The member-led structure is the reason for the “dysfunction” of the Green party
One thing that the (premature) postmortems on the Green party have missed is the central role of the community in the functioning of the party. The Green Party is a popular party by choice: our core values include participatory democracy, and our party structure and statutes empower the grassroots at the expense of the leader, council and staff.
But what happens when the base is uneven or dormant? Without an active base, a popular party is vulnerable to influence from anyone seeking a platform. This explains why we seem to be the preferred party of Zionists and anti-Zionists. at a time. Neither group is more than a fringe of any other party in Canada, but they have divided the Greens on several occasions.
If we had more active and engaged riding associations, we would know more about our own members. We wouldn’t be surprised to end up with the least diverse list of candidates or with poll results indicating a high rate of xenophobia among our supporters. We would have a more solid basis for the party culture, which could infuse our base with the fundamental values and political priorities of the party; the gap between our actual positions and what our members embody would begin to narrow, and we could unite behind these values instead of dividing ourselves on marginal issues.
It doesn’t help that the lack of real community engagement is part of Canadian political culture. Other parties have adapted by becoming more leader-oriented, with an emphasis on donations and petitions rather than participatory governance. By their standard, the Green Party just seems mismanaged.
But it’s the disconnect between our desire to keep a basic model and our ability to execute it. without committed membership it is at the heart of our dysfunction and of the struggle between Federal Chief Annamie Paul and the Federal Council. Paul seems to have taken the other party approach, filling the power vacuum left by members by concentrating power in his office; the council has resisted these attempts, but neither can they fill that void. He stays.
The Greens are used to laughing at our idealism, and there is no shortage of cynics right now. The failure of our attempts to maintain grassroots engagement and reduce political tribalism is an accusation of our entire system, not just one party. As Paul said, “It shouldn’t be that hard to serve.
The party has repeatedly struggled to compete without compromising its principles; what does this say about our political climate? If the Greens can’t keep citizens engaged, who can? Are we ready to give up democratic ideals?
Whoever takes the leadership role next should remember that we are a party led by members. Their first task should be to remind the members of this. Democracy is community in action.