New Democratic Party (NDP) threw their lead, Thomas Mulcair, under the bus. Getting rid of him, as the party did this week, made about as sensible as firing the hockey coach after injuries cook the team’s chances. It wasn’t Mulcair’s fault, but he was the guy at the top, so he had to go. Maybe it will make a difference, but at the end of the day you still have the same players on the ice, so probably not.
The NDP had never managed more than third place status in Canada until 2011 when they eclipsed the Liberals for second place. This was an exciting time for the party. Optimism was high, and they felt they finally had an inside shot at winning in 2015. All they had to do was find a moderate voice within the party to expand the tent and lead them to victory. Muclair was that man.
The NDP knew the voters were keen to remove Stephen Harper’s Conservatives from power so they quite logically thought that all the had to do was present the most centrist platform to the voters, which they arguably did.
Unfortunately for the NDP, voters don’t really care about policy, especially mad ones. Just look at Trump south of the border. He could do and say anything without losing a lot of support because he knows the voters are mad as Hell, and won’t take it any more.
I am not a psychologist, but I’ve read enough Dilbert books to know that you cannot reason with someone who is mad as Hell. If you don’t believe me, go home, and wind your wife up until she’s about to explode with rage. Then try to reason with her. Good luck!
Mulcair lost because Trudeau won, and Trudeau won because Harper made a big deal out of the niqab issue. Harper’s calculated move did shift NDP supporters to the Conservatives in Quebec (the only province that cares about people wearing niqabs), but it was the final nail in the Conservative’s coffin. It was the first nail the NDP’s coffin because, even though the NDP was leading in much of the country, their share of the national vote dropped below that of the Liberals by 2 percentage points after weaker polling results surfaced in Quebec. Since most voters (especially the mad ones) only look at national polls, and because most voters were determined to vote for whomever had the best chance of defeating Harper, they jumped ship en masse, even when the NDP was winning in their own electoral district. In many instances these ship jumpers moved the NDP from first to third.
There was nothing Mulcair or anyone could do at that point. The voters had found their man best able to defeat Harper, and no amount of policy, charisma, or reasoning could change their minds. Only a shift in the polls could alter their voting preference, and the polls were snowballing toward Trudeau and his Liberals because the NDP lagged nationally.
At the end of the day, the election was decided by a few thousand Quebecers for which the niqab issue was more important than stopping Harper. Perhaps those polled only said they were voting Conservative as a means of expressing their opinion on the niqab, but in either case, it was enough to create a chain reaction across the country.
Mulcair seems like a good man and a forceful debater, but his party wanted to throw him under the bus even though the NDP had one of their best showings ever at the national level. The party has irresponsibly kicked him to the curb because they fail to understand the fact that their fortunes were determined by external forces beyond their control.
They will fare worse in the next election, and it will be the party’s fault that time.