings, particularly in Ontario, a partial NDP recovery could split the so-called progressive vote just enough to let Scheer’s Conservatives skate up the middle and win what is shaping up to be an extremely close election.”

Look, I get it.  I am a progressive Liberal.  I am frustrated, as I’ve written in this column, about the Liberal government’s slow progress on universal pharmacare.  I wish we were bolder on student debt forgiveness.  And I do not understand the logic of buying a pipeline.

Still, this government has made real, meaningful progress.  It has a strong climate plan; the prime minister rightly calls it “ambitious but doable”.  This election is not about nothing, as self-satisfied pundits cynically suggest — it is about whether we continue to fight climate change, or not.  Could we do more?  Yes.  Could we do better?  Yes.  But it is not worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Or, to put more poetically, is a Confucius proverb: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

It should go without saying that Andrew Scheer is the pebble in this scenario.  We live in an imperfect system — and yes, I hear you, electoral reform advocates — but we have to work within the world as it is, to paraphrase President Barack Obama.

In this election, indulging in the easy siren songs of the NDP promises to do better than the Liberals is, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, to risk all the progress that has been made in the arena, to sacrifice the good at the altar of the ideal.

Photo Credit: CBC News

More from Jonathan Scott.   @J_Scott_

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