Famously, it's not easy being green.
It's probably fair to say that being the junior party in a coalition is the hardest job in politics.
A parade of proud politicians and parties, from the progressive Greens to rural independents like Tony Windsor, have learned that lesson the hard way.
But nobody has done it as long as the other greens, the green-clad Nationals. They've been playing second fiddle since 1922 - only Queensland has ever elected a government led by the National or Country Parties, and that was largely due to the gerrymander.
Watching the recent efforts of NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro to strong-arm his Liberal partner Gladys Berejiklian, it's worth remembering a few facts about his very minor party.
Fact one: the Nationals win about 4 or 5 per cent of the vote in a really good federal election - about 10 per cent in NSW state elections. And that number is in slow but inexorable decline. Australia is one of the least rural countries in the world, and we're moving to the cities.
Fact two: The NSW party is in its worst electoral position in 20 years. The Nationals are under siege in the remnants of what were once their most loyal electorates covering the most rural parts of the state. They have lost the unlosable Orange, Barwon and Murray, with the Liberals losing Wagga Wagga.
The party has lost fully one-third of its seats since the 2015 election, and they were the good ones. There is no hope any will be won back at the next election.
Without its safe seats, the party is left eternally fighting over marginals, including electorates that could be considered naturally Labor - Upper Hunter, Monaro, Bathurst. Green-leaning Ballina and Lismore are already lost. This week the party's Port Macquarie MP defected to the Liberals.
But without question, the party's biggest challenge is seeing off the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in seats like Dubbo. The SFF are more than just an electoral threat. They challenge the Nationals for their very right to the regional brand and, independent of any major party, have an automatic advantage arguing the case in the community.
By contrast it's hard to see where the Nationals can pick up voters, if anywhere.
Unlike in its 1999 ebb during the Bob Carr era, the Nationals are currently in government. They will naturally lose seats, not win them, as the pendulum swings back to Labor.
Fact three: The Nationals have no constituency in any city in Australia and never will. They cannot expand into growing Sydney.
Non-Labor governments must win and hold seats in Sydney to form government, which means appealing to the interests of marginal metropolitan Labor voters. The Nationals must go along with that broad appeal to form government and win influence.
Which puts them at a disadvantage, potentially a decisive one, in their war with the Shooters.
Fact four: Even in its current ebb in electoral representation, the party is overrepresented in Macquarie Street. They hold 13 per cent of the state's seats with fewer than one-in-10 votes. The NSW party wins comparable electoral support to the Greens and their leader gets to be the Deputy Premier; no NSW Green has come close to holding a ministry in any government, ever.
There is no law that says the unique privilege of cabinet representation for the Nationals cannot be eroded further or even come to an end.
Meanwhile a series of high-profile members, including Niall Blair and former leader Troy Grant, have recently publicly left the party. The former head of the party's youth branch, Jess Price-Purnell, quit in disgust. That's the same youth branch which a few years ago was the target of a takeover attempt by suspected neo-Nazis.
Lack of administrative professionalism, electoral weakness, cabinet precarity.
Needless to say this is an extremely precarious and stressful position for the boss. Which has probably contributed to why John Barilaro took an entire month off for mental health leave earlier this month. I'm genuinely sympathetic and believe him when he says he needs it.
But Mr Barilaro has done very little to help himself or the party in recent weeks.
In a transparent effort at product differentiation, the Deputy Premier went to war over koalas earlier this month. Rather than fighting the usual quiet battle within cabinet, he chose to go extremely public with concerns about the extremely obscure Koala State Environmental Planning Policy. It was an odd pick for a hill to die on, but he dug in deep.
The Nationals would try to logjam Parliament, would refuse to vote for government legislation and "essentially go to the crossbench" until the problem was solved, Mr Barilaro threatened - but his MPs would somehow keep their ministries.
Did someone forget about cabinet solidarity?
Frankly it was an obvious blunder.
MORE ANDREW MESSENGER:
He forced the Premier's hand. If he were to win concessions this way once, Premier Berejiklian knew the threat would have been repeated over and over. She instead crushed her deputy by icily issuing an ultimatum that she would use her control of ministerial appointments and have them all sacked if he didn't give in.
How did nobody think the strategy through?
What many assume will likely be the end of his career as leader will set the Nationals back - but it will also give the party an opportunity to reset.
There are essentially two ways for the party to differentiate itself from the metro-focused Liberals: either by morphing into an Australian clone of the US Republican party - a generic catch-all conservative party - or by forgetting the culture war stuff most people tell pollsters they don't care about and campaigning for practical, concrete service improvements for the regions.
The party of rural Australia needs to choose if it wants to be conservative firebrand Barnaby Joyce or pragmatic Energizer Bunny Adam Marshall.
One factor to consider: the party's new heartland is the northern coastal part of NSW. The electoral fortunes of the current party room are defined by issues that affect not their traditional base of farmers, but the suburbanites and service workers of Tweed, Coffs Harbour, and Grafton.
They're far more likely, you would think, to care about hospital upgrades and school funding than issues like abortion.
That debate could soon come to a head. Parties are defined by their leaders, and most politics-watchers assume the Nationals are due for a new one. Whoever it is will have a huge challenge.
Stay tuned. The next leader could define rural politics - and rural Australia - forever.
- Andrew Messenger is an ACM journalist.