Daily Archives: July 6, 2007

The green politics dilemma cont’d

The piece I linked to yesterday is the Greens’ equivalent of the Conservative Party of Canada’s bozo eruptions, the sort of thing that causes a movement on the brink of bursting into national-party status to hemorrhage mainstream credibility.

Then-opposition leader Stephen Harper’s main job, in a country disillusioned with a decade of borderline-corrupt Liberal rule, was convincing voters that the Conservatives weren’t intent on turning Canada into a real-life version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Every time he seemed like he was making progress, up would pop an old party dinosaur saying something like this, or this, or this — exactly the kind of thing that played into the well-developed storyline that cast the Tories as a Canadian version of the nasty side of the U.S. Republican Party.

For the Canadian Greens, the challenge is shedding their image as a gang of leftover hippies, neo-Bolshevik scruffs who’d like to ban … well, just about everything a typical Canadian does every day. For decades, that’s just what the Greens were. No real leader, no comprehensible policy prescriptions, no sense that actually drawing people’s votes was in any way a desirable act for a political party. For many of them, it seemed being Green was really a cover for any number of other causes, from feminism to pacifism to communism.

And apparently that’s just how some Greens liked it. Under their previous leader, Jim Harris, the Canadian Greens invested a lot of energy in figuring out just what they stood for and building an electoral machine. They’ve enjoyed unprecedented success as a political party since they decided to start acting like one. But along the way, quite a lot of senior party figures marched right out the door, many of them into the arms of the goofy-left NDP, where they’ve done neither themselves nor the New Democratic Party much good, either.

Under their new leader, Elizabeth May, the Greens have been continuing to professionalize. Helped by a government subsidy for parties that pull a certain percentage of the votes, the party now has an actual staff. They can pay their leader (a pittance, something like $50,000, but still), and have people answering the phones and doing research who don’t have to work around their table-waiting schedules, or wander off to find real jobs when their student loans run out.

Now, the Green machine is nothing compared to those of the older parties. Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has advance teams and bustling aides with multiple cellphones. Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t get out of bed without a staff of ten. Elizabeth May has one aide. One. And still she has to put up with personal abuse like:

You really have no clue and obviously NO class at all turning a once definite threat to status-quo into a wet blanket melba toast fundraising – flowers n’ tea shop crew.

And that’s from someone ostensibly on the same side.

It’s not a job anybody should envy.