The enormous outpouring of emotion on Jack Layton's passing continues unabated. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are leaving messages and flowers, and making donations to the Broadbent Institute. Millions more are writing tributes online, through the NDP website, Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.
The love and appreciation, the loss and grief that we're expressing and witnessing are not only for Layton the man. Jack was loved, we know that. For sure, we found him personally engaging - determined, hopeful, charismatic, sincere, caring. And for many Canadians, it was Jack's personality and style that first drew them in. But after that, it was Jack's vision - the NDP's ideas and platform - that kept them interested.
Let's reflect for a moment on the results of the election of May 2, 2011.
We know that 5,832,401 million Canadians voted for the Conservative Party, an increase of slightly less than two percent (1.96%) over the 2008 election. Support for the Conservative platform remains static, with about 24% of eligible voters choosing Stephen Harper's vision of Canada.
We know that 4,508,474 Canadians voted for the New Democrats, a surge that translated into the party's unprecedented gain of 67 seats and status as Official Opposition.
We also know that in 122 ridings won by either the Conservative Party or the Liberal Party, the NDP came in second. In many of these ridings, the final tallies were very close: in 14 ridings won by the Conservatives with the NDP finishing second, the difference was a total only 6,000 votes. And the NDP finished below second in only five percent of ridings nationally.
The punditocracy, at a loss to explain their failure to predict, immediately declared that a vote for the NDP was really a vote for None Of The Above. Quebec voters, especially, were said to be suffering from mass ignorance. These voters apparently understood that they didn't like the Conservatives, the Liberals or the Bloc. And then, not knowing what else to do, they shrugged their collective shoulders: oh well, I don't know what this party's about, but Jack Layton seems like a good guy, I'll roll the dice on these unknowns. Along with Quebeckers, millions of young voters suffered from a similar ignorance.
What condescension. What bullshit. As I wrote when Parliament returned in June:
Why would voters understand they didn't want Liberals or Conservatives, but somehow not understand what the NDP stands for? Did Jack Layton not campaign his heart out? Did the NDP not run ads announcing its platform? Was Michael Ignatieff so much more visible than Jack Layton during the 2011 campaign? No, no, no.The "none of the above" explanation was an attempt to dismiss the left alternative, to deny what had become blatantly obvious: millions of Canadians wanted change, and they wanted change from the left.
Right now, the ongoing display of love and grief for Jack Layton is a reminder of those four and a half million votes. Read the messages. We are not only missing and remembering Jack, we are thanking Jack - thanking him for his vision, for the NDP's vision of a more humane, just, equal, inclusive society.
Seems to me the best way to honour Jack Layton is to work for that vision.
[More links to Layton memorials are in comments here; more photos from Jackman Chiu here; thanks to Impudent Strumpet for the tip on Chiu.]