Saturday, May 06, 2006

Blogging the LPC(O), Day Two: Power to the people

Forget past leadership feuds. The real problem in the Liberal Party isn’t division between different leadership camps; it’s the division between the party hierarchy and the grassroots.

There is a sense among many long-time, loyal Liberal activists that, for far too long, the party elites don’t give a crap about the grassroots…until election time that is, when they need the worker-bees to knock on doors, stuff envelopes and do all the grunt work that gets them elected and helps them get good jobs.

Between campaigns, though? Forget about it. Policy is driven from the top down and so is the strategy. Perhaps lip service is paid to the grassroots, but nothing more.

And that’s a mistake. For one thing, it builds an ivory tower mentality. A bubble effect. There is so much energy, but also ideas, knowledge and brainpower, at the grassroots and it needs to be tapped. The party has lost touch with the people of Canada after 13 years in power, and that started with losing touch with its grassroots. They’re the people on the ground, they know what’s going on their communities, and that intelligence can’t be discarded.

Also, if you ignore the grassroots they won’t be there during the election when you really need them. People don’t like being taken for granted and they’re not stupid. They’ll stay at home. Many have in recent years. We need them back.

I was glad to see some of the leadership candidates touch on this point Friday night. Ken Dryden touched on it, but I thought Carolyn Bennett really nailed it. As she said, we need democracy between elections as well, we need to empower the members, and the culture of the party needs to change.

Among many, sadly, the culture our party elites today is one of entitlement and arrogance. I’ve seen this firsthand. The party in different regions has been controlled by cliques that know how to stack meetings with insta-members, skills they learned in the murky trenches of youth politics. They may not have much experience but you can’t offer them advice, they know what they’re doing and you’re with them or against them.

Our hierarchy is very top-down. The hierarchy dictates to the grassroots, not the other way around. Policy developed, if the hierarchy allows it to make it to plenary and it passes, is dismissed if not in line with their own goals. And take membership sales. The vast majority are sold at the riding level, but in BC every penny of the membership fee goes to the party, and none to the riding, even though they did the work to sign them up and their task of reaching out to their members gets more expensive with each new member.

As Carolyn said, our culture does need to change. And change never happens from the top down. It’s not in their interest to secede their power. Change, as always, comes from the bottom-up, and the grassroots is where the culture change in the Liberal Party needs to begin. I recently re-read 1984, and to borrow from Orwell, if there’s hope for change it lies with the proles, if they ever realize their power.

And we in the grassroots have the power. We just need to choose to flex our muscle. We put these guys in office and in power, they work for us. Let’s demand change, and accept nothing less. Let’s seek out and support candidates that share our ideas, or run ourselves if we can’t find them.

Let’s actually be the open tent we like to say we are.

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Anonymous said...

We need a new executive ...the fellow with the curly black hair whose name I cant spell and who got dumped because of the Martinites...we need him....get rid of arrogant McKinnon and Ezinga......sorry I know that is mispelled but they are not doing a good job and are always bragging on tv shows....

Anonymous said...

Caroline Bennett eh! I need time and more info OMG 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th ballot What to do? What to do?
The pressure is on. Looking forward to the next blog and who you chose.

Jeff said...

Anon, I think you're thinking of Akaash Maharaj.