Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Crazy Idea?

On one level, it's the height of elitism, decidedly undemocratic, downright unfair. However, the idea floated yesterday, one I've also considered, of simply having the Liberal caucus lock themselves in a room until they come to relative unanimity on the next leader does have merit. A vote, whomever wins, that person is the defacto leader.

One of Dion's biggest challenges, he lacked the institutional support, noteably the endorsement of our caucus. This simple reality hobbled Dion from the onset, and it does speak to some simple, cold facts. As much as we like to think the grassroots have a voice, if a potential leader doesn't enjoy support from the upper echelons of the party, then friction will always exist. Further to that, while we clearly need to change the composition of the party appartus, to better reflect rank and file opinion, no rational person expects any transformation prior to any leadership convention, in fact any efforts will be put on hold, as everyone becomes transfixed with the race.

I agree with Rae, that we "need to get on with it", although I suspect my motivations are quite different. Moving up any convention date, would effectively disallow the possibility of a third candidate emerging, the two established frontrunners would benefit, their teams are in place, they have the organization, a quick race, no problem. A longer timeframe does allow the lesser knowns an opportunity, but I still fail to see anyone emerge beyond Ignatieff or Rae, particularly if they develop a eventual mutual support strategy. That strategy seems entirely logical at this stage, because a move of one to the other, will help heal any wounds, will unify, rather than leave one on the outside of the selection. In other words, unforseen events aside, it's a two horse race, which again brings us back to the caucus.

It is undemocratic to entertain, but then again, we are talking about our democratic representatives, so you could feebly argue that the rank and file has a voice by proxy. Each MP consults with his/her consistency, before reconvening to make a choice between the two. Problematic, those ridings not represented with an MP are shut out.

The only reason I entertain this scenario, we don't have the time or energy, not to mention the resources, to go on another torturous leadership journey- despite the early talk of "civility", experience tells us nothing of the sort, particularly when you have two well established "camps". Maybe it better to short curcuit the whole flawed exercise, and just let the people who will ultimately have to work with the new leader a vote of preference. These are extraordinary times for the Liberal Party, and anything that avoids WASTING months, so that we can get to the real and MASSIVE problems, has some appeal. Crazy idea, or shrewd understanding of the circumstance?

34 comments:

A BCer in Toronto said...

Go with that scenario and there will be at least one less Liberal Party member. And I don't think I'd be the only one to say good bye.

Anonymous said...

ditto
-scott
thescottross

MississaugaPeter said...

The idea may have some merit, but it does nothing about reinvigorating (but rather alienates) grassroot Liberals.

Steve V said...

peter

Either did the last race, and I guarantee this one does NOTA as well. It's all about ego and empty talk.


I knew this idea would go over like a lead balloon :)

me dere robert said...

Shutting out the very people who the party is relying on to pay the bills may not be the best idea. Isn't this the opposite direction of where the party needs to go?

Steve V said...

robert

I understand all the negative ramifications. I'm just throwing it out there.

me dere robert said...

I'd also like to add.. what solution makes sense:

1) The caucus/party insiders respecting and supporting the choice of the people.

2) The people respecting and supporting the choice of the caucus/party insiders?

Which makes the people want to donate time and money?

Steve V said...

1) sounds marvelous, but it doesn't seem to work that way with our party.

Scott Tribe said...

I would suspect many of the backroom Liberals and party insiders applaud this idea. The rest of us, not so much :)

Anyhow, it's not possible to do this idea right now.. any more then my proposal of 1 member, 1 vote, to pick a leader (the one that was defeated in 2006 at the Convention). Apparently the LPC Constitution requires a policy convention to make changes like this to such things as the way to pick a leader.

It's rather archaic (as is different elements of the structure and organization of the LPC, as we just found out) but the rules are the rules.

Steve V said...

scott

You could still go through the formality, with ONE candidate, spend the months prior doing what we have to, leave the convention united.

whopitulia said...

If it weren't for crazy ideas we'd have no ideas at all. :)

I probably feel the same way about your idea as the caucus feels about giving "one member one vote" to the everyday Liberal supporter.

Since we're the ones who put those folks in parliament in the first place, I think the membership can be trusted to choose a leader for the greater good than some ambitious MPS might be.

me dere robert said...

Maybe the caucus/party insiders that don't respect and support the choice of the people should be kicked out of the party..

after all isn't that how it's suppose to work? Aren't they technically working for the members of the party?

Anonymous said...

You could still go through the formality, with ONE candidate, spend the months prior doing what we have to, leave the convention united.

Sounds a lot like the Conservative's plan for the Senate.

Dame said...

First thigs first ..take a stand what Liberals want some kind of common purpose and ideological groundwork.... then see WHO is the closest to go for it and ABLE to Present it the way people would be engaged and feeling positive ...
Am I simplistic?
I Think Canadians generally unsure what Liberals want and would do.

marta

Steve V said...

dame

Not simplistic at all, just unrealistic :) Policy and vision will be on the backburner, as we watch the old school mates battle to the death all winter and spring. Goodie.

Aaron said...

Ha! Fairly shrewd, but not very realistic...

unless it is done in consultation with CTV. ;)

Has anyone been asking who Bob Fife thinks will rescue the party?

Aaron said...

The old Senators should get two votes each. They have been around the block a few times, you know.

Gerry said...

Let's skip the delegated convention and have one person, one vote. It could be done sooner than May and avoid burn-out and donor fatigue. Surely the National Exective has the authority to make such an executive decision. Every party member should be given the right to vote directly for the leader. What better way to reinvigorate the grassroots?

olaf said...

So you'll let your MPs vote for you on every single motion or bill brought before the house, but you won't allow them to pick the leader that they think is the most qualified? Assumedly, they'd have a better idea who could win than the average "grassroots" voter would. Do you guys remember who you chose last time you got the opportunity? It doesn't speak much for your collective decision making ability.

MPs make every other decision on your democratic behalf, what is one more?

Steve V said...

olaf

Only problem with that logic, we did nominate all those MP's, mostly chosen by the grassroots.

gerry

I like it! I don't know the constitution that well, but there must be some clause somewhere to override, like some war measures act...

ALW said...

I actually think you’re onto something, steve. Everyone always speaks of intraparty activity as needing to be “more democratic” but this overlooks the simple fact that democracy is a concept which properly applies to citizenship, not party membership. That is to say, democracy is served at election time because the public gets to pass judgment on political parties and the candidates/leaders they put forward; just because the internal party selection process doesn’t mirror an open election doesn’t necessarily mean it has any less merit.

Why do I say this? Because I for one am tired of the age-old instant-members and stacking out of nomination meetings, delegate selection meetings and the like. The notion that someone who signs up to be a party member five days before a vote should somehow have equal weight in making weighty institutional decisions is nonsense.

Democracy is, as Churchill said, the worst system - except for all the others. The reason that it is the only viable method for choosing governments is because governments govern all citizens. You can’t opt out of your government, but you can opt out of your party. So no such rules automatically apply to intraparty decision making, because a political party is not supposed to be all-inclusive, but rather a broad coalition of loosely-like-minded people with a shared sense of direction and, at least in theory, principles. It doesn’t have to be democratic internally because its ultimate accountability will come when facing the wider electorate.

I suppose you could argue that fair-minded people wouldn’t want to be part of a system that isn’t internally democratic as well, but doesn’t the very concept of having a leader who makes some decisions unilaterally, as all leaders do at least part of the time, fly in the face of this as well?

olaf said...

Steve,

Only problem with that logic, we did nominate all those MP's, mostly chosen by the grassroots.

Ah, I fall defeated under the weight of my own faulty logic.

Still though, regardless, I still don't see why all this "anti-democratic, I'm gonna quit the party if that happens" talk comes into play when you already trust these candidates to represent you on EVERY single other occasion. It's like locking the barn door after the horse has bolted, or probably some more fitting idiom.

Steve V said...

olaf

I agree on one level.

alw

The fact a autopilot hack like yourself thinks I'm onto something, makes me more suspicious :)

Mike said...

Steve I hope you'll at least accept that this scenario would leave it leave it to a caucus that almost now entirely urban and concentrated in Eastern Canada to decide which leader they think will win . It also sets an awful precedent. What if the caucus gets reduced to 30 seats next election? Should MPs from those remaining Liberal bastions then make judgments again while excluding hte rest of the country that didn't vote Liberal?

Personally, I'd prefer to listen to Liberals from where we shut out as to how we might win support back there then rely on the judgment of MPs who have never lived there perhaps in their entire lives. We'll never build back up in rural Canada, Francophone areas of Quebec and out West if we shut out people who live there entirely in my view.

liberazzi said...

A prolonged leadership race will only distract the party from the tasks at hand. Is spending six months beating each other up and millions of dollars that could be better spent worthwhile, just so you can have a fun party and bitter feelings at the end? Besides Denis Coderre, the list of candidates is quite good, so I do not see how members could have a problem with any of the potential candidates listed so far. Instead of a glitzy convention, let caucus decide on the condition of holding a policy convention that will be respected. We need a leader in place by early next year, so that fundraising can begin in earnest, a policy convention held and local organizations put in place. In turn, we can get a head start nominating candidates for the various ridings, so that they can get a head start such as lit dropping, townhalls and canvassing. Lets focus on the task at hand, rather than dicking around about how the leader is selected.

Anonymous said...

Steve, the Liberal party is LEGALLY bound by it's constitution. Only in an emergency, aka a snap election could another leader be chosen without a convention, and that is bythe executive, not the caucus. Chances are they would choose the interim leader, Dion.

Möbius said...

Do it like a Star Trek episode, with fights to the death, with double-bladed plastic axes, and alien babes hitting on the winner and....

I could see Rae fashioning a weapon out of sulfur and saltpeter, and a few rocks.

Sorry, off on a tangent...

burlivespipe said...

Seems to me those who want democracy to prevail should jump in and start pushing possible (strong) candidates to surface, otherwise if it's Iggy-Rae showdown we might as well make it a game of short-straws. Unless there was a solid, cross-their-hearts guarantee to settle it for once and all then stand behind the victor, this game could get tiresome and costly.
That means pressing Leblanc, McKenna, Taylor or whoever is that 'dream candidate' who you individually think would make the best leader.
Although a Rae delegate the last time around, I'm prodding McKenna to give it a shot.

Dame said...

We From the Grassroots MUST PRESS the TEAMWORK what we expect ..... I Think this is the way we can influence the process.

marta

Anonymous said...

In Australia party leaders are chosen by a simple vote of the Parliamentary caucus. Literally the day after John Howard was defeated, the remains of the caucus of the Australian Liberal Party met and elected a new leader - end of story.

Demosthenes said...

Wouldn't every single member of the Liberal party who didn't reside in a riding with a member in Parliament, uh, ABSOLUTELY DESPISE THIS?

Sure, it'd be fast. But that's about all you can say for it. It would be a giant middle finger raised to every part of the country that doesn't have a sitting member of Parliament... and as far as I can glean, that's most of them.

Demosthenes said...

(That said, anti-instant member activities would probably be a smart move. Just not this one.)

In_The_Centre said...

I think its a great idea. The delegate system is easy to manipulate and hijack based on such factors as money, ethnic concentration of voters etc. Every campaign was guilty of it in 2006, including ours.

Isnt this the way The labor party does it out in the U.K and Australia?

-ITC

Anonymous said...

The British Labour Party used to elect leaders by a straight vote of the Parliamentary caucus. Now they have a complex formula where the caucus counts for one third, the unions count for one third and the rank and file members count for one third.