When I look at the dismal Liberal fundraising numbers Steve reports here, my mind is cast back, back in time to the heady days of late '06 when Liberals confronted the issue of party reform and duffed it, chose to remain mired in the past:
MONTREAL -- The drive to modernize the federal Liberal party hit a roadblock Thursday when delegates flatly rejected a shift to a one-member, one-vote leadership process.
Many were unhappy. For example, at the time I wrote:
A vote to retain the current format also signifies that the Party does not trust its general membership to choose a party leader acceptable to its Elite (the people that show up for these wing-dings). This decision will come out as a net Negative when it comes to growing that general Membership...
...and Red Tory argued that this "snotty elitism" showed how out of touch the party was with the rest of the nation.
However, those who needed to hear and heed these arguments were passed-out face down in hotel rooms all around Montreal, wearing their Liberal thongs and clutching cheap bottles of red to their chests.
Now, you can't blame these lousy fundraising numbers on one decision, but that one decision serves to accentuate the fact that the Liberal Party, as it is currently constituted, is the furthest of all the majors from being a "grass roots" entity. As a rank and file member (which my wife has been at times), you are expected to show up at events and assume your function as a cheque writing machine before buggering off into the night. That might have been okay when the Libs were in power, but since they aren't anymore, what exactly are people paying for? "Access" to those on the opposition benches?
Proximity to losers, in other words.
I suspect that Liberal fundraising woes will not change until the Party itself changes, by offering something more than the occasional night of rather expensive hot-dogs to its rank and file. If people do not feel that their participation can influence policy, if they feel that the only way they can help choose a party leader is to schmooze their way to the top of their local riding association, they will not join and they will not pay.