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Mulcair: Not Your Father's NDP Leader

03/26/2012 12:22 EDT | Updated 05/26/2012 05:12 EDT
Le HuffPost

For the first time since 1960, Canada's federal New Democratic Party is really new.

And when I say "new" I mean "different."

In electing the fiery Thomas Mulcair as their leader over the weekend, the New Democrats dramatically changed the nature of their party.

Just think about how his victory has broken the party's tradition. They have gone from Tommy Douglas, a populist socialist, to Ed Broadbent, an intellectual socialist, to Jack Layton, an urban socialist to Mulcair, a tough, politically savvy, ambitious, street fighter.

Oh, and did I mention many consider Mulcair to be something of a political opportunist. Previous to joining the NDP he was a Quebec Liberal, who once apparently also toyed with the idea of joining the Harper Tories.

The point is, instead of reading Marx, Mulcair probably studies political polls.

In other words, he's not your father's NDP leader.

What does it all mean? Well it means the stodgy, class warfare, Solidarity Forever, NDP is gone forever, relegated like Edsels, mood rings and Nehru jackets to the dustbin of history.

From now on the New Democrats are less about fomenting socialist revolution and more about winning votes, less about the proletariat and more about soccer moms, less about ideology and more about gaining political power.

You could sense the change at the party's leadership convention. Previous NDP conventions were always one part union hall meeting, one part religious revival and one part hippie festival. By contrast, the recent NDP convention was all politics, all business. Indeed, it was essentially a generic political gathering, except with orange signs.

And uppermost on the minds of NDP voters was one basic question. And it wasn't the usual NDP-style of question, namely who can best promote a union boss agenda or who looks best in a tweed jacket?

This time the question was: Who can beat Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

And on paper at least, the answer was Mulcair. It didn't matter that he was a newcomer to the party, it didn't matter that Broadbent, the party's elder statesman, had questioned Mulcair's NDP credentials, it didn't matter that Mulcair seemingly wanted to dilute socialist principles -- all that mattered was he matched up best against Harper -- he could win.

When New Democrats looked at Mulcair, they saw a leader who could hold onto the party's newly won bastion in Quebec, who could appeal to non-traditional NDP voters, and perhaps most importantly who could equal Harper in a political gutter fight.

In short, cold political calculations won out over ideology.

So congratulations NDP, with Mulcair at the helm you have now attained the rank of a serious, mainstream political contender.

And all it cost you was your soul.