THIS TITLE ISN’T ORIGINAL TO ME, BUT IT’S COMPELLING. Things are shifting. The media senses it. Political parties recognize it. But above all, we feel it. In the parlance of the old rag-tag political world, the last two decades of a detached corporatism, the strangling effects of the ongoing austerity agenda, and the ineffectiveness of the present political order, means the right-wing agenda is running out of gas, or more likely ethical legitimacy. Our collective problems aren’t going away. Take your pick – a deteriorating climate, escalating poverty, high unemployment, a diminished public space, mushrooming healthcare difficulties, especially in the mental health field – and it’s clear that for all the wealth, the access, the trade, the flooding of the world with cheap goods, we have lost our way.
And so average citizens have begun shifting from their own individual interests to a more galvanizing form of collective pursuits for the good of the broader community. It’s been a long time coming, but it is now here, subtle and still gathering, but its presence is unmistakable. The so-called political right can’t stand this kind of talk, yet it’s had more than enough time so set us on the overcome these hurdles. For all its talk about wealth, globalization, expanding markets, the Right hasn’t been able to deliver on the greatest challenges we face – plenty of money but no solutions.
Five years ago everyone was talking about Wall Street, or Bay Street, versus Main Street. And it’s been a battle. But as more and more average citizens get engaged, the conflict that had been largely group versus group, is summoning and increasing number of individuals, who sense that democracy has to fight for its own future.
The real fight now isn’t about Left versus Right, but communities versus senior levels of government that no longer hear them, and the debilitating partisanship that often substitutes itself for effective politics. At the street level people are coming out and making their presence felt. But we shouldn’t mistake this development as being a Left wing resurgence. The true story is now Canada’s story – what we had, what we want, and where we want to journey together. It is not the boardroom that matters so much, or the political party conference table, but the living room, the kitchen, even the bedroom. Extend this movement even further and you find citizens fighting back in schools, council chambers, neighbourhoods, universities, community colleges, and, yes, even Main Street.
Polling over the last two years reveals that over half of Canada feels enough isn’t being done about climate change, that poverty is too expansive, that the cost of university is too expensive, that the gap between rich and poor must be reversed, and that politics has become a mug’s game.
There you have it; Canadians are emerging from decades of individualism, growing restless, and are ready to pull together to alter their fate. Are there enough of them engaged? Can’t tell, but their number is growing by the month, just in time for a federal election. Naturally, the government is hoping for a vote split between the other parties, but the real story behind that approach is that the progressives are now outpacing the Right and only by dividing the opposition can that Right hope to win. But that’s politics, not democracy. If the government were truly interested in average citizens and communities, it would alter its policies to capture that mood, but instead it would rather use political weapons to divide instead of democratic ploughshares to plant.
South of the border this story is seen in the popularity of progressives like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, perhaps even Hillary Clinton. Up here in Canada it’s not so much about the federal, but the provincial scene, where progressives are rapidly taking over the provincial seats of power. Something is changing and we’re starting to catch the drift: austerity has led us into a cul de sac and we want back out onto Main Street.
Really, other than for political pundits, none of this is about Left against Right, but people against partisanship, citizens opposed free wheeling corporatism, and progressive communities fighting the political class. Citizens are trying to find their back to home to meaning, and opting for Main Street as their avenue of choice, and where their neighbours live. They aren’t looking so much to run away from right-wing dead ends, but towards their communities and one another. If they succeed, democracy for the modern era will be reborn.