There seems to be consensus among political commentators that Thomas Mulcair is better placed than the leadership candidates he defeated to keep Quebec in the NDP fold. However, how much of the ability of the NDP to keep its Quebec seats is in Mulcair's hands?
For broadcast journalists, covering a party convention is the ultimate challenge. Adrenaline surges. Competition is fierce. Reputations are made and lost. At the NDP convention this weekend Mansbridge covered politics. And relished it. And chewed it up and spat it out.
Instead of reading Marx, Mulcair probably studies political polls. 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. This time the question was: Who can beat Prime Minister Stephen Harper?
The media seem obsessed with the difficulty of creating party unity and "healing the wounds" of the campaign. I really don't get a sense there will be a lot of wounds. The opportunity for growth will surely make the party put aside their differences and work together under Thomas Mulcair's leadership.
Mulcair, throughout his career, has displayed the Harper-esque confidence, stubbornness, and vitriol that can allow a supposed underdog to keep fighting until he wins -- as Harper did. Thomas Mulcair is not Stephen Harper, but, he may just be the closest thing the NDP has ever had to him.
The real campaign being waged in a leadership race happens a long way away from the television debates and the convention floor. It's waged in community centres in Surrey B.C. and Longeuil, bars in Halifax and Biggar, and on the phone every day. The ground game is political trench warfare.
In the latest NDP leadership debate, Thomas Mulcair as the perceived front-runner was the target of a number of barbs thrown his way, all of which imply he isn't a true believer in the NDP. Questioning Mulcair's NDP credentials makes for an interesting attack point in a debate, but what happens if your pseudo NDPer wins?
Leadership races are happening in the U.S. and Canada and for most voters and partisans, while winning elections are important, it is also about what kind of policies will be implemented. Most people want to support more than just a political party; they want to support a movement based on clear values.
Say what you will, but Mulcair has bonafides in the environmental field and as Canada abandons international climate accords like Kyoto, any opposition leader -- let alone Prime Minister -- needs to understand the environment file deeply, and the role our environment plays in our economic future.
Canadian political life in 2012 will be anything but dull: uncertain economic times that could either strengthen or weaken Conservative support; two opposition parties in flux, fighting for influence and voter support; and a new leader for the NDP and the Conservative political machine.
While the candidates are a decent bunch of individuals, can Canadians envision all but a couple of them as the next prime minister of Canada? I say that because in the end, that is what this leadership race is all about. Whoever wins could be our next prime minister.
No one should have been completely surprised that the Conservatives were appealing to voters in the rest of Canada, given Québec's declining weight in the federation.
Mulcair is reputed to have a quick and unpredictable temper, which makes him exciting, but he also seems to look beyond the present. He's said that if the NDP ever wants to form the government, it must be prepared to "do things differently." That sounds like an innovative guy who is anxious to break fresh ground.
Applause lines are those bits in a speech designed to get an audience cheering and clapping with approval that you see on the evening news. So what's the problem? Well, the NDP leadership candidates will be tempted to come up with an applause line that's also highly partisan and ideologically-oriented.
As the NDP looks to reinvent itself as Quebec's party, let's pause for a moment and consider what that actually means: advocacy for La Belle Province, modest flirtation with separatist positions, and bilingual frontrunners (both Mulcair and Topp speak French). And here is what it doesn't involve: a full court effort to outflank separatists.
Any time a leadership race becomes a contest of two heavyweights, there is the risk that each side and their supporters will drag out the vote to a bitter conclusion. That leaves room for the 'Stephane Dion' factor to come into play.