It was a short summer. It seems like only yesterday that the federal NDP phoned me to ask for money. In fact, it has been three months, and come to think of it, it has become a three month ritual now. A hack phones me long distance from Toronto to ask me if I would “once again” support the New Democratic Party, “as I have so generously in the past”. Where do they retrieve these records, from the Smithsonian? Or maybe it was a commitment made by my doppelganger in a parallel universe. For the fourth time now, I surprised the caller by saying that I do not support the NDP, and don’t plan to anytime in the future. But this time the caller surprised me. She didn’t ask me why or contest my arguments. I was disappointed. I hadn’t harangued anyone for a week now and I needed a fix of nasty.
There was another thing that surprised me too. She had a thick Chinese accent. Something was amiss. I door-knocked for a dozen elections in Vancouver and I know that Chinese with an accent that pronounced are not typically fans of social democracy. Notwithstanding a handful of high profile examples, Chinese faces at an NDP general meeting are as rare as hen’s teeth. Hong Kong, where the vast majority of Vancouver’s Chinese population hails from, is not a socialist hotbed.
I couldn’t resist. I asked her, “I am curious, are you yourself a member of the NDP, do you work for them as a volunteer or did they hire you to phone me? Are you even going to vote NDP?” She answered that she couldn’t vote because she was an immigrant, and not a citizen, and that yes, she was hired to do the phoning on the party’s behalf. This is a significant find. The NDP, and the CCF before them, were characterized by the unrivalled devotion that their vast army of volunteers had for the cause. That volunteerism was their saving grace. Now other party could match it. They could only outspend the NDP by a wide margin.
But times they a-changin’ . The NDP still cries poor, but there is no longer this fabled gap between them and the old line parties in financial resources. Maybe that is because they themselves are now “old-line”. They spin the line of “sustainable growth” just like the Liberals and Conservatives. “Growth is good”, Jack Layton said in 2008, “as long as its benefits are equally shared”. And as long as the NDP can throw some green paint over its growthism. No wonder yuppies love them. They can see their portfolios rise again and carry on living the good life in clear conscience, because growth will continue as ever before.
But gone is that grassroots conviction, that fire that touched so many people and motivated them to pour their energy into the party. It turns out that their kind of social democracy is nothing to write home about. It seems that it is not worth defending. So now the NDP has the dough to fight another day. Enough money to hire someone just out of the airport to due their bidding.
After she concluded telling me that she was still an immigrant, and that was calling from Vancouver, I felt compelled to implore her to vote NDP when she is qualified for citizenship. After all, I said the NDP represents foreign interests, not ours. Too polite to answer back, she abruptly bid goodbye for the night.