Broadbent Comments About Mulcair Betray NDP Principles

Given that Thomas Mulcair the perceived front-runner in the NDP leadership race, it’s not surprising that rival campaigns would attack him. It is perhaps a bit more surprising when a former Leader and one for whom a lot people (myself included) have respect, Ed Broadbent, does the attacking. In effect, Broadbent claims Mulcair isn’t a real New Democrat, that he is too centrist (disclosure: I recently suggested that Mulcair was the best choice for the NDP).

I don’t see any evidence that Mulcair (or any candidate for that matter) is suggesting abandoning the NDP core principles of equality, justice, fairness, but if the goal is to win government, it’s clear that the NDP will have to speak about issues in ways that people who are not long-time NDP members will understand. Chanting “democratic socialism!” doesn’t have resonance with people who aren’t long-time NDP members, even if they may agree with many of the ideas. This is something that the Scandinavian social democratic parties have understood, which is why they keep getting elected.

When Broadbent was Leader back in the 80s, the NDP was the social conscience of Parliament, but would NDPers be satisfied with that today? I suspect most don’t just want to be trying to keep Stephen Harper in check, but rather want to replace his government with a progressive one. Simply repeating the same gospel — preaching to the choir — won’t sway Liberals, Greens, and even former Progressive Conservatives, which is by definition, is what you need to do to grow beyond your core base.

Broadbent was never leader of the government-in-waiting, so it’s perhaps understandable that he would value appealing to the party’s core base is more important than expanding it, but as successful social democratic parties have learned, you must appeal to progressives who haven’t traditionally voted for you in order to be able to enact your own progressive agenda.

I find this “Mulcair is not one of us” line of attack disappointing, for it sows discord within the Party that is entirely unnecessary. It’s fine to make a case for your guy (in Broadbent’s case, that’s Brian Topp), but questioning Mulcair’s commitment to equality, justice, and fairness is probably a turn-off to many NDP members, for it betrays the very principles he aims to promote.