Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Nasty, Divisive Patriot

Strategic Counsel, asks a series of questions, comparing attitudes toward Ignatieff and Harper. Some of the conclusions, Quebecers HATE Harper, Ignatieff has work to do on the patriotism front, people would have a coffee with Harper, even though he's a nasty piece of work. Buried in the numbers, probably the most important stat, the Liberals are now statistically tied on managing the economy, a finding which towers above all other considerations:
Michael Ignatieff is seen as starkly less patriotic than Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a new poll that suggests the Tories accurately put their finger on the Liberal Leader's vulnerabilities with a series of recent attack ads.

But while the survey comparing the two leaders reveals chinks in Mr. Ignatieff's armour, it also shows the public finds fault with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who voters say is more divisive, nasty and partisan in his approach than Mr. Ignatieff.

The Globe and Mail-CTV News survey shows opportunities abound for both sides to take advantage of the other's weaknesses among regions, gender and income groups.

The general mood of all the answers paints Harper as a more down to earth common man, and he does get the edge with the all important middle class. On the ad front, this poll confirms why the Conservatives chose this line of attack, as Ignatieff trails badly on patriotism. Interestingly, and this plays into something I've argued, these ads tend to feed the negative narratives about Harper, he is seen as far more partisan, nasty and political. It's an fascinating dynamic, while the ads could highlight an Ignatieff weakness, these findings show considerable risk for Harper, reinforcing his own achilles heel.

Generally, we've seen the Conservatives hold an edge on the "economic manager" front, although the Liberals have chipped into this advantage the past few months. It's natural for the governing party to hold an edge on this measure, because they are in charge, whereas the other party is simply theoretical. When you start to see the opposition party even with the government, it represents a serious problem:
When it comes to party preference, the two parties are close in who is viewed as best able to manage the economy, with the Tories ahead 26 per cent to 24 per cent, a gap that has narrowed from 11 points last August.

Even more than the Liberal number, the very low score for the Conservatives tells us they are really losing credibility with Canadians, on the most crucial of files. A full 50% didn't pick either party, which speaks to a real uncertainty. Given the pessimistic economic news we have been bombarded with, it's noteworthy that Ignatieff leads when it comes to ability to inspire. When Canadians see a pretty bleak outlook, challenges ahead, Ignatieff edge on this score could be an asset, as he might best be able to convey a better reality for the future.

One part of this poll omitted from this link, was an intriguing finding on where Canadians think Ignatieff sits on the political spectrum:

I would categorize the above as optimal positioning for Ignatieff moving forward.


RuralSandi said...

Hmmmm - patriotism.

Which leader respect "Canadian" institutions and which one doesn't.

Which leader understands and respects our parliamentary system and which one doesn't.

Which leader truly understands international issues and which one doesn't.

Which leader can say he loves Canada and which just can't quite say it.

Which leader seized opportunities and made a success of himself internationally and which one spent his time doing speeches in right wing think tanks putting down Canada?

Which leader was born in Ontario, but loves the "whole" country and which leader was born in Ontario but attacked it frequently until he needed votes?

...we could go on and on....

Constant Vigilance said...

This poll, on the surface seems very disconcerting.Can cheezy ads really counter the reality of Harper's personality and his record?

bigcitylib said...


Hard to say with no horserace number. I don't know why SC couldn't just ad that to the survey.

Anonymous said...

Can cheezy ads really counter the reality of Harper's personality and his record?Yes. My neighbor three days ago:

"You know that f*ckin' Michael Whathisname isn't even Canadian? I don't want a f*ckin' American coming up and stealing our country."

I hate to write this, but voters have become pridefully ignorant.

I didn't think we needed to run ads and go dirty, but clearly we have to, or else it will be Harper forever. If we don't play his game, we will lose again.
Paul Raposo

The Rational Number said...

I understand patriotism is important in 'tactical politics' and must not be ignored. I guess Iggy must start wearing bigger and bigger lapel pins, etc.

However I'm pretty tired of it. Patriotism is now synonymous with 'belief in an ideal country'.

The patriotic left imagines (perhaps) a country with more progressive ideals, social justice and protection for minorities.

The patriotic right imagines (perhaps) a country with more traditional ideals, more individual responsibilities, smaller government, less interference and lower taxes.

Each side accuses the other of being unpatriotic when they don't line up with their own definition of patriotism. I think U.S. right wing commentators (NOT journalists) have taken to defining patriotism as 100% agreement with themselves (which occasionally pits them against each other tom my amusement). E.g. if you don't agree with Sean Hannity you're unpatriotic and hate America.

So, getting back to tactics, should we define patriotism EXPLICITLY in such way to undermine Harper? Are we already doing it, and could we improve or focus our efforts?

burlivespipe said...

What puzzles me is how Harper has manifested his record into a 'sense of patriotism'... It's completely manufactured, considering his actions and words of the past (and even not-so past). The media seems to accept a statute of limitations on Harper's past but believe everythings fair-game on Ignatieff. The well-oiled CON-bots flood the letters pages, online talk shows and comment boards en masse with their pre-written blather and boobs like Bill Good eat it up as gospel.
The disheartening thing is that the CONs bankroll suggests they can continue this act unabated until an election; meanwhile, whenever anything comes down to questioning them, it's 'partisan run amok'.
We definitely need to counter this, but I don't know if Ignatieff wants to get in the dirt. Staying on the high ground has its benefits, but John Kerry may have some advice on that, too.

burlivespipe said...

... And if Harper was a true party patriot, he could salt the ground to poison both Ignatieff and himself, then ruefully resign this fall to create a garden path for his successor. I seriously doubt he has that kind of character in him, but having lived through Bill Bennett - a guy who seriously needed a comeuppance but spoiled it by retiring before his time - I'm concerned that the man who couldn't trump a ganged-up-on Dion may understand some of his own obstacles.

Miles Lunn said...

On the economy, that is definitely showing the Tories weaknesses, although it does seem there is a bit of a divide between Quebec and English Canada. Ignatieff is without question doing better on almost every question in Quebec, but Harper still leads on most in English Canada. Now true his massive leads in Alberta might skew things a bit, but he still has a bit of work to do in the West and Ontario.

As for his positioning, I would say centrist for Ignatieff myself. Mind you centre, left, right have are relative so I would say right wing in the Scandinavian countries while left wing in the United States relative to your average voter in those countries, but centrist here in Canada.

Miles Lunn said...

I should add, I think that Ignatieff's lower numbers in Ontario can easily be corrected. One Tory blogger back in 2004 argued that after Rae's surprising election in 1990, Ontarioans have been cautious about changing governments (remember in 2004, the Liberals and Tories were tied in Ontario, yet the Liberals won 3/4 of the seats on election day proving the pollsters wrong). So if anything the more Michael Ignatieff becomes known to Ontarioans and the better he can show he is the right change, his numbers should improve. Stephen Harper is not well liked in Ontario but he is more of a known quantity than Ignatieff at the moment. In Quebec, on the contrary they like to take chances with someone they don't know well, witness Harper's breakthrough in 2006 when he was barely known in Quebec and if Quebecers knew more about his background I somehow doubt he would have made the breakthrough he did.

Steve V said...

""You know that f*ckin' Michael Whathisname isn't even Canadian? I don't want a f*ckin' American coming up and stealing our country."

And, I'll guarantee someone like that has NEVER and will NEVER vote Liberal anyways, so who CARES?

Gayle said...

I don't know - I would probably describe Harper as being more patriotic too, if the question were: "who is more patriotic, Ignatieff or Harper". Harper is the guy who stayed in Canada, so I think it is a natural answer, even though I know from personal knowledge one can live outside the country and be patriotic.

In fact, while outside the country I participated in more overt demonstrations of my love for Canada than I do now. I never missed a Canada Day party (the best was the one at the Maple Leaf Pub in London). If Ignatieff ever attended such a party, or hosted one, in his years away, it might be wise for him to disclose that. Of course, if he didn't...

More than that - everyone knew I was Canadian. I continued to follow politics here, and always spoke of my country as being the best place in the world to live. Again, it might assist Ignatieff if some of his friends just happened to mention that he often spoke of his love for Canada while living overseas...

If I were asked who would be the better Prime Minister, Harper or Ignatieff, my answer would be Ignatieff.

Anonymous said...

Hi I know its a little bit off topic, but does anyone know a site where I can find all the wonderful things Harper has done to Canada? I'm planning to make a video about it.

Anthony said...

Michael Ignatieff is as American as Barack Obama is Muslim...


(caps makes it true)

sjw said...

Anonymous, this site is a good place to start.

RuralSandi said...

Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiently or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.
- Theodore Roosevelt

A Prince, whose character is ... marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.

Thomas Jefferson
Declaration of Independence