Is Socalism Trendy?

By William Goodall
Correspondent, International Relations Undergraduate Student

With Canada voting the Liberal Party into majority, Justin Trudeau is set to take over as Canada’s parliament prime minister in the coming months. This is a landmark victory for the Liberal Party, as for the past ten years the Conservative Party prime minister, Stephen Harper, had ran the nation based on what many would argue was a twisted, and somewhat racist, materialization of former United States president Ronald Reagan’s vision on government.

Within 24 hours of his victory, Trudeau made promises to the Obama administration for a more progressive agenda, consisting in removing air support from Syria, allowing Muslim women to wear a hijab during their citizenship ceremony, and amending irrational laws, such as 331 of the Canadian Elections Act, which was so helpfully demonstrated by English comedian John Oliver as stating that “no person who does not reside in Canada shall induce electors to vote for or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.”

What is truly interesting about this historical event is how Trudeau’s Liberal Party won. Canada’s left has been divided for the past ten years, with the centrists residing in the Liberal party, while the far left stood behind Jack Layton’s New Democratic Party.  Although not considered as intelligent as his father, Trudeau was able to capitalize on the NDP’s policies and win over the far left.

Using his charisma and youth he was able to take the Liberal’s stance and morph it into a sort of pseudo socialism (or Democratic-Socialism as coined by United States presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders), standing on a platform of legalizing marijuana, tax hikes on the one percent and increased spending on infrastructure.  Effectively Trudeau created a new united leftist front in Canada.

Canada, however, is not alone in this resurgence of the Left.

Canada, however, is not alone in this resurgence of the Left. With beliefs of the Conservative movement’s ineffectiveness in the Senate and House, an overwhelming majority of political scientists as well as Gallup Polls, agree that a Democrat will be the successor to Obama’s mantle. Nevertheless, the views of this Democrat may be far different than those of Presidents Barack Obama or Bill Clinton before them.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a name who would have been scoffed at by the political community for his radical views four years ago, currently leads Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire’s primary election polls. 

But how? How could a nation that not 30 years ago waged proxy war against the ideology of socialism possibly accept and elect a socialist president? And the answer to that was given when Canada elected Trudeau.

How could a nation that not 30 years ago waged proxy war against the ideology of socialism possibly accept and elect a socialist president?

Sanders stated that “conservatives never win when the voter turnout is high” in one of his rallies and one needs to look no further than Canada to find proof of that.  The turnout of Canada’s election was around 68.5 percent of the population, a number not seen since the 1993 election (which ironically enough was also won by the Liberals).  Sanders is planning on using the same logic to win his bid for the presidency.  His target group is the student population, specifically Caucasian males aged 18-25.  Sanders is capitalizing on the political efficacy of this new generation, whose viewership and interest in politics has steadily increased over the past four years.

Sanders also has tailored his campaign to promote similar topics as Trudeau, but with an American focus. His stance on marijuana is ironically conservative, stating at the first Democratic Debate that it should be left to the states on recreational legalization. Nevertheless, he is in agreement with over 55 percent of the United States to use marijuana for medical purposes. Like Trudeau, he plans on attacking the wealth of the one percent, however his truly differentiating factor is his drive for the modernization of the higher education system. Currently, the US does not have free public education, and through systems of prison reform, taxation on big banks and marijuana, he plans to eliminate college debt. His model has proven that democratic socialism can be viable, and lead Canada to victory, with strong voter opinions that any democratic candidate will have to consider while running in the general election.

Sanders is capitalizing on the political efficacy of this new generation, whose viewership and interest in politics has steadily increased over the past four years.

Here is where we find Jeremy Corbyn, newly elected leader of the Labour party and possibly the most ostracizing candidate for prime minister in the upcoming 2020 election. Corbyn needs to look at the tactics of both Sanders and Trudeau if he wants a real chance of being prime minister.

First, before he can win any voters outside of Labour, Corbyn has to sell socialism as Sanders has, especially to the young voters who are more likely to accept higher taxes in exchange for better wages, and to see the end of their parents’ government which would be replaced by a government of their own. Unlike the US, Corbyn cannot rally behind free public education. Also, the popularity of marijuana is far lower in the UK than in the US or Canada, leaving the wage gap and corporate taxation to be key factors. 

In the same way Sanders did, Corbyn needs to distance himself from traditional political norms. More precisely, he needs to lean on a grassroots campaign for prime minister, forgo the big donations from corporations and encourage his MP population to donate big donor money to charity.

Corbyn needs to lean on a grassroots campaign for prime minister, forgo the big donations from corporations and encourage his MP population to donate big donor money to charity.

But while copying Sanders may help his image, and thus allow independents and fringe voters to return to the Labour party, his actual election techniques must be taken directly from Trudeau’s playbook.

Fifty-five seats of the parliament are currently held by a fringe leftist party (the Scottish National Party), and winning those seats back would put Labour at 287, just 40 seats away from the majority. If Corbyn wants to win the general he should adopt the policies that allowed for the SNP to win in the first place, such as the removal of nuclear weapons and stronger environmental standards. He should make attempts over the next several years to diversity his cabinet as Trudeau has done and, more importantly, attack first past the post with unrelenting vigor.

The First Pass the Post Voting System can almost singlehandedly be attributed to the Labour loss in the previous election. It is a flawed post-colonial electorate that is simply outdated, but can never be removed, as it reserves power for those already there.  Trudeau has advocated against it, and Corbyn has blamed it for his loss. However, an action must be taken, even at the risk of parliament being flooded with minority parties.

The Reagan/Thatcher era of politics is over.

The Reagan/Thatcher era of politics is over. America has watched over the past eight years as the Republican Party has turned from a once proud Conservative mecca, to nationalist cock fight complemented with questions of who can misinterpret the Bible best.  While Conservatism is in desperate need of a reinvention, the Progressives can take a head start and embrace the populist notions of the next generation. Sanders puts it best in response to questions of his legitimacy as a candidate, that “people should not underestimate me” just as they should not underestimate the socialist movement.

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Feature image courtsey of Alex Guibord, WikiMedia Commons

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