Green and growing

My story about being a Green politician in Canada, and why it was the best thing I ever did.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The morning after

This is my response to a friend who was feeling down after the election on Tuesday. What happens is that we develop higher and higher expectations during the election campaign. Then, when the results don't match our expectations, we experience a let down. Here's what I wrote:

Yes, it is normal to feel that way. During the campaign, we work hard to envision a victory. We imagine the people awakening to the same conclusions we have reached, that the system is broken and that it will take a new party like the Greens to fix it.

Then, after the votes are counted, there is a sobering reality check. It is not that we are wrong, nor that we are foolishly optimistic, nor that what we are working for is not important.

Rather, it is simply an acknowledgment that change requires time. Lifelong Liberal, Conservative and NDP voters are reluctant to change that behaviour, and all the rational argument in the world will not impact the emotional experience of voting. As you have experienced yourself, when you stand in the voting booth, you get a brief glimpse of the power of democracy. There is a mix of excitement, and a huge sense of responsibility, knowing that your X will impact the future of the country. For many people, they choose a safe alternative, out of fear of making a mistake.

So, today, tonight and tomorrow, we will sift through the results, and the emails, and the news reports and try to find some meaning for what appears to be a gap. We will analyze our own numbers to see what happened.

In the end, this is what we will find: We will find wonderful posts like John's which reminds us that we have made tremendous progress nationally, and that we have achieved a level of accomplishment never seen before in the party's history. The vast majority of the candidates will find that their vote increased. Mine went from 4% to 7%, and while I wanted a much bigger number, it still represents almost double the support from 2006. No other party doubled their support in my riding.

We will find that we have made new friends and supporters who will help us the next time. We will remember the amazing contributions that people made to help us in our ridings. We will remember the times that we inspired others. We can take pride in the community we are building.

Here is a little story, whose point is that you never know what influence you will have on people. Towards the end of the 2006 campaign, we had some money left, but not enough to do flyers for the whole riding. So, we did up a small black and white flyer, printed 20,000 copies and then began to figure out how we would distribute them. Within 48 hours, most went out in bulk distribution, and some went out as unaddressed ad mail. When I saw my results at 4%, I wondered if it had all been a waste. Well, it turns out that one person saw the flyer, liked what she saw and decided to become involved in the Green Party. Mary Ann Hodge became the candidate in London North Centre in this election, and she told me this story a month ago while we were stacking signs into a truck.

You have affected many people in and around your riding, but they usually don't pick up the phone to tell you. This is our reward, and this will eventually turn into votes, just as the seeds sown in spring grow when given sustenance and time. We are, in effect, gardeners of change, and our task is a marathon rather than a sprint. We live in a world that prefers instant solutions, but there are no such quick solutions for the significant issues of our time.

So, remember that sun has no comprehension of its importance to life on earth. In that same way, we continue to shine with the things we hold true, and holding up the same vision that we began with. There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.


At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say Jim, I recall you once prepared a graph that demonstrated a Green Party majority in this election.

Still have it?

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Jim Johnston said...

Yes, it is true. I did a post, still in the archives here, in March 2007. As I look at it now, I realize that I should not have called it a "prediction", but rather it was to establish a goal.

The projection was based on the assumption that 1 in 4 voters would switch to the Green party. Now that I am a little older and hopefully a little wiser, I have come to realize that there is a great inertia in politics which is difficult to overcome.

It can be overcome in the right circumstances. The Reform Party did it quickly and successfully. So did the Bloc Quebecois. In both cases, there was a growing unrest which boiled over into an expression of a need for change. Malcolm Gladwell calls this the tipping point.

We have not reached that point yet. While there is a growing unrest about greenhouse gases, it has not reached the boiling point yet. Of course, there are lots of fear mongers still who say we can't afford to fix the environment. Of course, these is the same argument used to justify slavery (see Preston Manning's article at

I still believe the time will come, but I will do myself a favour and stop predicting the precise timing of the change.



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