Leadership Selection in the BC Parties
The picture of BC politics we have drawn to this point is one of electoral politics pervaded by the rhetoric (and sometimes the substance) of polarization. It is also one of party activists who reflect and sustain the image of parties divided on many issues. The governing right-wing Social Credit party portrays itself as defending free enterprise against the socialist threat of the New Democrats, while the NDP opposition sees itself as offering a systematic alternative to the excesses of the business class. The Liberals, who have been virtually squeezed out of existence in this political climate, have sought to preserve a moderate centrist position. The province has a deeply ingrained populist streak in its political culture and such orientations profoundly affect the way its parties organize and operate ( Blake 1985; Young 1983).
Perhaps as a consequence of their party being in power most of the time since 1952, Social Credit activists are a more heterogeneous lot than the NDP. Within the governing party there is support for a variety of positions and considerable divergence on matters of substance (especially social spending) and matters of political tactics. As we will find in Chapter 10, on most issues Social Credit reflects something of the variety of opinion found in the electorate, albeit a somewhat right-wing variant of it. New Democratic activists, on the other hand, share a set of opinions that are at once more homogeneous and more divergent from those held by the province's voters. In this sense the party might be said to be both more ideological and less responsive to the pressures of the electoral marketplace.
In such a system, party leaders must negotiate a particularly delicate tightrope. Partisans expect their vision of the public agenda to be forcefully articulated and the enemy ravaged by their champion,