Sunday, March 10, 2013

#skndpldr - The Dramatic Conclusion

After the first ballot results were announced yesterday, I pointed out the 20% net margin of support that Cam Broten needed to turn a close first-ballot result into a narrow win. And that turned out to be exactly what materialized: of the 2,393 votes cast initially for either Trent Wotherspoon or Erin Weir, the final result showed 18% attrition, with 51% to Broten and 31% to Ryan Meili - leading to Broten's election as the Saskatchewan NDP's new leader.

But in retrospect, there was another, even closer vote comparison which may have hinted at the same end result.

Notwithstanding an entirely different type of leadership campaign and plenty of new participants within his own camp, Meili's final vote total of 4,120 was a jump of exactly 18 votes from his second-ballot total in 2009. And while I'm not sure if Broten's campaign focused on that number to any great extent, it turns out that past performance almost exactly paralleled Meili's results this time - as Broten's winning vote count was based on his accumulating just enough down-ballot support to eke past the total Meili had earned before.

So what comes next for the NDP? Well, I've been one of many commentators pointing out the diverse and complementary set of skills among the leadership candidates. And Broten's experience and support should make for a seamless transition within the current NDP caucus.

At the same time, there will be plenty of work to be done in keeping the new supporters of all of the candidates engaged - particularly Meili's grassroots base which produced so many of the creative ideas which emerged during the leadership campaign. And while Broten took some important steps yesterday in echoing Meili's vision and reaching out to the other camps, I'll hope to see plenty of people from all leadership camps looking for ways to stay connected and involved - both within the NDP and in the broader social democratic movement.

13 comments:

  1. Greg,

    I posted my reaction last night:
    http://bydantan.blogspot.ca/2013/03/quick-observation-fusion.html

    As the post indicates, Broten will have to do more than merely "echo" Meili's vision. He will have to secure Meili's commitment to run.

    A significant portion of Meili's support was recruited from outside of the party. Such members were sold on the man, rather than the institution of social-democracy.

    If that man - Ryan Meili - were to reject running-for & serving-under a Broten-led NDP...those followers would interpret such an action as a signal to abstain.

    I hope Broten is humble. And I hope Meili is reasonable.

    Cross those fingers,
    Dan Tan

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    1. Actually, that's about the exact opposite of my take on Meili's options at this point. He fell just short of the ideal role to influence the future direction of public policy within Saskatchewan, and it would be foolhardy of him to ignore the possibility that other roles might better serve that end (or put his political activity on pause for two years rather than looking at opportunities today). And pressure by Broten or anybody else to limit his options will look more like piling on than an effort at outreach.

      Mind you, I very much hope Meili will be part of the slate of candidates in 2015 - particularly compared to the option of running federally given the added difficulty in implementing his ideas on a national scale without some provincial success stories to highlight. But strong-arming him into that commitment now isn't a good plan for anybody.

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  2. Anonymous5:56 PM

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  3. I'm the kind of guy who would support Meili. Personally, when an election comes I vote, and I vote NDP--faute de mieux. But it often feels almost like a strategic vote, perhaps increasingly as the years go by. So if I were Saskatchahoovian that's what I'd be doing.

    But. If I were someone with vaguely the kind of progressive-left feelings I have but less attachment to politics, I seriously doubt a Cam Broten (or a Wotherspoon) could get me out to vote. They talk not too bad a game, but in many ways they give me the impression of Liberals; run like a New Democrat . . .
    My expectation from them would be a sort of soft betrayal. Once in office, it would turn out to be "unrealistic" to do anything very useful, and we'd end up with pretty much the same austerity for the people and coddling for the corps as before, with a bit less union-busting no doubt, a bit less zeal to cut social services, a moratorium on privatizing with luck. Basically the status quo, or the status quo with only a slow erosion, rather than an aggressive attempt to make things even worse. Less bad than the alternative, to be sure, but far from inspiring. And the victory of that kind of guy as leader feels like the return to that kind of NDP: Status quo, don't rock the boat, talking-shop, business as usual, insider oriented.

    I think Mr. Broten will have an uphill struggle to bring in those Meili supporters. The history of guys who sound like him delivering politics as usual is too long. Unless Mr. Meili is in a position where he will clearly have his fingerprints all over policy, even if whatever Mr. Broten comes up with is good enough for Meili it quite likely won't be good enough for the people who voted for him.

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    1. Hence my thought that the most important role for Meili at this point may be to work on policy beyond the party's platform - particularly given that Broten's own policy proposals were rife with references to future consultations rather than clear details.

      Broten won based on the idea that his top priority would be leading the opposition in the legislature, and he should be highly effective in that role. But if Meili can give us a head start on getting big ideas ready for implementation once we form government, it would be a huge loss for all concerned to miss out on that opportunity.

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  4. Please note that I won't claim this is fair. For all I know Broten is a tiger with a fierce sense of justice who would institute amazing, highly progressive and innovative policies in office and bring power to the people. I'm just saying as things stand, people who like that kind of stuff aren't likely to be getting that feel from him and it may be difficult for him to persuade them different.

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  5. Greg,

    You have not thought this through. Ryan Meili is not some child who can "take his ball home" without significant consequence for the rest.

    As an established New Democratic leader with standing, Meili has responsibilities to the movement & party. A major responsibility is retaining the loyalty & participation of the members he recruited.

    Since Meili recruited those members on the basis of a unique vision...only he has the ability & authority to retain them.

    It is not enough for Meili to merely say "Vote NDP". To retain such members, Meili must convince them that a Cam Broten-led NDP offers an avenue for advancement of that vision.

    One way is to explicitly say such a thing (which he did not, and likely will not). Hence, the only alternative is to run and give those members "a stake" & "a voice" within an NDP government (to be clear, Broten has a responsibility to offer Meili some advancement & concession).

    Were Meili to limit himself to outside-advocacy, he would be sending a clear message that the current leadership is unreceptive & untrustworthy. This would have real, potentially crippling consequences to the Saskatchewan NDP movement.

    All hands must be on deck,
    Dan Tan

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    1. Of course, one question that remains open is whether such a thing will, in fact, be true. I don't see Meili as the type who would be capable of, or even willing to try to, convince people that avenue exists if in fact it doesn't.

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    2. PLG,

      You are attributing a false implication to me.

      I do not expect Meili to serve without the existence of such an "avenue of advancement". It is Broten's responsibility to create such a path for Meili.

      Of course, the devil is in the details. In the event that Meili rejects service, the membership has a right to know what was offered/rejected. Those details will decide which man was guilty of dereliction-of-duty.

      Best,
      Dan Tan

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    3. Didn't mean to attribute, just thought it needed to be brought into the open--the surface of your text would allow for the possibility and legitimacy of "Bringing Meili in as co-optation". While I didn't mean to imply you'd consider that OK, it's the kind of thing that happens far too often in politics and the NDP certainly isn't immune. I think we need to be clear that that wouldn't be acceptable--strategically misguided and more important, building the wrong party.

      Well, whatever deal gets made in the next few days, really the proof of this pudding will be a while coming. Broten and Meili could get along poorly and Broten could still lead a grassroots-fuelled transformation of the party. Or Broten could bring Meili on board with a solid position and good personal intentions but the institutions could still close ranks and shut out any reforms and innovations Meili and his supporters try to bring in.

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    4. Agreed generally with PLG. But I'll also make the point that I don't see any particular upside in treating any discussion between Broten and Meili as necessarily meaning that somebody was "guilty of dereliction-of-duty" - and in fact I'd much prefer to operate on the footing that there are other reasonable outcomes beyond a winner-take-all finger-pointing contest.

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  6. Anonymous2:32 PM

    Some really good points here!

    Cam, the NDP Executive and the Council need to realise very quickly that they need to show the 'Meilistas' (are people really using that term?) that there is a real place for them in the party - that this is their home.

    Ryan started the process but didn't become leader. Many of his supporters would not have been there without his vision. Now the leadership needs to act, the faster the better if they want those people to stay involved.

    Cam got the win - the ball is in his court. He better not drop it. Or a lot of the Meilistas will fade away like they did before.

    Bob S.

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  7. don't water down my orange juice7:14 AM

    The problem is that Cam planted seeds of disunity long before the final ballot came out. It started in 2009 when he dropped Deb for Link. It continued when he worked to block Meili from becoming an MLA. And during the campaign, people I know from all of the other camps used less-than-flattering words to describe what his campaign was doing. Not exactly good leadership to set up angry birds who will come home to roost someday.
    Furthermore, watching at convention and getting little more than stink eye from his campaign manager and no direct outreach from him or his people, can you blame Meili supporters for wanting to back away? It represents the opposite of what they wanted a leader to be like.
    Even Link knew enough to reach out to Meili and his supporters in a meaningful way within 24 hours. Instead of the lip service to stay and that Meili should run as an MLA, which simply isn't enough for a transformative opponent that only lost to you by 44 votes.

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