As I write this, the New Democratic Party of Canada is counting the first ballot in the leadership race to succeed the dearly departed late lamented Jack Layton (PBUH). I have no dog in this race (I wanted to type "I have no dog in this horse", and I don't have one of those, either), and because the NDP is Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, I wish all candidates the best of luck, and may the best woman/man win.
There are seven people jostling for this position. That's right. Seven. Seven candidates for the leadership. Seven people want to succeed Jack as the leader of the NDP. That boggles my mind.
Not that seven people want to be the leader of the opposition. That doesn't surprise me at all. The job comes with some modest perks, including a residence and increased face time in front of the media (actually, I think that might be about it for the perkiness of the posittion). What I find particularly bemusing is that seven people want to succeed Jack Layton as leader.
I know that the NDP needs capable leadership. Possibly now more than ever. It is a crucial time not only for the party, but also for the country. We need a strong opposition. Right. Fucking. Now. The Tories seem determined to Godwin themselves all over the place, and while I know the federal Liberals have had their share of scandals, the Tories are taking skeeviness to new heretofore-undreamt-of-in-Canada heights (or depths). It's the job of the Opposition to take the ruling party to task (as much as you can whe the majority rules like Palpatine), remind Canadians when the leading party lies, cheats, steals, or breaks any other rules of law, good conduct, good taste, or even the decalogue, and to offer amendments and options that can promptly and comtemptuously be ignored. And it may seem like a great time to take over the NDP. They are no longer the third party. The Orange Crush crushed the Bloc (which I, for one, was a bit sad to see). They have a bumper crop of young, attractive, intelligent and seemingly capable MPs. The Tories are odious and the Liberals are rudderless. Why the fuck wouldn't you want to be the leader of the NDP?
Zombiejack. That's why.
Zombiejack was at first an ill-advised and largely tasteless hashtag I threw into my twitter feed. It seemed funny, and then it seemed appalling, and then it just seemed like no one would notice anyway, so I left it. But the more I thought about it, it seemed appropriate. I thought about the ghost of Jack haunting the convention, but that's not really true. Ghosts are fondly remembered (unless they're haunting or possessing little kids, and if Jack's doing that, he needs to cut it the fuck out) benign presences that can infuse a gathering with nostalgia, fondness, and fraternity (except when they're scary, and I can't see Jack ghosting that way).
The Dippers are working Jack pretty hard. Granted, he's kind of a martyr. And he wrote a hell of a goodbye. And he was obviously the most important leader the "far left" has had in Canada since St. Tommy Douglas (PBUH). And I know why everyone is talking about him. His ideals, his talents, his ability to unite the party and earn the respect and admiration of those who didn't believe in him or support him: all admirable qualities. But really, the poor bastard is dead. Let him lie. They're working him like a resurrected Haitian Zombi. And that's why he's Zombiejack.
So, setting all that aside for a second, I don't understand why anyone would want to follow Jack onstage. There is no way that any of these people can live up to what he did, who he was, and his exit. The guy led the party to Opposition status and then fucking died of cancer! How can anyone follow that?! And seriously, he was Jack Fucking Layton! I never voted NDP federally. I didn't like the party. I didn't like their platform. I didn't like their tactics. I didn't like their message. I didn't even really like Jack Layton. But I trusted him. I trusted that he believed in what he was saying, and that he thought he really had the best plan for Canada. I don't believe the other leaders the same way. I trusted Jack. The only other party leader I've ever trusted is Elizabeth May, and I know her. I've had dinner with her. I met her kid. She was a reference for me when I was looking for work.
Listen to me. I'm jaded and cynical and mean, and I trusted Jack Layton.
So, obviously, someone has to lead the party. And clearly there would have to be a couple of people who want the job. Acclamation just wouldn't sell the same way, you know? But seriously, seven of you? Are you mad?
Here's where I give advice. Stop talking about Jack Layton. You're not doing yourselves, your party, the left or the nation any good by (and I apologise for this metaphor) beating that dead horse. Jack cannot lead you anymore, and he can't be the nice, intelligent, articulate, compassionate, considerate and capable leader to put up against Harper. Jack is dead, and Steve's untouchable, untaintable, and possibly immortal (he does have an inhuman quality about him, doesn't he?). Please, remember Jack fondly, have a wake for him this weekend, toast his accomplishments, and then leave him the fuck alone.
Here's where I make predictions. The new leader of the NDP cannot continue the meteoric rush of the last election. Four years is too long to maintain that momentum. So unless the Tories fuck up severely, and Harper loses the confidence of his own minions, and is brought down in a decidedly un-Harper-like splash of un-Harper-like accountability, we're stuck with these sketchy bastards for a few more years. And under the relenting air war of the new Tory regime, the NDP cannot maintain that push forward. I suspect that the near-messianic halo about Jack will cripple the next two leaders of the party. This one won't likely survive the next election. The one after that will still be too close to Jack to get out from under his shadow. If the NDP survives the Conservative War Machine as an independent party, it won't be this person or their successor who can get the NDP back to where they are now, let alone improve their seat count. And that, of course, discounts what the Liberals are going to do, and dismisses the possibility (because it's very slim, and I say this as a Green) of a Green surge.
I'm afraid to say it, but I think this New Democratic Party died with Jack.