Thursday, June 27, 2013

Whatever Happened to Feisty and Bold?

I miss the feisty social democratic leadership of Ed Schreyer and Howard Pawley, Tommy Douglas and Ed Broadbent. I think New Democrats should be leading change and not simply coasting along somewhere near the leading edge.

Perhaps it's the zeal of a convert, or the naiveté of a political bystander — or perhaps it's just that I'm growing older — but I'm increasingly impatient for substantive social change. As a youth, I was active as a Progressive Conservative until the reactionary right hijacked the party and there was no room left for Red Tories. So I lingered briefly with the Liberals until I concluded they were timid, tepid and tumbleweed-like, with more opportunists per capita than I cared to contend with.

My leftward journey led me to the New Democrats, inspired by the dream of a cooperative commonwealth. It was a movement as much as it was a party. I sometimes worry that we've lost sight of the dream that inspired our founders in our own desire to be viewed as a credible governing party, both provincially and federally.

I realize that politics is the art of the possible and that the ideal is always something that lies in the future. It's sometimes joked that New Democrats are "liberals in a hurry" and, if there's even a kernel of truth in that assertion, I wish we'd appear to be in a bigger hurry than we've seen in recent years, even allowing for the fiscal challenges that governments face and the rapidly changes social circumstances they must address.

In my heart, though, I don't believe that social democracy is simply liberalism in a hurry. I think it's something bolder than that, something fundamentally different and superior to that. I'd like to see more risk-taking — something bold, grounded in our values, which shows that social democracy is the political philosophy most in keeping with the hopes and aspirations of the 21st century and the unfulfilled promise of democracy, equality and justice.