Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Liberal Primaries: Order Matters

In reviewing the Constitutional Amendments Liberals will be voting on at the Convention, the section on the Liberal primaries is fascinating. An obscure group to be known as the "Leadership Vote Committee" deserves some attention, because their arbitary decisions have enormous impact, given the staggered nature of these primary proposals. How this Committee will be constituted:
Leadership Vote Committee consisting of:

(i) two co-chairs;

(ii) the National President;

(iii) two persons elected by the PTA Presidents from among the PTA
Presidents and the National Vice-Presidents, one of whom must be
English-speaking and one of whom must be French-speaking;

(iv) two representatives appointed by the Caucus;

(v) any number of other members of the Party appointed by the co-chairs in consultation with the National Board of Directors and respecting the principle of equal participation of men and women and the recognition of English and French as the official languages of Canada

The preamble to the leadership selection process offers a key assertion, that speaks to eventual primary order importance:
In order to raise the interest of the public and build momentum while selecting a Leader, the Party would use a modified version of the current Leadership Vote procedure that would enable entire regions to cast their vote on different days, and for the first preference results of a region to be published on the day that region holds its vote. This would also provide candidates with a better idea of how they are performing, and whether or not they wish to remain as a candidate in anticipation of the next regional vote.

After the first primary or two, candidates will get a sense of where they stand, viability, and it is true many will probably drop out as the process develops. According to the Constitution, if a candidate drops out after one vote, but prior to the next, any weighted support will be redistributed to the other candidates, based on their percentage in that primary. This stipulation could have some impact as the process moves forward. But, the true importance of a staggered vote, how this Leadership Vote Committee decideds the Primary order, the chronology for the six "regions".

Just as in the American system, wherein Iowa and New Hampshire assume disporportionate influcence, based on the calendar, how the LVC decides order will have incredibly enormous importance. Liberals would be wise to keep a close eye on who eventually joins this LVC, because certain candidates will have advantages or disadvantages based on their regional bas support. For instance, should a Quebec candidate emerge, he/she would have much at stake, depending on whether this LVC puts that regional Primary early or late in the process. If chosen first, someone with widespread Quebec support has advantage, a sense of momentum, again much like the American analogy. As well, someone who has large support in one region may never make it to that primary if that vote takes place late in the process: order may well be as important as overall support within this new system. The underlying motivation for a primary system is to build "momentum" as the votes unfold, which is an acknowledgement of an evolving process.

I'm not offering a positive or negative perspective on how these primaries will unfold, but it's important to understand that a "inside baseball" Committee will carry incredible responsibility and influence, how these votes shakeout on the calendar will impact the eventual result. It's nice if someone has great support in British Columbia, but if that primary is last on the leadership calendar, said candidate may never make it to that vote. As well, any other candidates who drop out during the process will be compelled to move to those with "early" support, again cementing the importance of order. Perhaps a relevant analogy, Rudy Giuliani's failed GOP bid, wherein he decided to virtually forego the first two contests- believing he could catch up later on- only to find lost momentum from Iowa and NH doomed his campaign before his strategy even had a chance.

Perception and momentum will drive this leadership selection process, which is why what the LVC eventually decides, the stuffy process part of the equation, may well prove to be as important as the votes themselves. Some won't be happy with the order, others will be ecstatic, we should all keep a close eye on this little Committee with very relevant powers.


Grokodile said...

I'm not sure I like the way we simply copy the US model from time to time. How about we take it only if we can improve on it?

At least we didn't adopt their banking model fast enough to rip the heart out of our financial sector.

Jesse said...

I've been assuming it'll have to be random, or a designed random plan (the committee could draw up the groupings of ridings / design the "weeks", then draw).