Sunday, July 08, 2007

Cherniak is Wrong

Cherniak, a right-leaning Liberal, posted “The NDP is Sick”. His post was short on verifiable facts, riddled with anecdotes, and unlikely to convince anyone other than a diehard anti-Dipper that the NDP is a “useless party”. Ironically, his intention was to convince “reasonable NDP voters” that their vote would be of greater value if spent on the Liberal Party.

Cherniak focused on the NDP’s “insignificance” in Parliament and “extremists” in the Party. Specifically, Cherniak complained about the NDP celebrating for winning less than 10% of the seats in the House of Commons. To that I respond that getting almost 10% of the seats in the House of Commons is cause for celebration, because it’s an improvement from last election and in a minority government almost 10% is influential. In the 38th Parliament, the NDP represented just over 6% of the House of Commons yet made the Liberals conceded to their budget demands.

The “extremists” Cherniak talks about probably include overzealous anti-Globalization protesters, particularly those protesting at the Quebec Summit of the Americas. Violent protesters were a minority and many activists raised legitimate concerns about Globalization as it is currently conducted.

Cherniak proceeds to claim that extremist NDP voters “…support some "right" of suicide bombers to kill innocent Israelis” without any reference. This is likely a strawman, Dippers and left-wing Canadians are concerned about human rights violations by Israel in the occupied territories and see where Palestinians are coming from. Nobody in the NDP that I’m aware of, however, supports terrorism as a means for Palestinians to gain independence or human rights and if Cherniak could provide a link or source that would be appreciated.

Cherniak is also up in arms about the NDP taking “…just enough anti-Conservative votes to ensure that the Conservatives would win in January.” It is interesting that Cherniak thinks of voters in terms of negatives (voting against someone) rather than positives (e.g. left-wing voters).

Cherniak should take a lesson from recent political history and realize that had the Liberals been reelected it would be little different. For 12 years the Liberals were in power and at an all-time high in terms of inactiveness. Aside from Paul Martin's budget cuts which went way beyond the amount necessary to balance the budget and led to the sorry state of healthcare this country is in. Heck, Stephen Harper hasn’t done nearly as bad as Jean Chrétien & infighting Co. This is because of a minority situation and strong left-wing opposition.

Cherniak did a follow-up to his first post, “The NDP is Sick - Part II” where he tries to give his previous rant an intellectual foundation. Cherniak begins his argument with the reasonable premise that politics is all about compromise. But he then presents a false dilemma, that the NDP voter must either be an uncompromising ideologue or hope that the party moves to the centre to replace the Liberal Party like the U.K. Labour Party did to the U.K. Liberal Party.

But Dippers don’t have to be Third-Way centrists. A New Democrat can support compromise up to a point, but not far beyond that point. In reality the New Democratic Party is the only vehicle to get left-wing policy implemented in Canada. The Liberals, if given a majority, are inactive or corrupt. In a minority they lean left or right depending on where the biggest threat is. It took a strong CCF opposition to pressure Mackenzie King into starting Canada’s social safety net, it took a strong CCF opposition to pressure the Liberals to introduce healthcare, and it took a strong NDP opposition to pressure Paul Martin into funding social programs with 2005 budget. Third-Way centrism, rightfully so, was abandoned when it lost the NDP seats.

Changing policy isn’t the only way the NDP can become mainstream. The political spectrum could shift by the mobilization of groups with previously low voter turnouts, such as the youth or the homeless. Electoral reform could also shift the political spectrum, by giving the nationally dispersed NDP vote more force.

Bev Desjarlais was voted out by the Churchill NDP riding association as the NDP candidate for Churchill and Buzz Hargrove had his NDP membership suspended for telling people to vote Liberal. This annoys Cherniak, who used the two events as example of rigidity in NDP ideology. But Bev Desjarlais voted against a core NDP policy and the riding members should be able to do as they see fit. Hargrove violated the NDP constitution knowingly and such acts shouldn’t go undisciplined.

From reading Cherniak’s two-part rant it’s clear he wants a two-party system in Canada. He tries to show that the futility of voting NDP but isn’t convincing. Underneath all his rationalizing “The NDP is Sick” parts I & II are nothing more than prejudiced rants.

It's really not worth paying attention to Cherniak. He uses caricatures when discussing the NDP and is well known for personally attacking many Blogging Dippers.

He jumped the shark a long time ago.
A two-party system would be disastrous for Canada, especially with respects to lobbying. We can see the consequences on our neighbour down south. As one blogger wrote while discussing the power of the Israel Lobby in US foreign policy: "Isn't this a consequence of the USA's rigid two-party system? When both parties agree to be manipulated by the same lobbies, voters have nowhere to go."
You're right, BC Dipper. After righting this post I found another old post on Cherniak's blog. It seems that he values partisan divide more so than implementing real change.
Damn!! I meant *writing*. There's one for the record books.
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