May 07, 2015

Yes #Alberta, Yes #NDP: Lessons for the US, for Texas, for Democrats

Rachel Notley, new Alberta premier / Canadian Press
I think many of my regular readers are fairly well read not just on state news (in Texas or others of their home states), but national (usually US, but some from elsewhere) and international news.

Just to make sure, though, in case you're not aware: In what would be the equivalent of a Bernie Sanders, backed by a national liberal to left-liberal political party with true national strength, was elected governor of Texas as part of having his party win the Texas Legislature because people hated Greg Abbott and the GOP and saw through their mix of lies and penny-pinching. That's what the New Democratic Party did in Alberta.

Several thoughts.

First, this is part of why I like parliamentary government rather than a strong-president, or a strong-governor at the state level, system. It allows for true, focused electoral anger to make a difference more easily.

Second, related to that, even in a "first past the post" system, which Canada has for both provincial and federal elections (like US House seats and the British House of Commons), it allows for multiparty rather than two-party democracy.

As noted, the NDP is liberal to left liberal.

A basic primer, focused at the national level, for the unfamiliar.

The Progressive Conservatives are the latter, but not normally the former, especially under the long leadership of "Bush with a brain," current prime minister Stephen Harper. While Canada is not as explicitly religious as the US, it is more so than the UK, which is still more so than continental Europe or Australia. As a result, the PCs, unlike British Tories, the noxious National Front in France, or even Bavaria's Christian Social Union, have a fair dose of conservative religion pushers in their ranks, especially in Alberta and the prairie provinces, the party's homeland.

The Liberals are the equivalent of US neoliberal Democrats of today. Current leader Justin Trudeau will run on personal image, youth, and vague tech 2.0 type talk in Canada's federal election this fall.

The New Democratic Party is what would happen if  you combined the best of Greens (Canada also has a Green Party) and Socialists, and it eventually got national standing, which is nowhere close to happening in the US.

As for provinces? From west to east, here's my take.
1. British Columbia is like California of 20-25 years ago. I don't mean that BC is backward, but in the early 1990s, California was still purplish, and nowhere near solid blue, in American political terms.
2. Alberta is Texas. Canada's fossil fuel home, primarily for oil, but also natural gas and coal. And, the homeland of the Progressive Conservatives.
3. Saskatchewan and Manitoba are like the US Midwest that they border.
4. Ontario is like a mix of the "Rust Belt," in more western parts, and New York/Mid-Atlantic States in Greater Toronto and elsewhere in the east.
5. The Maritimes are like the New England they border, but more like Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire than Massachusetts, Connecticut or Rhode Island.
6. Oh, and I skipped one — the sui generis Quebec. Picture if the Old South, setting aside slavery, the Carolinas and Virginia, had been settled by Germans who never got over being incorporated into a British country, even as more English-speakers moved in.

OK, back to the big picture. Now you can see why I made the Bernie Sanders comparison above.

First, it shows that, in other countries, at least, "What's the Matter with Kansas" issues CAN be overcome.

Second, it shows the importance of political organization. Are you listening, Texas Dems? And outside national Democratic interlopers?

Third, as this Canadian news analysis piece shows, Alberta has other parallels with Texas. Both are no longer just oil patches. More importantly, both are no longer insular, and have had a lot of migrants come from other states or provinces for non-oil reasons.

Rather than generic "suburban voters," in statewide races, Texas Dems should be targeting immigrants to the state, and in a way that doesn't drift further right, in a Texas version of neoliberalism.

And, if Texas Dems can't or won't figure that out, Texas Greens can and should.

Fourth, politics is personal. Wendy Davis' attacks on Greg Abbott, let alone for lite guv, Leticia van de Putte vs. Dan Patrick, pulled too many punches, or decided not to throw some in the first place. Democrats need to throw sharper elbows, but smoothly at the same time. Take LVDP. We know Patrick's as combustible as a Texas fertilizer plant; even though he largely ignored her during the election, she still didn't do half of what she could have in trying to push his buttons.

Fifth, there's been talk of Democrats' "bench" here in Texas (and somewhat, nationally).

Rachel Notley would be head and shoulders above Davis, LDVP or any male candidate in Texas — including either Castro brother.

She'd also be head and shoulders above Hillary Clinton.

Sixth, and back to Canada. Can national NDP leader Thomas Mulcair build on this, with Bush with a brain's party losing in its homeland, while also, in a personable way articulating real politics to trump Trudeau's politics of personality, and take the party to victory in the federal election?

Seventh, based Notley the day after Election Day: Why do newly elected liberal leaders, whether in the US or Canada, apparently, feel the need to "reassure" dominant big businesses, when newly elected conservative leaders never feel the need to "reassure" the working class?


For that matter, why does the working class in such cases never think that it needs reassurance, or should ask for it?

And, Ms. Notley,  if it's done as part of a conscious effort to pick up centrist votes, like the New Democrats or New Labour? In the long run, it usually doesn't work.

And, since you're favorable with mining tar sands oil, how much apologetics is really needed?

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