Should he find the federal leadership of the NDP not to his taste, I suspect that Jagmeet Singh has more than one career option to fall back on. He could, of course, return to his law practice, or he could embark upon an entirely new path and become a New Age life coach. He'd be a natural.
Consider the relentless positivity the man exudes. There was, of course, his much-viewed and much-praised response to racist heckler Jennifer Bush during a campaign rally in Brampton last September. Rather than engage her madness, Singh offered the following:
“What do we believe in? Love and courage,” he said. “We believe in an inclusive Canada where no one is left behind. We believe in building a Canada that ensures that there is economic justice for everybody.Few except the irreparably bent would find much fault in his classy reaction. However, the fact that similar rhetoric was Singh's response to his party's defeat in four-recent byelections, as reported by Chantal Hebert, may be cause for concern:
“We welcome you. We love you. We support you … we believe in your rights,” he said, as the crowd chanted “love and courage” – a slogan used by Singh’s leadership campaign.
The encounter ended after several minutes when the woman decided to walk away.
On the morning after his party endured a quadruple byelection beating, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh had this to offer on Twitter: “Each and every one of us has an inherent self worth. Nurture and grow it. Give it time and love. Build a courageous belief in your own self worth and you will have the strength to overcome any challenge you face.”Like two warring factions, the critical thinker in me says these two examples are insufficient to constitute a pattern, while the cynic within fears they may; in which case, style and platitudinous rhetoric threaten to overwhelm principled policy, a phenomenon not unheard of in contemporary politics.
But the pity is, it doesn't have to be this way.
While on holiday last week, I took some time to catch up on my Walrus reading and came upon an article that examines contemporary socialism. Entitled Socialism Is Back. Is the NDP Listening? the piece, written by Ira Wells, argues that the party can achieve victory by returning to its principles.
Citing the resonance of Bernie Sanders' message during his run for the Democratic nomination and the very impressive electoral gains made by Britain's Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn, Wells believes that the death-of-socialism narrative that has been promulgated over the years is overblown and inaccurate:
Over the past few decades, the assumed victory of laissez-faire capitalism over socialistic alternatives has been the sine qua non of Western economic policy. Austerity, de-regulation, de-unionization, trade liberalization, tax cuts—the free-market fundamentalism underlying these policies is not, we are told, a contestable ideological position, but rather economic reality. Anyone who dares challenge the essential wisdom of the market is labeled an irresponsible fantasist, unworthy of the people’s trust. In fact, partly due to Corbyn’s leadership, pollsters predicted a historic victory for the incumbent Conservatives (who were going into the election with a majority), saying that they could see their strongest electoral showing since 1979.
Far from the predicted ascension of right-wing nationalism, 2017 has seen a generational revival on the left. An increasingly educated electorate is capable of repudiating the atrocities perpetrated in the names of Marx and Lenin while also recognizing that specific, achievable goals—a livable minimum wage or guaranteed annual income, universal healthcare, reduced income inequality—are properly called socialist goals, and that their realization would enable better lives for more people.Demographics and circumstances, Wells suggests, makes this the ideal time for the embrace of policies that truly and unapologetically serve the needs of the people:
As the dream of home ownership recedes further into the realm of fantasy, young, urban voters in Canada could be receptive to housing policy akin to Corbyn’s right-to-buy scheme, which would regulate rental markets and guarantee tenants the opportunity to buy their homes at subsidized mortgage rates. At a time when more young Canadians than ever are attending post-secondary education—and when more parents than ever are paying for that education—tuition relief policies, embraced by both Sanders and Corbyn, could also resonate here. And as the Trudeau government approves more pipelines and encourages further tar sands development, space emerges on the left for a more credible environmental policy.The promise of Justin Trudeau's Liberals has proven to be more sham than reality. The NDP, if it is willing to bide its time and replace a lust for power with principled policies that will resonate with a wide cross-section of Canadians, it can once more become a real presence in this country.
I'm just not sure Jagmeet Singh is the person for the job.