Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It Matters

When faced with the harsh reality, that yes, hiding behind curtains, abdicating your role in parliament, might come at a price, the popular defence seems to be, it doesn't matter, nobody is really paying attention. Liberals can act with relative impunity, their actions have little impact on a disengaged public, only junkies care, they aren't representative of the greater population.

I would agree, that Canadians are generally apathetic at the moment, certainly not engaged enough to care about the details. However, to extrapolate that fact into a rationalization that Liberals don't pay a price for their performance, is wishful thinking.

First off, you can immediately eliminate half the electorate, because these people don't vote, their indifference is irrelevant to any equation, they don't exist in terms of impression. Now that you've narrowed your audience, you've taken "joe blow" out of the mix, you are left with the other half, of which a reasonable percentage are somewhat engaged.

When asked if people follow events at a national level closely, 28% of Canadians said yes. Another 50% say they follow events somewhat closely. This finding supports another study, which tracks people's new access:
Sixty-five per cent of Canadians read a daily newspaper on any given weekday, and 72% read a newspaper on weekends. Canadians spend an average of 45 minutes a day reading their daily newspaper and almost 90 minutes on weekend editions.

I would argue 99% of the people who actually vote encompass the 65% who read a newspaper, we need not concern ourselves with the completely disinterested, nor should we find comfort in their habits. Again, they are irrelevant to the equation. When you see a stat, that a quarter of people follow events closely, we are really talking about half of the voting public. The rest, the other half, are at least exposed to the level of casual information absorber.

What the people who defend the Liberals at the moment forget, it doesn't take a high degree of engagement to grasp the broad themes. Let's look at one example, Dion's leadership. By an overwhelming majority, Canadians have developed an impression that Dion isn't a strong leader. I've heard many argue that this is a by-product of the constant Tory attack ads, they have damaged Dion somewhat. That might be true, but I find it odd to use a medium to help explain, the same medium which apparently nobody watches. If people see the commericals, hear the ads, they are also catching the odd newscast, a couple moments on the radio. In other words, night after of night of negative stories about abstaining and lame excuses eventually has an impact, even if people aren't consumed, like political junkies.

When people react to the NDP, Bloc, Conservative attacks on the Liberals with "so what?", it conveys too things, partisan arrogance and bad spin. It does matter, it does feed an already held perception of the Liberals, it cements the frame, it makes it hard to break out of that negative image. If you think that conditions will somehow improve, within a climate which oozes weakness day after day, then you are kidding yourself. If you think nobody cares, all of this occurs within some esoteric playground, detached from people's busy lives, then you are kidding yourself. Actions have consequences, and while one individual vote might not resonate, patterns do, broad strokes sink in, impressions are made.


northwestern_lad said...

Here here Steve... good on you... I saw Jason's piece earlier and decided to hold my fire until I had a chance to come down from my first reactions. I would say this though right away, if the Liberals are the metaphorical "Titanic" of Canadian politics right now, Jason is playing the Tuba in the band, and doing it with zeal.

Steve V said...

Lets just hope Dion doesn't come out and say, "we would have brought them down, but St Patty's day is coming up, and well you know..." The weakness of the defences is quite telling, there is really no credible excuses, or at least none that don't speak poorly of the party.

northwestern_lad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
northwestern_lad said...

Steve... we joke about that possibility, but I won't discount the chance of seeing it until it happens (where would you rather be on St. Patty's Day: the pub with Green Beer and Leprechauns or Voting??? I love to vote (just did yesterday) but even I would have to call that one a toss up... lol)

While reading Jason's piece I was waiting to see "we can't have an election on a day that ends in "Y"... the people wouldn't stand for it". In my humble opinion, there will never be a perfect time for an election. We have people dying half-way around the world to give other people the chance to vote... period, and here we have party's trying to argue that we shouldn't vote because not everyone wants it at that time??? We need to get some perspective on this. (sorry, had typos in the last post... needed to delete it to correct them)

Steve V said...


One part that gets dismissed in the "doesn't matter" argument, what the inaction does to the people within the party. I'm sure Jason has heard rumbling from party workers, unless of course the people I hear from are all regional anomalies. Bloggers aren't some unique entity, in fact I would take the debate online as representative of what is happening in more traditional channels. There are many people that are frustrated, and I predict this whole thing will start to unravel should we still be in this situation come the fall.

Yesterday, Dion was saying they may bring them down in April, which is either more of the same old, threat then backdown, or an acknowledgement that the situation is untenable.

Anonymous said...

"we would have brought them down, but St Patty's day is coming up, and well you know..."

Is this the message that is being spread among the partisans? Send Harper a message with decisive Grit victories on March 17.

In fact, Rae has basically said that you can only play the election card once. This means once the election is called, the Grits must win. There will be no second chance for Dion, it's either PM or go home.

northwestern_lad said...


I completely agree with you that the blogging sentiment is very representative of the feelings of the grassroots. I have seen some of that first hand here in the Toronto-Centre By-Election. And I also agree that this all could very well unravel very soon.

Personally, if I were a Liberal, my biggest concern would be that there would be real doubt about Mr. Dion following through on any threat, regardless of what is was. I've never seen anything like this before. Because he's backed down so many times now, the doubt about his threats are stronger than the belief that he will actually do it. The fact that there is so much doubt about Mr. Dion actually following through on his threats really speaks to how bad this has gotten.

Steve V said...

"I've never seen anything like this before."

If you described the present circumstance to any Liberal coming out of the convention, they would have laughed at you. It's unprecedented, never has the Liberal Party of Canada cowered to this extent.

Steve V said...

"There will be no second chance for Dion, it's either PM or go home."

There is also that issue of a possible leadership review in December, something which Dion better heed. If people plan on waiting until the fall, you will start hearing whispers again.

northwestern_lad said...

"It's unprecedented, never has the Liberal Party of Canada cowered to this extent."

Agreed Steve, agree whole heartedly. And that's saying something when it comes to the long history of the Liberals

Anonymous said...

Who would have come out of the Convention and expect the Grits to lose Outremont by 20 percentage points? Steve, you were throwing warning signs suggesting that we could be in trouble there. With some party dissidents wanting Dion to fail there, Mulcair's win was somewhat prescribed by the doctor.

Whispers will become loud roars in March 18 if Dion does not bat 4 for 4. A number of grassroots supporters have been privately writing off a Grit victory in Desnethe. Will David Orchard's followers stay silent? Or disgruntled Grits who dislike the idea of having a candidate appointed against the wishes of the grassroots?

northwestern_lad said...

Mushroom... I would build on your argument by saying that winning is not enough in those by-elections, and that the margin of any victory is extremely important to Mr. Dion's leadership. Mr. Dion needs margins that are at least equal to the last elections, because if they drop, he will be in further trouble.

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Dion needs margins that are at least equal to the last elections, because if they drop, he will be in further trouble."

That would be unrealistic. You are dealing with new Grit candidates running against popular household names in each riding. Bob Rae is not Bill Graham, Hall Findlay is not Jim Peterson, and Joyce Murray is not Stephen Owen. Politicos may know them, but not every voter watches CBC Newsworld or Mike Duffy Live.

In fact, we should be watching for Chris Tindal in Toronto Centre. He is definitely firing a shot across our hauls.

MarkCh said...

Why doesn't Dion just say "Our purpose is to unseat the Conservative government. That can only happen if we win the election. We believe that our message has not yet sunk in with Canadians. So, until it does, we will not defeat the government, and will put our efforts into trying to change public opinion, rather than posturing in Parliament"? It would be almost true, and could be a logical rationale for waiting.

Steve V said...

Martin is a good read today:

If the Liberals are serious about an election this time, they'd best get on with it and stop the go-no-rollover-whimper antics, lest their official Opposition title becomes a future Conservative campaign punchline.

Anonymous said...

The Conservative ads may have created a "first impression" but the conduct of Dion, the abstensions, walk-outs, hiding behind curtains, saber rattling when all knew it was false are the actions that are reinforcing the first impression. Those most likely to vote do pay attention and what they are seeing is a party that is willing to sit on its hands until there is something in it for them. If and when they finally vote to drop the government, they will have to fight off the accusation that there are no morals, ethics or reasons short of good poll numbers for the Liberals behind the vote; simply put, it is crass political opportunism - if that becomes the buzz during the first days of the election (and you know the Conservatives, NDP, and Bloc will do their best to make sure it does) there could be real trouble. Dion is in a box right now. He refuses to vote for his own confidence motions and says he won't got to an election on the NDP or Bloc timetables -- Just how many opportunities does he think he will get?

Möbius said...

If the LPC thinks that waiting until Spring to force an election on Cadman/Brodie is a good idea, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell them.

Who the heck will remember any of this in a month?

Steve V said...

"but the conduct of Dion, the abstensions, walk-outs, hiding behind curtains, saber rattling when all knew it was false are the actions that are reinforcing the first impression."

Ron, you hit on it. The impression was created, and the actions give the attack ads further context. The Liberals are playing right into the Conservatives hands here, the fact some can't realize this is astonishing. Dion NEVER raises his profile within the current dynamic, as a matter of fact he cements the negativity.


Of course nobody will remember this, but then again you probably said this was a one day story when it broke.

liberazzi said...

Whatever, wake me when we get a real leader...now they are going to let the Cons kill the RESP bill. Pathetic.

Möbius said...

Of course nobody will remember this, but then again you probably said this was a one day story when it broke.

No, I was more pissed off than you can imagine, the day the Cadman story broke. It reminded me of how I felt about the Grewal/Stronach crap at the time, and reinforced that all of the parties are complicit in pulling this shit.

...except the Greens and NDP......but only because they have nothing to offer.

Call me naive.