Within the federal Green Party there is a growing debate about whether leader Elizabeth May has the moral credentials to "parachute" into the riding to become the Green candidate in the next election. Another Green Party member--Stuart Hertzog, also not from the riding--is contesting the nomination based on his assertion that the Green Party is a grassroots party and thus the decision to have Ms May run in the riding came from the top and is thus not "green."
The following is a slightly modified version of what I wrote as a comment on a blog discussion about the issue. It has been modified to read as a stand alone piece for the benefit of anyone who is not acquainted with the original debate or the discussion in general.
I am one of the “blue-greens” people talk about when they try to distinguish differing points of views within the Green Party. I’m a middle-aged farmer trying to take care of my little piece of the planet, and having an ever increasingly difficult time. I used to consider myself a Progressive Conservative, but when issues of the environment led me to change priorities (and the PCs disappeared), I became a Green supporter.
I was first welcomed into the "Green" fold by people who were happy I'd become a 'convert' but later told (and often) that I am not “green” enough by long-term “fundis” (not my choice of words). Often, "fundis" believe that the objective of getting elected and thus having to work within a political system they see as tainted is offensive, and that it is better to simply advocate for the change they see as necessary to save the planet. "Realos" tend to be more pragmatic and recognise the necessity of getting "down and dirty" within the process and scrapping with those in power to get a seat at the table. To us (cause I guess I am a "Realo"), this seems logical.
This schism now has Greens divided about whether Elizabeth May's style of leadership is too "top-down" and thus unworthy of the label Green and that it is simply selfish for her to lead the party in the direction of getting her elected to Parliament.
While I think Mr. Hertzog has every right to challenge Ms. May for the Green candidacy in Saanich-Gulf Islands, I am perplexed by the notion of some Greens who become involved with the Green Party as a political party yet are un-fussed about electing MPs/MLAs/MNAs. The idea of being a movement over a political party leaves me scratching my head.
I see this as politically dishonest: asking voters for support… and especially for money. The call, “Vote for me… I’m happy not to be elected because I believe I am morally superior to the whole dirty business of politics” is simply asking for failure. Taking money for that endeavour, or asking people to volunteer their lives to the effort is just dumb to me… but then again, I’m not an academic or a philosopher.
I cannot believe that people like myself… who still believe individuals have enough integrity to make a positive difference in our political system are somehow simply naive, or that we miss the point of the scale of change necessary to “save the planet.”
I believe getting elected is a first step in our system. Ignoring this fact will not get us the chance to participate in the system, and we will never get a chance to explain our perspectives in the halls of political power. By not getting elected, we cast ourselves into oblivion.
The idea that enough of the electorate would vote for a party that does not see getting elected as the first priority is “pie-in-the-sky” and without integrity to support the ideas we believe in.
This seems more like the same partisan politics that has become the Canadian reality. Greens are fond of saying this party is not about left vs right. It is an attractive motto, however, this party is taking on the shades of “realo” vs “fundi” which is simply the same crap, re-branded, and what is worse, it will hurt the Green cause politically.
I see Elizabeth May as one step in a process to get a Green voice in the House of Commons. She has brought the Green Party a certain cache and certainly more visibility among a larger group of Canadians. I see her as a bridge between the “fundis” and the “realos.”
All arguments aside about the wisdom of running against Peter McKay last time, I am certain Ms. May will run to win in the next election. Win or lose, she will face a leadership review in 2010. That is the time for challengers to mount arguments to replace her. Of course those arguments need to be heard. If someone comes around to inspire more confidence then we will get the chance to choose a new leader.
Until then (and as a “blue-green”) I think it is acceptable for the leader of a political party to run in a winnable riding. Indeed, I think it is an obligation. For my own part, what I find rather mystifying is this continuing idea that the Green Party is above winning or losing. If one believes that, wouldn’t it be better (and more honest) to stay totally engaged in activist activity?