Why The NDP Are Imploding In Saskatchewan
October 1st, 2020 | JH
A long time ago I was in a truck with a bunch of NDP supporters. We were in rural Saskatchewan and had just finished skeet shooting and were heading back to Regina. We threw all the guns loosely in the back and cracked beers for the drive home. The discussions were politically interesting. I listened carefully but didn’t add much to the conversation since I’m a right-wing extremist and didn’t want to get into any debates after a fun day.
Funny thing is, none of the conversation was particularly objectionable. There was some griping about corruption and business antics. The political culture of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” was just as distasteful to these guys as it is to our readers. There was a general skepticism and cynicism regarding big business, but other than that, these guys were pretty normal. No woke politics. No absurd SJW posturing. No political correctness.
This anecdote reminds me of another. I was once hired for a service at the NDP leadership race debates in Regina back in 2003. This was the era of Jack Layton’s make-over of the party into a champagne-socialist, Toronto-centric “new” left political machine. The candidates all sat on stage and presented themselves and their bona fides, while the crowd weighed their options.
It was interesting to watch the reactions to the different issues. When candidates started grandstanding on issues like the environment or gay stuff, the crowd was flat, or even chagrinned. Old farmers and union-types sitting at the tables were not impressed by candidates bragging about their involvement in Pride marches. This was the first time I realized that the old NDP and the new NDP were going to have a big division. Former Saskatchewan Premier, Lorne Calvert, sat in the shadows watching the debate unfold. I think he knew it too.
By 2003, the Saskatchewan NDP had been running on Tommy Douglas fumes for far too long. Lorne Calvert was the last NDP Premier of Saskatchewan and he was heavily branded in the Tommy Douglas mold. His church minister background and his grandfatherly vocal patterns, heck, even his haircut… all brought in associations with Douglas. This allowed one more final win for the NDP in 2003. The out-migration of young people and crumbling healthcare were two existential problems that voters could no longer tolerate and in 2007, they voted in the Saskatchewan Party and never looked back.
What became of the NDP?
My NDP contacts stated that the problems immediately began when the old guard of the party refused to cede any control to the up and coming generation of volunteers and activists. They hung onto their executive positions for dear life and kept returning to the same well for inspiration. That’s how we got Dwain Lingenfelter as Lorne Calvert’s replacement.
The huge misreading of public sentiment regarding the Romanow-era led these old-guard guys to believe that the Saskatchewan public would somehow think Lingenfelter would be welcomed back from Alberta with open arms. Coming up against Brad Wall’s “Captain Saskatchewan” brand was annihilating for him. The NDP was trounced and the Saskatchewan Party won their second term.
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The next round of leadership voting saw young Cam Broten take the helm of the party. At the time, I thought he was a deadly opponent for the Saskatchewan Party. I thought he was the NDP version of Brad Wall. Handsome, fresh, young enough to have energy and ideas, but seasoned enough to be competent. I thought it was going to be a tough battle, especially with Wall heading for a dubious third term. But I was wrong. It was another landslide.
I’ve pondered over why it was such a landslide for a while. I suspect a few reasons include; old guard NDP voters have simply died off, new people who had moved to Saskatchewan from outside the province had eight years of Saskatchewan Party incumbency and weren’t enticed to change their minds, internal NDP party division and inertia,maybe things were just good, so why change?
Around this time things were changing nonetheless…for the worse. The resource-based recession hit Saskatchewan particularly hard in 2015, and even though Wall won in a landslide, his popularity began to grind lower. He started to introduce austerity, which is a big no-no in modern politics. We warned about this in the Poletical article, An Open Letter to Brad Wall in 2016. After a few months of popular backlash to the austerity, we then suggested Wall step down from his role in order to change the channel on the direction the party was heading with Poletical article, Brad Wall's Big Mistake. In June, Wall stepped down and Scott Moe took over. The channel was changed, and the popularity of the party is back up to where it should be.
Ryan Meili is now the adversary in the NDP seat and the torch from old left to new left has finally been completed. Ryan Meili embodies full blown woke-left politics of the modern era. He determinationed his way into the leadership with three grinding attempts and has spent his time in opposition presenting himself as a Beto O’Rourke-type character… the skateboarding doctor who cares about climate change maaaannnn! (They’ve obviously attempted to soften his image for the campaign)
This latest NDP attempt is going to fail spectacularly and even with a Buffalo Party protest vote stripping away Saskatchewan Party support, Moe will easily win a minimum of 41 seats on October 23. What will become of the Saskatchewan NDP after that? Who knows? Who cares?
This is Poletical, so what we’re really interested in is what conservatives can learn from the implosion of the NDP.
1. The old left can easily become the new right
One thing Trump has proven in the U.S. is that you can expand the political tent to include people who once may have considered themselves liberals. Ronald Reagan did this in the 80’s, when many “Reagan Democrats” jumped to the Republican team due to Reagan’s unabashed patriotism and the perception that his pro-business approach was trickling down to the working man. Blue-collar voters stopped voting Democrat and instead voted Republican because they were, “walking tall”.
The Trump version of this was to avoid endless wars, address immigration issues and adopt a more economically liberal approach to the economy than former Republicans would have been comfortable with. These three issues alone, helped to activate a constituency that guys like Mitt Romney and John McCain failed to inspire. These constituencies were likely former Democrats or non-partisan, disengaged, non-voters.
In Canada, our national Conservative Party has yet to learn this lesson. Harper broadened the tent only in that he made middle-class Liberal voters slightly less uncomfortable lending their vote to the Conservatives for an election or two. Otherwise the ceiling for the CPC is still roughly 38% of voters.
In Saskatchewan, the Sask Party has done things right. Brad Wall and now Scott Moe were able to make the Sask Party a home for both people who wanted to feel proud of their province and people that wanted a party that looked out for the interests of the common man. The Sask Party has welcomed the old left in Saskatchewan, and by that, I mean people who prioritize; eliminating poverty, ensuring a good public health-care system, having a healthy suspicion of big business, a collective sense of “we’re all in this together”, effective unions, and shared prosperity.
Certainly the hardcore old left still hate the Sask Party by default, and the new left hates the Sask Party for all the typical new left reasons, but the median Saskatchewan voter is now 60% in favour of the Sask Party by default and has been for years. Unless something in the culture begins to change rapidly (Wexit?), or Scott Moe gets entangled in something specific like a scandal or three, the natural governing party will be the Sask Party for the foreseeable future.
2. Mentoring youngblood
What I’ve heard from the NDP insiders is that the party was controlled by an old guard that refused to mentor, promote or empower up and coming members of the party. The top down approach got entrenched and impenetrable. As a result, the party could not be renewed from the inside out.
I’m in my 40s and I remember NDP associates of mine ten years ago thinking that their time was coming to take over the party with leadership positions from within, and instead they found themselves doing data entry and volunteer-type stuff indefinitely. Now this is anecdotal and I’m sure some NDP old guard-type might read this and say, “That’s not true! I remember a young person elected to a treasury position on our electoral board that one time!”
Nevertheless, I’m inclined to believe the stories, especially considering how the party has declined over the years as a result.
It’s important to bring young people under your wing. Not many young people are interested in politics and using and abusing the ones that are in order to squeeze out their enthusiasm and naivete for your own short-term purposes will be your downfall. Political parties need to encourage and appreciate their young supporters in hopes that those relationships will stay strong in the ensuing years.
"Ryan Meili embodies full blown woke-left politics of the modern era."
Again, this is all shot like a Hallmark movie and it's very PG-13, but they push the content into some crazy territory which makes for a strangely hilarious contrast in tone.
Near the end of season one, Johnny gives the kids a pep talk at a karate tournament that ends with, “Now let’s go out there and beat the shit out of everybody!” which is quickly followed by a sanctimonious speech by the current teen karate champion…
Canada is especially pathetic when it comes to political ecosystems. A minute amount of people keep all our political parties running on budgets that look like rounding errors compared to the US. Hardly anyone even belongs to a political party in Canada, let alone wants to get involved in one. Outreach and organization is important, without it you can’t win.
3. Keep the tent big
Conservative minded parties like the Saskatchewan Party work best when they function as a big, broad coalition of interests that feel comfortable under the same roof. Conservatives are much more independent and eclectic than hive-minded progressives, so organizing conservatives under one banner can be a bit like wrangling cats. Nevertheless, the tent must be big in order to maintain power.
Progressives always work to undermine conservative attempts to broaden the tent, by incessantly hammering on old tropes of what they imagine conservatives to be. People like Brad Wall were able to overcome the stereotypes by contrasting themselves so obviously against the type. Normal voters looked at Brad Wall and then looked at NDP-types calling him the next Hitler and it didn’t make any sense.
Scott Moe has the same credibility. By reaching out and engaging with normal people,especially normal people who might not think of themselves as conservatives, you create a party that people are comfortable voting for. Racking up constituencies is important, and it builds coalitions. The NDP have been doing the opposite of this for almost a generation. Their constituencies keep getting fragmented and diminished. By adopting intersectional woke politics they are now categorizing their voters into hierarchies based on the victimhood Olympics. This is going to end very badly for them.
October 26 is going to be an interesting day. Saskatchewan voters will be entrenching a lot of gains made over the past 13 years when they give the Saskatchewan Party one more win. Saskatchewan isn’t at all like the province I left back in 2004 and if the culture and the people keep on the right path, then the politics will reflect the new found attitude and ambitions that have saved Saskatchewan from a withering NDP decline.
Watch and learn Conservative Party of Canada… watch and learn.
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