Sunday, January 24, 2016

On oversimplification

One could hardly design a more stark contrast between the complex realities of politics and the media's tendency to portray them in appallingly simplified terms than Althia Raj's report on the NDP's conference calls with party members last week. But for those willing to look past a misleading headline and lede, there's plenty in the points raised by members worth considering in advance of the Edmonton convention.

Meanwhile, it's also worth noting the significance of the call itself. As has often been the case, we should see it as a potential first step toward greater engagement with the public - but one whose value likes mostly in the prospect that it could be followed up with far more effort in the future.

On the bright side, the calls reflect a noteworthy willingness to talk to people about (and indeed allow the media to report on) their actual views on the campaign. And I'd consider that important opening lines of communication between members and the party structure at least for the moment.

That said, the greater potential for significance lies in what comes next. Here's the follow-up anticipated on the call:
Blaikie told the more than 1,000 callers on the first phone-in that their feedback would be sent to regional party representatives who would compile the information for a mid-March draft report. The final product would be released publicly at the NDP convention a few weeks later.
Ideally, I'd hope to see members' concerns today paired with some involvement in the further development of the election report - particularly given the limited number of people able to participate in a particular call.

More importantly, though, we shouldn't see this type of member engagement as merely a one-off opportunity for people to let off steam following last year's election.

Instead, it should represent a first step toward normalizing what Raj wrongly treats as a "gotcha" moment: the honest expression of views by members which may include constructive criticism of a party's choices (without necessarily leading to anybody being thrown under a bus). And the more the NDP can do to foster and meet the expectation that it will be unique among Canada's major parties in its responsiveness to members, the more likely it will be to avoid the type of disconnect that contributed to its disappointment at the polls.

No comments:

Post a Comment