“The Only Thing We Know Is That We Don’t Know Anything” – A Thought Experiment as @ryanmeili runs for #skndpldr for 3rd time and @wotherspoont for the 2nd time #skpoli

So Shea and I went to the Sask NDP Leader’s debate in Regina a week ago tonight and, having supported Ryan since he first ran for the party leadership in 2009, I’ve now been to quite a few of these things – debates but also conventions and numerous other NDP events – over the years.

But as someone who thinks of himself on the periphery of the party right now – I’ve served on my constituency association in the past but don’t currently; I’ve door knocked in -20 weather for a candidate I liked but have skipped door knocking opportunities in a race that turned out to be one of the tightest in the province when I wasn’t impressed with the party’s leader.  Shea and I don’t go to every NDP function but try to make a point of going to the occasional one that is unique or interesting (or lines up with our babysitter’s availability!) 😉

So looking around the room last week seeing so many familiar faces from previous leadership races, NDP events, labour rallies, conventions, debates, etc. etc. etc., I had an interesting thought.

What is supporters of people who’d previously won the Sask NDP leadership but had then gone on to have no further success (either by losing their own seat or having negative or negligible gains in the seat count) weren’t allowed to vote in this leadership race?

Now, obviously your first reaction (and mine to be honest) is that this is a) completely undemocratic and b) there’d be no way to enforce this as you never ultimately know who someone votes for.

(One person who endorsed a different candidate in 2013 ended up voting for Ryan at the last moment.  Or at least that’s what they drunkenly told me at the post-convention party. But maybe they were stringing me along?  Again, you can never know for sure.)

Anyhew, let’s take an easy example to illustrate what I’m talking about – in this race, MLA Cathy Sproule is supporting Ryan and MLA Danielle Chartier is supporting Trent.  I have no idea who either of them supported in 2009 but in 2013, both supported Cam Broten. So, in my thought experiment, suddenly neither would be allowed to vote in this race.

Another example – a person who I still remember as a *very* excited Dwain Lingenfelter voter in 2009 is now supporting Ryan.  But if that person voted for Link in 2009, it doesn’t matter that it took him nearly a decade to see Ryan as the best choice – my magic anti-democracy machine won’t let him vote in 2013.

There are a number of party stalwarts – whether you call them the old boys’ club or the establishment or whatever – who picked Link in 2009 and that didn’t work out for them.  So some of them went with Broten in 2013 and that didn’t work out for them either.  Therefore, the magic anti-democracy machine actually prevents these people from voting in this leadership race…twice as hard as it blocks anyone else. 😉

Before I go any further, let’s talk about what’s the point of a thought experiment like this?  Is it just a convoluted way to say that all people who voted for Dwain Lingenfelter or later, Cam Broten, were wrong?

Not exactly.

Everyone who voted for Link and Broten had good reasons for who they voted for and why they thought those candidates were the right choice at the time.  I even saw a recent post by a high level member of Ryan’s 2009 team where he talked about all the good things Link brought to the party when he was elected leader – increased professionalism within the party, strong message discipline, a face that was well-known to Saskatchewan voters – among other things that I’m sure most people – again, including myself – would agree are good for the party.

But for whatever reason, despite Link having the support of 55% of the party’s membership, it didn’t work out.  The party lost a number of seats including the leader’s and those 55% – many of whom were absolutely certain that Link was the best choice for the party and the province – ended up being…”wrong” isn’t the word I’m looking for but…mistaken?

Same thing in 2013 – although it was much tighter, Cam Broten still convinced 51% of the membership that he was the best choice for leader.  And again, it didn’t work out.  The party basically broke even on their seat count plus the leader once again lost his seat and those 51% who were certain that Cam Broten was the best choice for the party and the province ended up being mistaken.

(To be fair, there’s a totally separate discussion to be had about Ryan supporters – and I’d include myself in that group – who chose to pull back on their involvement after Cam won.  If I was writing about hockey, I’d call that post “Do you support the logo on the front of the jersey or the player’s name on the back?” but anyhow, I’ll save those thoughts for another day.)

Which brings up to the current decision the membership has to make.

Although it’s only a two person race, you once again have people (who are supporting both candidates) who are absolutely *certain* that their candidate is the best choice for…reasons.

(Okay, there are also some who are undecided and struggling with the choice – like one guy who’s posted a few Facebook comments saying he’s 51% Meili – 49% Wotherspoon.)

But my point is that the only thing that anyone voting in this race know for sure – whether they’re a 80 year old lifetime member or some 14 year old kid who signed up for the first time because they’re pissed about cuts to education – is that nobody knows for certain what will work or what the party needs at this point in time.

People might think they know (and to repeat, I include myself in this group) but the reality is that *nobody* knows who is best for the party or whether it is Trent *or* Ryan who is going to give the NDP the best shot at winning in 2020.

A Trent supporter might cite Wotherspoon’s 10 years’ of experience as a great strength going into the next election whereas a Meili supporter might see 10 years of baggage that’s going to hurt us in 2020.  A Ryan supporter might cite Meili’s commitment to environmental causes as a great plus for the future of our province (and our planet!) whereas a Wotherspoon supporter might wonder how that will be received in a conservative province where natural resources play a huge role in the economy.

Which brings me back to the thought experiment.

I honestly don’t know what the vote would look like if people who’d previously supported either of the last two Sask NDP leaders were somehow magically prevented from voting in the current race.

People like myself who’d been with Ryan since day one would get a vote and would (likely) still vote Ryan.  People who’d been with Trent since he ran in 2013 would get a vote and would (likely) still vote Trent (although ironically, Trent might not be able to vote for himself since he supported Dwain Lingenfelter in 2009!)

So what’s the ultimate point?

The NDP I learned about in school and that my grandfather voted for was a party that had a bold vision for the province.  My view is that the NDP has been playing it safe for 10 years and the results speak for themselves.  The people who voted for Dwain Lingenfelter and Cam Broten weren’t wrong.  But they *do* need to think deeply if they have any certainty about who they think is best for the party this time around, whether they’re supporting Ryan or Trent.

Because ultimately, I think all NDP members would agree that we’d prefer to once again be the party of Tommy Douglas and Roy Romanow instead of the party of Dwain Lingenfelter and Cam Broten.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 2

  1. From Head Tale - 10 Random Thoughts on @scottmoeSK Becoming New #skpoli Premier on 28 Jan 2018 at 9:56 pm

    […] in terms of my preferred candidate?”  So instead, I’ll repeat myself – “all we know is we don’t know anything” about who would match up best with Scott Moe of the two Sask NDP leadership candidates.  […]

  2. From Head Tale - 100 Reasons I’m Supporting @ryanmeili for #skndpldr #skpoli on 18 Feb 2018 at 8:14 pm

    […] Lingenfelter and later, Cam Broten, were the answer to the Sask NDP’s woes.  I’ve blogged about this and how many of those people weren’t wrong exactly (since they had good reasons for who they supported) but they *were* ultimately […]

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