Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Grit Grassroots Dry Up

There's nothing like a leadership race to get the rank and file pumped with enthusiasm and ready to fight, right?


Even with 11 candidates and not entirely unreasonable prospects of forcing a snap election to return to power under (fill in the blank), the grassroots might not even phone it in next time out:

What is increasingly worrisome are early warning signs for some Liberals that the party faces a far more serious problem at the grassroots than fatigue. Volunteers across the country, they suggest, are angry, frustrated and primed to sit on their hands in the next federal election, as they began to do during the campaign for last January's vote.

Liberals — none of whom think the problem is unfixable — point to varying causes. Taken together, they describe a perfect storm of factors blowing in on federal Liberals with potentially devastating results.

"This isn't an unusual problem for the Liberals. They always tune out the grassroots until they are out of power and need them," said Ottawa consultant Jamie Deacey, who co-chaired Paul Martin's leadership campaign in 2002/03. "What makes it so egregious this time is the problem on the other side of the aisle — Stephen Harper."

Deacey perceives the Conservative Prime Minister as a "formidable and ruthless" opponent at a time when he says the Liberal grassroots are alienated and, worse, some Liberal elites "have yet to come to terms with not being in power. It's like any 12-step program. If you are going to get better, you've got to admit you've got a problem first."

Martha Hall Findlay, a Toronto lawyer and candidate for the Liberal leadership, witnessed grassroots alienation first-hand recently when she criss-crossed the country in a campaign bus. From Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley to Blind River in northern Ontario to Alberta's Peace River, "the one thing that was most surprising was how angry Liberals are," she said. "The level of anger is palpable."

When a party is built solely around the purpose of holding power and distributing largesse to its supporters, with no core vision to sustain it, it had better keep winning or it will fall apart after the first loss.

Greed will not suffice; when the trough dries up, the greedy go elsewhere.

For lack of vision, a party perishes.

Not that I mind.

Source: Toronto Star

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