Yes, I know, It's just always the way its done - sign up lots and lots of members. The problem is, we tend to sign up casual members, sometimes at the expense of the stalwart members.
You might argue, that signing up lots of new members for a party is a good thing. And, you'd be right, if those new members were actually interested in the party. More often than not, they don't care. They get signed up with the promise of a barbecue, a party, or to support a friend who wants to be a candidate. They pay their $10, hold up a "YAY JANE DOE" sign, then disappear once their friend wins - all in the span of about a week.
Then, when Jane Doe is canvassing, these friends are nowhere to be found - leaving those who are actually interested in helping, to pick up the slack. Stalwarts weren't part of the initial rush, but stalwarts are supposed to carry the momentum. This is especially disheartening when the nominated candidate is weak or, in the worst case scenario, an embarrassment.
What causes this phenomenon? A few things, in my mind.
- Most political parties have a relatively cheap membership fee, usually in the $10 range. Meaning joining a political party requires no effort other than depriving yourself of a few Tim Hortons coffees. So, convincing friends and associates to come out and support you is not such a big deal. $10 is less than 2 pints ...
- Membership requires absolutely no effort. You don't have to volunteer, donate, or put in lawn signs on a foggy night where nobody puts on their porch light so you can read the address on some wild dark rural road. You're not even obligated to campaign or vote for the person you help get voted in. You're not even obligated to vote in the election, period.
- Voting within the party rarely has a membership length requirement. Some votes usually come with a "you must be a member by" date in order to vote, but it's usually a week or two before. So, Jane is on fire getting the members of her golf club, union local, or bird-watching society signed up just in time to vote for her.
Simply put, there is generally apathy towards political parties because there is apathy within political parties. Short of the hardcore followers, who seem to be generally uber-positive about everything within their political party of choice, most of us like being involved on a less intense level, so we are easily discouraged when political parties become, well, political.
And, as mentioned in 604 Plonker's post referred to in my last post, those involved with political parties sometimes get discouraged when the political party takes a directional turn that we don't agree with, or are trying to be everything to everyone and in turn become nothing to everyone. Many people, who classify them as "political", want to pursue a particular agenda (environment, women's issues, lower taxes, etc.) but become political party roadkill because they have to either support or defend other agendas that they either don't care about or care differently about.
Now, if we're classed as the "stalwarts", and we lack excitement, how are we supposed to go out and advertise by word-of-mouth how great it is to join a political party, when we spend a lot of time complaining about them (this post not included). Even if I'm quiet about my misgivings, I'm not about to go out and share the pain by recruiting all my friends.
What do you think about this political party apathy? Is it less about the political parties themselves or about the apathy towards politics in general? A bit of both?
If we weeded out casual members by addressing my above three points, would we clear up apathy for political parties?
Tags: canada, political parties, politics