Monday, August 17, 2009

Opportunity Missed?

I have to confess, from a non-partisan perspective, that the NDP changing their name was probably a good idea, that had plenty of potential. With that in mind, from a partisan perspective, I'm glad the NDP has kept their name.

When I first heard of the name change idea, it all seemed so superficial and callous. Upon further reflection, while the perceptions still held true, you could entertain the possibilities. The number one beef or criticism of our political parties, seems to center around this "same old, same old" and this sentiment has lead to voter apathy, downright disinterest. People don't vote, they don't care, they tune it out because it's all so bland. This overwhelming backdrop means that a simple name change, along with some new messaging, could tap into this disinterest. Change your name, accompanied with a fresh approach, the NDP had the opportunity to re-invent themselves, at the exact moment when people crave something different.

Layton's messaging out of the convention deliberately tried to place the NDP as the "different" alternative. You know what you get from the other parties, the NDP offers "change". A sound strategy, that recognizes the public sentiment, but it comes from a party that is just as entrenched as the others it villifies. A party beholden to labour, lacking economic sensibilities, offering kneejerk leftist solutions to complex issues. People see orange, the association is made, the brand is firmly cemented. It's for that reason that the name change, color schemes, while amounting to nothing, can morph into something else that people would find attractive.

When you consider the rise of the Green Party, it isn't easily contained to a simple environmental response. I know many people who consider or have voted Green because it is seen as alternative to the status quo, of which the NDP is a part. Not so much taking votes away from the Liberals, the Green Party presence stifles the NDP's growth potential. Further, on the environmental front, certain voters who were drawn to the NDP's policies are drifting away. The name change and a new presentation would appeal to a voter subset, people tired with the standard choices might re-visit.

Jack Layton is heading into his fourth election campaign, a career politician, a known quantity. That's hardly the optimal reality to simply change gears and run under the "change" mantra. However, if this messaging were accompanied by several internal "changes", then old and tired has the potential to become timely and fresh. Particularly on the economic angle, where voters have little confidence, a makeover would allow consideration on the credibility front. It's all very superficial of course, but then again we have a government now that relies on a lack of sophistication from the public to find success.

In the final analysis, I see the name change failure as an opportunity missed. From the Liberal perspective, all things being equal, it was a favorable outcome.

7 comments:

ottlib said...

The Reform Party changed its name because they knew the Brand had become a liability. It did them no good. The Canadian Alliance did not do any better than Reform.

I suspect the same would have happened to a renamed NDP.

Both demonstrate just how bankrupt politics is in this country. Instead of actually remaking themselves to be more appealing to Canadians these two parties chose to repackage, or at least to propose repackaging, the same old policies and attitudes and then try to show that doing so somehow made them different from before.

No wonder Canadians are turning off politics in droves.

On another note, it would appear that many NDP bloggers have realized the blunder of their party in the handling of the proposed name change. They are out in force on all of the Liberal blogs that talk about it trying to spin this into something besides the failure that it was.

Steve V said...

I think that's because it was still a western based party, whereas the NDP has tenticles throughout Canada.

Mushroom said...

"I know many people who consider or have voted Green because it is seen as alternative to the status quo, of which the NDP is a part. Not so much taking votes away from the Liberals, the Green Party presence stifles the NDP's growth potential."

I am not sure if they are going after the same electorate.

I don't think Lizzie May calls herself a social democrat. She has used the Green Party as a means to shape her own political views and sell it to the voting public. That is her success.

Lizzie May's view of Canada is of an Atlantic Canadian progressivism, one that fills a gap undertaken when the Harper Cons swallowed up the Joe Clark-Bob Stanfield Progressives. The irony is that it has a strong Ontarian appeal, which is shown by its better performance in the Central Ontario at the expense of Layton's Dippers.

Steve V said...

"The irony is that it has a strong Ontarian appeal, which is shown by its better performance in the Central Ontario at the expense of Layton's Dippers."

Doesn't that comment detract from your earlier different electorate theory?

There's no question, that some of the environmental support has bleed from the NDP to the Greens. I also think that the "protest" vote, and this is where my anecedotal reference kicks in, is inclined to go Green now, as opposed to the NDP. A rebrand might bring people into the fold, a couple % makes a huge difference.

Mushroom said...

"Doesn't that comment detract from your earlier different electorate theory?"

Central Ontario tends to be small-c conservative with a anti-Catholic tradition. Note that John Tory's funding of religious schools was attacked bitterly there. The provincial Greens ran a platform in 2007 calling for an end to funding Catholic schools. This was popular, even in the urban ridings of Toronto where more secularists live.

At the same time, the NDP is becoming more industrial town, working class Catholic. Witness its greater appeal in places such as Welland and Northern Ontario. Different message, different audience.

With regards to a protest vote, the Greens have the advantage. Its message is more fuzzy and much less ideological, while the NDP takes on a more populist overtone.

Catelli said...

The Green party attracts disaffected Liberals too.

I know, I am one.

Ricky Barnes said...

I supported a name change, though most delegates did not it is clear. That said, it was not vital to succeed. Layton and the NDP have done better each time out.

The next election will likely see a minority again. This will be a test of Iggy and the Libs who decided a coalition wasn't going to work.

Lets see what they think after the next election.