Last night, I committed a grave sin of hubris. I was so convinced by the polls and analysis I had seen, that I took it for granted that Harper would not win a majority. Wanting to be among the first bloggers to comment on the election result, I therefore wrote a canned post celebrating the fact that Harper had once again been held to a minority and would shortly thereafter be brought down on confidence. For obvious and depressing reasons, that post will not be published. It now falls to me and the rest of the progressive Canadian blogosphere to figure out how best to salvage our country from this absolutely atrocious excuse for an election result, in which forty percent of voters somehow managed to hand near dictatorial power to their favourite candidate, while the remaining sixty were left with no meaningful representation.
There is no way to sugarcoat this result. This is bad. Very, very bad. Over the next four years, Stephen Harper is going to throw thousands of Canadians in prison, de-regulate whatever he can think of, stall international climate negotiations, put more riot cops in our streets, and generally make the biggest mess he possibly can of our country. Left unchecked, Harper’s market fundamentalism will kill people and ruin lives. And so long as the Tories maintain party discipline, there will be absolutely nothing that the opposition can do about it, regardless of the massive increase in support for the NDP.
I can, nevertheless, take some small consolation in the experiences of those in other countries when they have faced large electoral wins from regressive political parties. In the United States, in 2004, they faced a result very much like the one we are facing now. A man who, by that point, could already be named among the worst presidents in the country’s history, was re-elected thanks to a weak and ineffectual challenger. Sound familiar? In his second term, George Bush felt empowered to go even farther off the deep end than he had in his first. This lead to four very dark years for the United States. But at the end of those four years, Barack Obama, a presidential candidate openly in favour of public healthcare, closing Guantanamo Bay, and raising taxes on the rich, was elected by a landslide. A memorable Onion article from that time was humorously yet insightfully entitled “Nation Finally Shitty Enough to Make Social Progress“. In four years, we too might reach that state. Think about what a re-organized and re-invigorated Left can accomplish when the pendulum swings away from Harper’s conservatives.
A second case study, also in the United States: Wisconsin. In last year’s elections, the state elected a Scott Walker to the governor’s office. Walker, a man just as repulsive but not nearly as clever as Harper, immediately began an unprecedented attack on public sector unions. The people of the state responded by rising up. They held massive daily protests in Madison. The police, when asked to evict the protesters who had been ocupying the state capitol building for weeks, responded by telling Walker that they are not his palace guards, taking off their uniforms, and joining the occupiers. The state’s democratic senators left in order to block the legislation from being pushed through. The bill eventually passed, but is currently being contested in front of the state’s supreme court. Even if he survives the current recall attempts, Governor Walker will probably not be re-elected.
Lastly, the United Kingdom. I’ve mentioned them a few times before, because their story is truly amazing. They had an election just as disastrous as the one we have just witnessed. David Cameron become Prime Minister of the country and immediately begin dismantling British social services including education, libraries, national forests, and local councils. The British, who had up until that point displayed a lack of civic engagement comparable to that which plagues Canada, saw a the rapid organization of the largest protest movement since the days of Margaret Thatcher. Hundreds of thousands of angry people descended on London on multiple occasions to block Cameron’s policies and demand an alternative solution to the deficit. They have had successes and failures, but their unapologetic support of the social welfare state is now on the British political radar. The British are also now on the way to reforming their First Past the Post system-the same system that gave us our Conservative majority.
None of the aforementioned battles have been particularly easy, and none of them have had any easy victories. But they all tell the same story: Even in the face of the worst imaginable electoral defeats, there is still space to fight for positive change. We need to occupy and expand that space until the progressive majority that makes up sixty percent of this country’s electorate has its voice back. Then we need to keep fighting against regressive economic and social policies, and for a country that we can be proud of. That battle starts as soon as the House of Commons re-convenes. When that happens, I look forward to seeing you all on the streets.
Until then, we all owe it to ourselves to take a little break. This election has been exhausting and our defeat has been soul-crushing. So first, watch this adorable video of bunny show jumping. It will cheer you up.
Feel better? Maybe just a little bit? Good. Now, take a vacation from politics. Go do something that you love for a while. Recharge your batteries, because god knows you’ll need the energy in the coming years. For my part, I’m going to avoid blogging about Federal politics for a little while. Expect some more abstract philosophical posts, and maybe some boring personal crap about my imminent trip to Whitehorse. After that, dear reader, I look forward to standing with you as we do all we can to resist Harper’s agenda.