Game change : Sarah Palin movie, Rob Ford nation, and the new leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada

Mar 11th, 2012 | By | Category: In Brief

Like millions of others in North America who remain far more interested in politics than common sense suggests we ought to be, last night I watched the HBO TV movie “Game Change” — about Sarah Palin’s run as US Vice Presidential candidate in 2008.  And I agree that it “is gripping throughout, because it’s ‘well-acted.’.”

I also thought that Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Ms. Pailn — and the overall thrust of the movie — made her seem a more sympathetic character than I usually take her to be. At one point another female voice in a crowd says something like “I feel she’s communicating with me, and  I’m not used to politicians doing that.” The HBO “Game Change” at least suggests a Sarah Palin whose bottom line is communicating with people usually left out of the current democratic debate in the United States — and in Canada too.

Here in the city where the leadership convention of the New Democratic Party of Canada / Nouveau Parti démocratique du Canada will take place this coming Friday, March 23 to Saturday, March 24, Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Sarah Pailn can also easily make you think about the present controversial Mayor Rob Ford and what he calls his “nation.”

See, eg, two intriguing enough pieces in this past Friday’s Toronto Star: “The Scarborough subway Mayor Rob Ford promised to build has gone missing. Well, what did you expect,Toronto? “(Heather Mallick),and “Raucous Scarborough town hall meeting demonstrates how LRT vs. subway debate is an electoral gift to Mayor Rob Ford” (Royson James).

All this takes on a still sharper edge when you set it beside today’s federal NDP leadership debate in Vancouver. (You can watch at the edge of your large-screen  TV on CPAC, if you are lucky enough to have this admirable public broadcaster on your cable service. Or you can watch online at the NDP’s own website. In either case the starting time is “3pm ET / 12pm PT.”)

To make a long story short, the thought this chain of mass media events finally brings to my mind is that the left almost certainly needs, or ought to have, or should be trying to cultivate its own versions of Sarah Palin and Rob Ford. Not exactly of course. Both finally do have narrow  right-wing minds, not sufficiently burdened by what Bill Maher would call facts. But both also communicate with various real-world constituencies the left needs to reach, in all too much more effective ways than the forces of progress are usually managing to do right now.

Moreover, the ultimate practical question that all this points to, in my small corner, starts with the premise that the New Democratic Party of Canada / Nouveau Parti démocratique du Canada finally needs its own GAME CHANGE at its leadership convention this coming March 23–24, pretty close to the waterfront, in Toronto, Canada. And then there’s the question itself. Which of the seven candidates finally on offer (or, as it happens, combination of any two?) stands the best chance of bringing some kind of useful Game Change?

Following the latest formulations of Jeffrey Simpson at the Globe and Mail, my current answer to this question would be “Mulcair/Cullen, flexible on verities, against Topp/Nash, defenders of the faith.” In fact I won’t actually be voting at the convention (though I know  a few who will). I will just be watching on TV (CPAC no doubt?). But, as I feel at this exact moment at any rate, I will be rooting for some kind of Mulcair/Cullen coalition. Ideally I would go for Nathan Cullen all by himself, but that is just not realistic. I’d agree as well that, like Sarah Palin in 2008, Mulcair/Cullen in Canada in 2012 is a risky as well as a game-changing choice. And I’m certainly not sure myself just how much short-term advantage this choice will bring the NDP as a mere if increasingly ambitious political party. But I am very close to dead certain that in the long or even the middle run, it will do the country — and the progressive cause of the left in Canada (and the all too large numbers of important people of the democracy who feel that politicians are not communicating with them now)  — a great deal of good indeed.

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