Cookie Cutter Constituents Don’t Exist

By Jason Menard

When will the political parties learn that cookie cutter constituents don’t exist? By overplaying to one particular sensitivity, they run the risk of offending one’s other sensibilities and losing potential votes because of their high school clique mentality.

For example, I’m dying to take the New Democratic Party seriously in this federal election. My left-o’-centre heart is looking for a champion to take a stand on the social issues that I deem important and – on the surface – the NDP looks to share many of my ideals. That is until they open their mouths and drown in rhetoric.

What spews forth isn’t political discourse – it’s nothing more than high-school put-downs and the perpetuation of naïve stereotypes.

Until the NDP’s supporters learn to tone down the propaganda, they’ll never been taken seriously by the majority of Canadian voters. Until that happens, like a despondent surfer they’ll continue to miss being able to ride the wave of discontent that the ruling Liberal Party has left in its wake.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, I receive an NDP e-mail newsletter in my e-mail in-box. I could unsubscribe, but the content is just so amusing that I’m compelled to read each and every missive, right down to the “Yours in Solidarity” ending. Unfortunately, instead of being a reasoned, intellectual discourse, it more often than not reads like a high-school newspaper: filled with rah-rah stories for the home side and “My First Socialist” idealism.

For the NDP to succeed it needs to grow up and stop catering to the wannabe revolutionaries. Too many people view the NDP as a party for the financially challenged and the environmentalists. That’s great if you’re a poor tree, but the key to winning an election is having broad-spectrum appeal.

Possessing that campaign attitude is why the Liberals have been so successful over the years. No matter what you are: fiscally conservative, socially liberal, or anything in between, you’ll find something to appeal to you in their campaign literature. Call it what you want, but this one-size-fits-all platform appeals to a broad cross-section of voters – and the proof is in the results.

Contrast that with the feelings you get when you read a line that drips with sarcasm, such as “The NDP doesn’t receive the $5,000 cheques that the other two parties get from their corporate friends.” Makes you wonder how exactly is the party trying to extend its reach and appeal to a wider demographic?

The fact is, we live in a corporate society and many of us are part of the corporate machine. We want a party that’s going to be inclusionary. Canadians want to be competitive financially, yet remain socially conscious. The NDP’s brand of rhetoric echoes those high school years. You know, the cool kids would shun the Goths and geeks, who would in turn apply wide-sweeping stereotypes to the jocks and rich kids. And the cycle would go on and on!

That type of clique mentality is painful enough in high school – this is the real world of politics. It’s time to stop trying to make everyone fit into one single classification. The fact is, many of the things I believe in are far left. But when it comes to funding and fiscal resources, I lean a little to the right. Where do I fit? Am I a tree-hugging hippie, or a heartless corporate shill? Or am I a little bit of both? Aren’t we all?

We need that type of rapprochement between all the candidates. We no longer live in a world where we all support one party to the exclusion of the others, so it’s time for a Breakfast Club-esque meeting of the minds. The next debate should not be moderated by some TV talking head – we need John Hughes to script it!

Blue, red, yellow, and green – we all share more than we differ. We’re all Canadians and we’re all wanting the same thing: to make this the best country possible and to grow together sensibly, productively, and with compassion.

The party that figures it out. The party that understands that not all voters are going to drink the Kool-Aid and follow blindly with whatever their leader says has the best chance of winning. When they learn to reach out to others, instead of shunning them, their political futures will become far rosier.

It’s not enough for the NDP to paint corporate interests with the same brush. They need to accept the differences and search out the compromises. Once that common ground has been breached, then the NDP will finally be a viable alternative for many Canadians.

Until then, they’re looked at as the idealistic younger brother who needs to grow up and learn that not everything is black and white – there are shades of red, blue, green, and yellow.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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