We whine about wanting a campaign based on ideas, and yet we see a seismic voting shift after a few touchy, feely sweater ads. We continually say we hate negative campaigning, and yet we buy into the frame those attacks suggest. We say we want transparency and openness, and yet we seem to be rewarding the campaign which is decidedly detached from the people, secretive, aloof and manufactured. We say we are sophisticated, too cynical and wise to be fooled by slick politicians, and yet we lap up the superficial, anything beyond a soundbite too complicated for our feeble minds. We have a media class that constantly laments our political discourse, and yet they treat substance like a novelty. We get what we deserve.
Kudos to the Conservatives, they've correctly figured out that voters have the attention span of tadpoles, the entire concept predicated on voter apathy. The Conservatives have manipulated, or better yet accurately read, a lazy media, demonstrating a full understanding of the news cycle, understanding that past deeds are irrelevant, the trick is distraction and you only have to do it for a few weeks. You can't blame Harper for offering nothing new, the most idea bereft campaign in Canadian history, after all the focus groups show it doesn't really matter. The Conservatives have "gamed" the system, because they have figured out the players, a fickle media and a distracted electorate.
What worries me, isn't so much the fortunes of my party, but beyond that, the prospects for the future. The Harper "template" will become standard practice for political campaigns moving forward, tight control on local campaigns, pretty photo-ops, limited media availability, ideas as secondary to presentation. Get this, you can delay release of your environmental plan and still be on the offensive, you can usurp the court process and nobody notices, you can stifle the Heritage Department, you can hide candidates, you can ignore the media, you can ignore expert opinion on an array of issues, you can do all this and it's considered a competent campaign.
I've always known that superficiality trumps substance, and that explains why I hesitated with Dion for so long. I understand the game, but then I bought into a bold policy, and thought we might see something new. I've always believed in a carbon tax, it was at that moment that I moved from semi-detached observer to invested partisan. Who cares if the English is slightly off, who cares if the messenger lacks charisma, the common touch, the ideas are beyond the shallow perceptions, all we need to do is engage and there is potential. I knew better, but I saw this election as a referendum on substance, a chance to understand competing visions, a real dialogue. After all, isn't that what voters say they crave, isn't that we the talking heads demand OVER and OVER, so critical of the "game", so deep, wanting more.
Whatever happens, certain things are clear. Attacks do work, we eat it up, but claim it tastes bad. The media is easily manipulated, so pathetic they arrogantly comment as though detached, when really they've been co-opted (played like a cheap fiddle). Ideas are merely a tool to target key demographics, in this campaign the less offered the better, the less shown the more advantageous. What's the point?