Recently, we've had the news that the Supporters category, which had been crooned so much by Liberals like myself, has more or less been a flop. I've argued before that it was somewhat doomed to partial failure from the outset, because we never gave Supporters a chance to engage the Party outside of leadership races - but in spite of that, at least we gave them something, a chance to vote for their chosen leadership candidate, and maybe spark some loyalty to the Party through giving them agency.
Well, whats happened? Of the 294,000 signed up Supporters and Members, less then 40% seem to be interested in voting - and that's not a guarantee that those who have registered will actually vote. This category, which we shouted from the rooftops as something new and exciting that will change the way politics are done in this Party and country, is almost dead on arrival. The only positive thing to come out of it so far is that there is at least the possibility that it could work in the future, and we have new contacts to go after.
But even with the notion of "new contacts," something's messed up. Trudeau and other candidates have managed to bring in hundreds of thousands of new Supporters, but they've failed to actually get their contact information down properly! And let's not beat around the bush - this is almost single-handedly an issue with the Trudeau campaign. I don't know how they messed this up - even with a week extension that anyone involved knows benefited Trudeau more than anyone else. Is there something wrong with how the Party has set up the infrastructure for the category, are they complacent, or are they severely incompetent? My bet is a combination of all three.
Now we have allegations of abuses. Great. We're going to have a leadership race marred by accusations of a corrupt and/or biased system. Just what we needed.
So what do we do to fix it?
For me, the answer is obvious: the Supporters category isn't useful unless we open it up and allow people to engage even more - but given how much its failed so far, I don't even know if that will fix the issue. Do people just not care, or is whatever we're offering them - whatever Trudeau and the others have offered them - not good enough? How has the lack of proper organization on the part of the Party and the candidates failed Supporters?
If opening up and allowing for more chances to engage isn't the answer, then what is?
I don't know, but I desperately want to. The things we did before the introduction of the category didn't work, and what we're doing right now is failing. The next leader of the Liberal Party needs to order everyone to take a step back and look at what we've done through objective lenses. We need answers on how to fix our approach to organizing these otherwise erstwhile supporters.
And we need to do it as soon as possible. We should have already figured out these bumps beforehand, but we didn't, even though we had enough time, and these problems were easily foreseeable. So the time for it is now, not later down the road. I'll support any leadership candidate willing to pledge themselves to action.
If we fail to do this, then we might as well give it up now, and accept that the hole we've dug ourselves into is where we're going to stay.