Thursday, November 20, 2008

November 2008 Book Club Selection: Dead Centre, Jamey Heath

Heath argues for ideological hegemony of New Democrats

In the wake of the 2005/06 federal election, many Liberals were pointing the fingers of blame at Jack Layton and the NDP, blaming them for the election of Stephen Harper and the Conservative party.

The NDP first helped the Conservatives defeat the Liberal government, then helped them form the election by winning seats away from the Liberals and by splitting the vote in many ridings won by the Conservatives.

Dead Centre author Jamey Heath has one thing to say about all this:


In Dead Centre, Heath insists that the Liberal party was the author of its own defeat. It was the Liberal party that concocted and managed the Sponsorship Scandal. It was the Liberal party that failed far too many times to satisfy progressive Canadians. It was the Liberal party that had exhausted Canadian patience with it.

Heath insists that the NDP should not stop trying to win votes and seats away from the Liberal party, but that the NDP should work toward the goal of supplanting the Liberal party as the engine of progressive political action in Canada. Furthermore, by supplanting the Liberal party, the NDP would have the opportunity to govern and would no longer have to settle for half-measures from the Liberals.

To many New Democrats, Heath's prescription seems to be just what the doctor ordered. But for a great many Canadians, Heath's vision is far from fully benign.

What Heath imagines clearly entails the further polarization of Canadian society. He insists that what he describes as the "meaningless middle" must be destroyed, as left-wingers seek a full "loaf", rather than merely crumbs.

Heath also indulges himself in his own fair share of historical revisionism, when he insists that Pierre Trudeau should be considered an NDP, rather than Liberal, icon.

The logic of embracing Trudeau -- considered by previous New Democrat scribes such as Walter Stewart to be a massive disappointment in terms of progressive policy -- seems far from iron-clad.

Dead Centre presents an interesting vision for Canada, but also reminds those Liberals who imagine that the NDP can be convinced to fold up and accept defeat so the Liberal party can govern the country indefinitely.

No, the NDP is in Canadian politics to win -- as they should be.

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