Speaking to a crowd of 150 or so — a JagMeet and Greet — inside an art gallery in one of Ottawa’s trendier neighbourhoods on Tuesday night, Jagmeet Singh suggested unnamed strategists had cautioned him against running for the NDP leadership under the banner of “Love & Courage.”
“They said to us, ‘You can’t talk about love and politics, that doesn’t work. It’s not going to catch on,'” he said. “I’d like to believe it caught on a bit.”
His audience chuckled.
More important, he said, is what the words mean to him.
“It takes an act of love, I believe, to realize that we’re all in this together. To realize that we’re connected. That there’s so much that we share in common,” Singh continues.
“And it takes an act of courage to demand better, to dream bigger, so we can fight for a better and more just world.”
It’s actually hard to imagine anyone familiar with the New Democratic Party turning up their nose at such stuff.
Indeed, If you were writing a hagiographic history of the NDP, you’d probably end up calling it Love & Courage, invoking the most famous words of the party’s two most revered saints.
“Love is better than anger,” Jack Layton famously wrote in his last letter in 2011.
“Courage, my friend; ‘Tis not too late to build a better world,” Tommy Douglas is widely remembered as saying.
Perhaps more important, it makes for a decent hashtag: emotional, earnest, evocative and personal. (There is a passing resemblance to the “hope and hard work” that Justin Trudeau wrapped himself in while becoming Liberal leader.)
If anything, it might only seem presumptuous for a 38-year-old, two-term NDP member of the Ontario legislature to be adopting such a slogan.
But then, running for public office, let alone a party’s leadership, is an inherently presumptuous act. And the NDP is an inherently presumptuous party, seeking as it does to break up the Liberal-Conservative tradition.
As Singh spoke on Tuesday night he was the presumptive front-runner to succeed Layton and Douglas and, most recently, Tom Mulcair as leader of the NDP. That presumption was significantly reinforced 12 hours later when Singh accepted the endorsement of Nathan Cullen, the NDP MP who, if he had run, would have been considered the favourite himself.
Now, in less than two weeks, Singh might inherit the aura of Douglas and Layton.
Singh’s new chapter could be fascinating.