|Nathan Cullen sketches the Cullen Plan|
It is an effort to avoid vote-splitting, and to allow parties to channel much-needed funds into races where their candidate stands the greatest chance of winning. But when questioned about the risk it poses to any party if they are out campaigned in the primary-stage, Cullen is blunt. "If a primary progressive candidate is not able to out-organize and out-fund raise another progressive candidate," he said, "there is no way they are going to beat an incumbent Conservative with an eighty-thousand dollar war chest at their disposal."
This kind of realism in a candidate for leadership of the NDP is refreshing. For many years the party was content to simply be a moral voice, a party of protest, with no hope of gaining power or influencing how the country was governed.
This passive attitude started to change when Jack Layton took over as leader and started orienting the party towards power on the hill, rather than just being a voice in the wilderness.
If there are more in the NDP with Cullen's realistic assessment of politics, then the party has a much better chance of one day governing Canada.
An Op-Ed piece in the Digital Journal gives us more of an idea of this man who, in the Op-Ed's words, tossed a 'policy hand grenade' into the placid and rather boring NDP leadership with his constructive idea of electoral cooperation targeted at firing Stephen Harper as prime minister in 2015.
Cullen is confident, the Op-Ed writes:
The first thing you notice about Cullen is his confidence, and the affable way in which he works the room, introducing himself to anyone he does not recognize. There is an air of "a stranger is just a friend you haven't met" about him, and what may come across as forced mingling in other political figures is absent in Cullen. Likely going back to his days as a community organizer, you can tell that a genuine fondness for personal connections and human narratives helps guide his approach to politics.
This is a man who honestly enjoys meeting new people, and sharing his vision with them of what a progressive new Canada can look like.
And unlike most politicians seeking to lead the NDP, Cullen has a bottoms-up view of politics:
A good start to his campaign to gain the leadership of the NDP. His policy hand grenade so far has done much to change the intellectual ghetto of the leadership race, as Pat Martin put it."Imagine if we could change the parameters of winning," he told the crowd last night, "away from traditional concepts of political victory." A campaign focused on empowerment for common people who didn't see a place for themselves in the official pronouncements that Canada, as Stephen Harper has declared recently, a conservative country founded on conservative values.
It was a grassroots effort that helped Cullen beat out a Conservative incumbent in 2004, and it is the same attitude towards politics that he is bringing to the NDP leadership race.
"My approach to politics is different," Cullen told me as the Hart House meet-and-greet was wrapping up. "I'm a community organizer by experience, and by nature. I see politics as inherently bottom up, and I trust that people can entertain new ideas without being scared away."