Grassroots Politicians is the first systematic account ofparty activists at the provincial level in Canada. To understand thepattern of political polarization in British Columbia, the authorsexamine the values and beliefs of those at the party cores -- thepeople behind the party images who elect leaders, nominate candidates,and work in electoral campaigns. In the New Democratic Party they playa crucial role in determining policy, in the Social Credit they help toshape party direction and governing style by their choice of leader,and, among the Liberals, they form the small band that keeps the partyalive in the province.
The authors challenge the view that Social Credit is a homogeneouslyright-wing party and that the New Democrats have clearly opted for thepolitical centre. They record how party profiles have changed over theyears -- Social Credit activists becoming better educated, wealthier,and less diverse in terms of ties to national parties, while the NDP isnow more middle-class, white collar, and professional. They exploresuch questions as why individuals stay in a weak party like the B.C.Liberals, how the New Democrats interpret successive Social Creditvictories, and to what extent B.C. activists are similar to those inother provinces or in national parties. They offer an analysis of theleadership selection process in each party and a detailed account ofthe convention that chose Bill Vander Zalm. By examining the attitudesand ideologies of party activists, they are able to pinpoint theirlocations on the left/right spectrum, identify internal divisions, andassess the problems and opportunities they pose for party leaders andelection strategies. As the British Columbia case illustrates, partymilitants carry distinctive subcultures which have a significant impacton the ongoing dynamics and immediate outcomes in competitive partysystems. The study also shows that the partisan involvement ofactivists in national political parties is one of the major forces thatlinks the otherwise separate provincial and federal political worldsinhabited by British Columbians.
Grassroots Politicians is highly readable. And it is a book that provides terrific background for anyone who salivates at the prospect of following the intricate power plays so integral to the pageantry of a British Columbia election.
This timely book convincingly demonstrates that party activists have shaped the contours of BC's distinctively oddball politics. And Grassroots Politicians provides a unique perspective from which to view the political battle lines that have so decisively shaped the province and that will help determine the outcome of the electoral warfare on the near horizon.
A first-class scholarly study, by three accomplished political scientists, of party activists and activism in British Columbia. The first effort of its kind, this work is based on surveys, personal interviews with the politicians themselves, direct observation, and soundly rooted background analysis.
Tables and Figures
1. The Polarization of BC Politics
2. Party Activists in British Columbia
3. Continuity and Change: Party Activists, 1973-87
4. Social Credit: Pragmatic Coalition or Ideological Right?
5. The New Democrats: What Kind of Left?
6. The Liberals: Centre or Fringe?
7. Leadership Selection in the BC Parties
8. The Social Credit Grassroots Recapture Their Party
9. Resisting Polarization: The Survival of the Liberals
10. Towards the Centre?: The Dynamics of Two-Party Competition
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