The tone of some Liberal bloggers against the NDP as it begins to rise in the polls is remarkable. They call NDP supporters names and suggest that they are inherently 'hypocritical,' 'disingenuous,' and even 'cozy with the Conservatives.' This is amazing to me. I believe that I am never a blind partisan. I have been very critical at times of Layton especially in the days when he failed to condemn the invasion of Afghanistan. And it was rather opportunist of Layton to only turn against the Afghan invasion when it became apparent that the vast majority of NDP supporters were getting upset about the policy. But while I am more than glad to criticize any party when it is appropriate, I also understand that a basic level of pragmatism is expected in politics. But for Liberals to suggest that the NDP is somehow more hypocritical or cozier with the Conservatives than the Liberal party has been is so patently absurd that I just find it amazing that they would have the nerve to level such charges.
But as expected these accusations are bound to be on the rise now that the NDP has shown some life in the polls. But the Liberals really need to look at themselves for their failures, and not at the NDP. The fact is that the Liberals have moved so far right under Ignatieff that it is not surprising that people are looking for alternatives. Even Liberal heavyweights like Warren Kinsella (who is willing to work for Sun Media) have complained about this.
It is time that the Conservatives stopped characterizing the NDP as a socialist party, and that the Liberals stopped attacking the NDP for simple political expediency. Even if one rejects their policies, the NDP is a moderate, centre-left party with policies that are by no means socialist. They are a long way from the NDP of the 1970s and they don't call for the mass nationalization of industry. Rather, like most modern social democrats, the NDP supports a mixed economy in which universalism in healthcare and education are basic principles, and in which the people and the government are not simply at the behest of Bay Street and large corporations. There is nothing particularly radical about these beliefs. In fact modern Neo-Liberal conservatives are considerably more extreme than the NDP because they really represent the colonization of our social and political institutions by corporatism. And the Liberals are not far behind the Conservatives in regard to this outlook. Furthermore, regardless of what Liberal bloggers say, the NDP caucus has generally acted with more decorum and dignity in the House than either the Liberals or the Conservatives. And this is, I believe, reflected in Layton's overall positive image.
Most of all I am disturbed by the tendency of so many Liberals to attack the NDP for even being in the political process because, they suggest, NDP supporters are just playing into Harper's hands by splitting the vote, as though they are actually doing it intentionally to help the Conservatives. It is ironic that the Liberals would slay the NDP for taking part in the democratic process given the criticisms they have levelled at Harper for saying that we "don't need this election." Granted, vote splitting can be a real concern under circumstances in which you have an extreme right party that threatens to take power. And I, for one, support strategic voting where it is appropriate. But it is fundamentally wrong to criticize the NDP for simply taking part in the process of democracy. The same is true of people who vehemently criticize the Bloc for it very existence. Regional parties are a reality in many parts of the world, and they have a perfectly legitimate right to exist. We may object to their divisive nature an disagree with their policies, but to act as though they have no right to represent their constituents is fundamentally undemocratic.
Democracy is a messy business and something for which we must continually struggle. In an era of globalization and corporate power, parties like the NDP are essential to maintaining healthcare, education, democracy, social justice, and equal opportunity. I truly believe that the Liberals have failed to defend these principles in recent years and some people, at least in Quebec, are finally looking toward a party that might stand up for what is right. If Liberals are really upset by their failure to gain traction with many voters maybe they should look to their own leaders for failing to create policies that are really alternative to the incumbents.