Gerald Caplan is an Africa scholar, a former NDP national director and a regular panelist on CBC's Power & Politics.
Like others, I'm having a traumatic election campaign. First, the Prime Minister's fearmongering has worked. We're now terrified by a particularly dangerous Muslim woman in Mississauga who is determined to wear her niqab when she's sworn in as a citizen. We're scared silly at the thought of bringing to Canada all those terrorists from the Middle East so cunningly disguised as wretched immigrants, a.k.a. Muslims. I freak because Stephen Harper keeps reminding us how any government but his would ruin the country. And not least, I don't know how to find out if I'm the right stock or not. I sure hope not.
Politics: It really can drive you around the bend. I'm seriously considering hiding away from all further election news. I don't think I can stand it a minute longer. Not only is there so much to fear. There's also so much to flummox us, too, like trying to figure out when the NDP and Liberals have exchanged programs. And maybe most unbearably, it's unhinging trying to guess the final outcome. Yet this is the most important election of our lifetime.
For me, it's the uncertainty that's most unbearable. That's what's doing me in. Who knew making history would be so nerve-wracking? Every time I hear someone say the NDP is in the lead and this election could be won by any of the three parties, I begin to shake all over. It's quite awkward if I happen to be drinking something. But I'm never sure whether it's due to the fear of losing, or of winning.
Look, for those of us who have given ourselves to the social-democratic movement for our entire existence, this is a surreal moment, an out-of-body experience, nearly. An NDP government has been a wildly unrealistic dream, a total fantasy, for all that time. Yet here we are.
But where are we? The polls show a three-way tie. It's unimaginably stressful. Look, edging toward the Promised Land should be the highlight of a lifetime. Jack Layton brought us to the entrance. Let's win it for le bon Jack! Surely le bon Tom is the Joshua who will lead us in. But it's all causing lots of us too much angst. My mind reels from one extreme to the other. What if we win? Can we handle it? What if we lose? Problem is, there are no losses that we can call moral victories any more. How am I supposed to cope?
NDP supporters are still high as a kite. Just as the leader is ready, so are his people. They're inspired by hope and excitement, and they see Thomas Mulcair as their deliverer. They trust him, even when they're surprised by what he's actually saying. They believe in him. They don't know him well but they see him as the great hope. How would they recover if this wild trip fails to pan out? Maybe they'd join me in negotiating the many stages of mourning.
There's the rub for New Democrats today. It seems to them so self-evident who the superior leader is. Stephen Harper is so obviously unworthy. He's such a nasty piece of work and he's done terrible things to Canada. Yet he's doing fine, even better than he was earlier in the campaign. How is that possible? New Democrats shake their heads, failing utterly to comprehend his appeal. He might just pull it off again! The country will surely be kaput, ruined. We'll have to leave, flee. But where to go? Think Samuel Beckett: You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.
Then there's this Trudeau problem. NDPers can't figure this one out at all. He seems to them so callow. Just a kid. They watch helplessly as he nips at Mr. Mulcair's heels, like a yapping yet adorable terrier. Millions want to pet him. But seriously, when you think about someone feeling, looking, acting like a prime minister, do you see Justin Trudeau, or Tom Mulcair? It's really a no-brainer. A slam dunk. So how can we lose?
But how can we win? They're all against us. Just wait for that bombardment of Tory ads. These neocons are awfully good at doing really bad things. And wait too for the barrage of Liberal ads. Can the NDP survive that attack from all sides? We must fight back. But how? What do we do? Those other guys are really tough. They play so much dirtier. Of course New Dems are proud we don't play as dirty. That's not who we are (with exceptions). But then aren't we defenceless against the big bad wolves and terriers? It'll be so humiliating, such an unbearable disappointment, if we lose now.
Here's another mind-boggling question: What if we actually won?
No wonder I'm a basket case. When will it all end? Being the conscience of the nation was so easy. Being so close to power can make you quite nuts.
I wonder what being in power really does to you. Will we ever find out?