Monday, November 13, 2006

PC Membership Comes Cheap

So what's in a membership anyway?

That most vaunted of Alberta party memberships is that of the Progressive Conservative variety.

And why not? Its qualities are many. The cards offer an inexpensive way to participate in the "democratic" process, while being pleasantly wined and dined on something akin to the corporate out-of-town credit card.

But the pleasures are also fleeting. These cards expire at the end of 2006, and depending on whose camp you join up with, the perks vary - before and assumedly after the contest.

Lastly, you're hardly alone in coveting the prize. Various leadership camps have set targets over 100,000 members, meaning that your five bucks rates little higher than an old centennial penny in your father's big Texas-Mickey-of-Canadian-Club coin jar - assuming they take your five bucks at all (see earlier story).

Membership pitches in other political parties, like the NDP or the old Reform party, usually function on a "value-added" principle. If you're familiar with commission sales techniques in other sales industries, a typical trick of the trade for the cash asker involved is something called "adding value." This is the process by which the salesperson leads the customer through the products selling points and features, while asking for (arguably) more than what its worth, as a way of convincing you that not only do you need this product, it is worth even more than what the asking price is.

The point is that something given lightly is taken lightly. If you pay more you will treat it with more respect - it will mean more to you. Makes sense, right?

But Tory memberships are none of these things. And in many ways, they do not make sense. Providing $5 memberships to the masses - or organized labour, or church groups - is not connecting with the grassroots. Those memberships so easily given are just as easily thrown away. But the leaders aren't looking to build the grassroots. They need quantity for one night (maybe two) only. What we're watching is the Wal-Mart of Alberta politics - the loss of the occasional stock is irrelevant in this massive inventory clear out.

At this point in the game, campaign workers are frantic. Their emaciated skeletal forms flog memberships like points of meth in the dying hours of a warehouse rave. It is the key to their life after November 25. Assuming of course that there will be life for their candidate of choice.

Sloppy antics and questionable tactics aside, for once the mainstream pundits are correct. This contest is a foot race. Will Dinning has the stamina to hang on?

Judging by the tone of last Friday's folly, we at the Alberta Report are not so sure. And as for the instant Tories who will find their cards expired come New Year's Day 2007, their commitment to the party will be as fleeting as the resultant hangover.

And for many of them, the outcome will be just as depressing.


2 Responses to "PC Membership Comes Cheap"
  1. KneuroKnut said...
    November 27, 2006 at 10:11:00 a.m. MST

    Despite what you seem to think of me (in reference to your recent comment on my blog Caroline in the City) I agree with you. I agree that by selling the memberships off like baseball cards they are diminished in both their power and their importance. To me the larger story is that so many people are buying them. People like me who are not conservative in either principle or voting history are now card-carrying PC's. It speaks volumes about the state of the province and the lack of faith many Albertans have that our province will ever have anything other than a conservative government. Most people who care about politics - regardless of where they sit on the spectrum,can agree that apathy is society's worst enemy. Criticize the party for selling cheap memberships but don't criticize the engaged non-conservatives who buy them in the hope that they can make a difference.

  2. Alberta Insider said...
    November 27, 2006 at 5:41:00 p.m. MST

    As an aside, we don't think anything untowards in terms of instant tories like Caroline. Many good people have similar feelings (although they lack conservative moral fibre). We do, however, criticize her insinuation that the only way to combat apathy and work for change in the province is through the conservative party. Where we come from, buying a membership implies commitment. Instant Tories may (and will) do what they may, but buying into the party is buying into the idea of the one-party state.

    It's that notion we find unsettling.

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