Every pundit around and lots of New Democrats believed that Mulcair would easily pass the leadership test. They figured he'd have no problem getting close to the 70% vote against a leadership convention.
Last fall, all sorts of people - including a raft of New Democrats - assumed the party would coast to victory in the general election. Just 30 more seats to go they told us just before the vote.
And in both cases, the result was quite the opposite of what everyone believed.
Mulcair and his team were as fundamentally disconnected from their own party as they were from the electorate. Mulcair had a fitting end and his speech was characteristically calm and generous, devoid of any sense of disappoint or rancour. The fact that it was apparently off the top of his head, something unprepared makes it all the more an honest reflection of Mulcair's own thoughts. The speech was almost cold in both its content and in its delivery and that, perhaps, was also a clue as to why the fervent hope that Mulcair would be the one to take the New Democrats into power died a still and lonely death.
Just look at the way the party announced the news. After a string of elections and, entirely in French in a room filled mostly with English speakers. It took folks in the room a while to realise what had just happened. The convention proceeded into a clinical discussion of extending the time in which the party could hold a convention.
He started speaking.
People started to appear behind him, to fill up the space, cover up the hideous orange screen, and not make Mulcair look as alone as he was. Very unplanned, very unscripted, with everyone looking very uncomfortable. Glum.
He spoke briefly.
Then someone moved the adjournment and the speakers started blaring a 1950s American television theme.
"Happy trails to you," Roy Rogers sang, "until we meet again."
In light of what had just happened, coming so close on the heels of Mulcair's defeat speech, it was a darkly funny frig you from the party. A passive aggressive finger flipped behind his back.
If someone had planned the tableau to unfold as it did, then it was someone with a truly wicked heart.
Now the deed is done. The party will have to find a new leader. They are unlikely to move in the direction Jack Layton took them and that Mulcair tried to continue. That was the road to power.
New Democrats are uncomfortable with the idea of being in power. They feel better in sack-cloth, smeared in ashes, and telling the rest of us that we are impure sinners than they ever would feel trying to actually do something for Canadians. If the American right are a bunch who revel in their ignorance, their anti-intellectualism, Canadian leftists are pseudo-intellectual snobs. Both are convinced, however, that they alone are morally correct at all times in all that they do. Both are wrong.
To get elected a political party has to connect with Canadians. New Democrats don't care about connecting with Canadians. New Democrats do not want to win an election. They do not even want to be right. They already know they are right.
Only a gang of self-righteous pricks would hold a national meeting in a province almost totally dependent on oil and gas and talk about the need to shut down everything to do with oil and gas as quickly as possible. Not even the old Reform Party would have been stupid enough to go to Quebec City for a national convention and run a Union flag up the pole on the Plains of Abraham for old time's sake. Stupid is to ignorance as arrogance is to self-righteousness. The stupid and ignorant are unaware of the harm they bring. Arrogance and self-righteousness revel in it. You decide which is better.
The Alberta New Democrats, having just broken a Conservative dynasty that dated back to the 1970s, had no choice but roll their eyes and distance themselves - politely - from the out-of-towners. They put on a brave face, those Alberta New Democrats. We can all disagree and still be good New Democrats. Insert nervous laughter here.
We can expect more of this over the next few months. The New Democrats will pretend to be a unified party but, in truth, they are deeply divided. Individual New Democrats interested in acting on their beliefs will join with Liberals and take power under whichever party banner works in that province. But federally, as in Newfoundland and Labrador, the NDP will remain a small crowd of people on the political fringe better at asking questions than providing answers.