Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Plant The Seed

The other day, I wrote about the wisdom of the Liberals clearly defining a Us vs Them frame early on, in the pre-writ period, to get everyone thinking about the stakes, prior to the unpredictable flow of a campaign. Other partisans obviously scoff, but really the diehards are irrelevant to this equation, the thrust is all about soft supporters, the non engaged, the easily swayed, the fence sitting, non committed, undecideds, you get the drift... Why not? Why not try to narrow the debate, wherein you try and position yourself as the only legitimate alternative to the "status quo".

There are two options, more of the same or a different outcome. One wonders, if voters are faced with this choice, if they won't see the merit in "change", particularly when it's fair to say nobody is particularly enamoured with the status quo. Early evidence that the OLO is spot on to set the early frame comes from fellow blogger Impolitical:
This is notable, from the influential Andre Pratte, a column stating that Quebecers should think twice about the logic of voting for the Bloc in the next election if they truly want to ensure the Conservatives are defeated.

Here we see how the Liberals have planted the seed, others digest and see merit in the argument. Pratte lays out a sensible support for the Liberal rational, primarily because Ignatieff's position is rooted in cold, hard realities.

In Quebec, support for the government is simply abysmal. However, as Pratte acknowledges, voting Bloc only serves to entrench a government that very few Quebecers support. There is a a simple logic to the Liberal argument, which Pratte adopts. One column, one view, but also quite true this particular column is never penned, if not for the Liberals floating the frame. I suspect this column solicits further discussion. At the very least, it would appear there is some merit in taking a pro-active position, planting the seed hardly arrrogant or assumptive, but more rightly politically shrewd.


Jim Parrett said...

Absolutely. Plant away, Liberals.

Steve V said...

I'd add, don't just say it a couple times then move elsewhere, but keep hammering away, repeat it everywhere, to the point of nausea :)

Tof KW said...

OK I see you're on this one Steve. I wasn't expecting a new post, but this development deserves one.

As I mentioned before, Pratte has a long history of supporting federalism in his editorials over the years; so you can bet the PĂ©quistes will be trashing this editorial quite vigorously.

But this editorial was not aimed at the hardcore separatists, as they will always vote BQ no matter what. Pratte's message is for all the soft support the BQ receives as protest votes against the Libs and Cons. These are most definitely in play, and bloat the BQ's numbers beyond what one should see if the ballot question was simply: Should Quebec separate? Oui/Non.

Pratte's latest editorial in La Presse offers a chance for the Libs to finally begin to eat into those high Bloc numbers. If the folks in the OLO are on top of things they'll pounce on this in Quebec tout de suite.

Steve V said...


Another tract here as well. Not only does this frame speak to soft Bloc supporters, but it blunts the flirtation with the NDP, to a lesser extent Greens, in Quebec. The more people talk about the Liberals as the alternative, no matter the manifestation, the more it narrows the debate, which obviously works in our favour.

My only worry, that Ignatieff's comments aren't followed up until the campaign begins. The Liberals need to keep the frame central to their daily message, so that it is truly absorbed pre-writ.

Robert McClelland said...

And once again you overlook the reality that many people who vote for a party other than the Liberals or Conservatives do so in part because they see no difference between the two. So your narrative from their point of view becomes "Us vs US".

Steve V said...

You're not the audience, diehards aren't worth bothering with. I would say the Libs have offered a divergence, everyone but other partisans seems to agree, so it is clearly not us vs us. That's your frame Robert, that's how you guys get traction, so I guess it will be dueling narratives, as it should be. Again though, whether you see merit is frankly the least of the Libs concerns, same goes for your colleagues. This strategy is directed toward the soft supporter, of which there is ample availability.

Tof KW said...

Really Mr McClelland, there is no difference between the Libs and Cons? OK, I know for certain the Conservatives are all for scrapping the long gun registry, while the Liberals created it and are solidly for keeping it. That sounds pretty different to me. Now please tell me where the NDP stands exactly on this issue?

Robert McClelland said...

You're still not getting it, Steve. Here is the combined support for the Libs/Cons over the past 30 years.

1980: 76.79%
1984: 78.05
1988: 74.94
1993: 75.97
1997: 76.65
2000: 78.58
2004: 66.36
2006: 66.50
2008: 63.91

See, it's not my frame, Steve. We've entered an era where voters are turning away from the traditional Liberal and Conservative choices and seeking out alternatives. They're doing so because they don't see any significant difference between the two parties. And this trend will continue leaving the Conservatives and Liberals to fight over a shrinking share of the pie.

Robert McClelland said...

To sum up my last comment with a better look at the trend I'm trying to show, consider this.

In the 30s and 40s the Liberals and Conservatives were fighting over roughly 95% of the voters. In the 50s and 60s this had dropped to 85%. In the 70s, 80s and 90s this had dropped again to 75%. It now stands at 65%.

This is what I'm trying to point out. Voters are turning away from the Liberals and Conservatives and they aren't coming back.

Steve V said...

The best part about that year by year analysis Robert, is the NDP TODAY is below where it was when you started. LOL, was that what you were trying to show, because you've basically said that voters are turning away from the two main parties, but BYPASSING the NDP as a credible alternative? :)

Steve V said...

Further, so the two main parties have lost a whopping 13% of the vote and you guys are still down 1.5% from 1980 levels, basically a very similar erosion? Hmmm, what does that say about the NDP then, voters obviously don't see them as much different either I guess? Thanks.

Tof KW said...

Mr McClelland, I'll assume those numbers between 1993 and 2000 were combining Liberal + PC + Reform numbers, no?

Speaking of which look at the dates. The drop happened after one specific date, the 2004 election. In 2000 the combined support was a high as ever. What event might have caused that big drop in combined Conservative + Liberal support?

Hint, I think a lot of it has to do with the party I once supported that doesn't exist anymore.

Robert McClelland said...

Further, so the two main parties have lost a whopping 13% of the vote...

Yes, and a staggering 30% since the thirties. The trend is there, Steve, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. And no amount of fearmongering is going to bring those voters back into the Liberal/Conservative column.

Steve V said...

I love how you've GLOSSED over the NDP non traction angle. Wow. The more you try and make this tortured argument, the more it begs the question- why can't the NDP capitalize on the move away from the two main parties, why are voters looking beyond the NDP as a credible alternative to the two main parties? All you've done here Robert is show the failure of the NDP... Apparently no amount of your "fear mongering" about the Libs are bringing anyone into the the NDP camp. Fascinating. Thanks for coming out :)

Tof KW said...

Robert McClelland said...
"Yes, and a staggering 30% since the thirties."

Oh give me a break, that's because the CCF came on the political scene during the depression and took 15% away from the PCs and Libs.

The only other major decline over the past 80 years occurred in 2004, and that's because the Progressive Conservatives are not an option anymore. Those votes did not all go to Harper, far from it. Believe me, though I'm parking my vote with the Grits this next election, most true Tories just sit out elections rather than holding their noses to vote Lib. And they sure as hell don't vote NDP.

Robert McClelland said...

I love how you've GLOSSED over the NDP non traction angle.

My point has nothing specifically to do with the NDP; it's about the trend of voters turning away from the Libs/Cons in favour of alternative parties. So how any individual party fares over time is irrelevant to the fact that the Liberals and Conservatives are fighting over a shrinking share of voters.

That gets back to my original comment; that the strategy you're excited about is not going to change the reality that those voters are not going to return to the Liberal or Conservative camps.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how much its the Liberals 'planting the frame' or not. But it is entirely logical. The main reason we have a minority parliament right now is the huge Bloc support. If they diminished then we would either get a Liberal minority or a Liberal-NDP coalition if they can together form significantly more seats than the Conservatives. Another element the Liberals should 'float' to prepare the ground is to vehemently denounce any notion that a coalition must contain the party with the most seats. If we acknowledge that the party with the most seats does not have anywhere near a majority of the votes and that they may need a coalition to rule then why not admit that the second and third parties can legitimately form government if they have the most seats when joined together?

JimmE said...

Should really read this Blog:
The real growth is NONE OF THE ABOVE & may I add the downward trend in voter turnout as well? I would suggest this is the big sucess of the present PM, making politics even more unsavory than ever, thus keep many voters away & GOTV from his base.
My feeling is folks are fed-up with three minority Govs, this is Iggy's best option. The danger is the SLIME MACHINE may convince enought people that having a lounge lizard as a PM is a good thing.

Steve V said...


That's the thing, there is a logic to the argument, which is where Pratte steps in.


I think history will show that voter apathy was Harper's greatest ally.

ottlib said...

Jeepers Robert, the NDP have been pushing the "Liberals and Conservatives are really the same thing so the only alternative is the NDP" narrative for as long as I have been politically aware (pushing 30 years).

In that time it has not done anything to help the NDP to replace either of the Conservatives or Liberals as the Official Opposition let alone the government.

Perhaps it is time to get some new material.

WesternGrit said...

It may be obvious... it may seem trite and trivial, but repeating, repeating, repeating, ad nauseum is the ONLY way to victory for ANY of our ideas... It's simple PR... We give the voters too much credit for some sort of amazing intelligence and political "perception", that precludes us from repeating, repeating, repeating, but there is no such thing. Look at Harper harping about "economic action plan" 26 trillion times a year. It worked to frame them as acting on the economy. Look at the tough on crime posters... We think, "cheesy, campaigny, dumb"... Joe average voter goes, "hey, it's that tough on crime guy again".





Reap the rewards.

Sure we need to talk ideology, but we need to pick up on the main points that diffrentiate us the most, and hammer those home. I'm actually quite confident that our OLO is on the way to doing that this go-around, and that the party is ready to "go" anytime this Winter/Spring.

WesternGrit said...

Edit: As anyone who has knocked a lot of doors (whole neighborhoods, and entire ridings) can attest, the "uninformed" (to put it nicely) are the biggest group out there. They can be won over, but you need to have the right buzz words and buzz phrases.

Don't believe me? Drop the latte and knock a few thousand doors next election...

Tof KW said...

”As anyone who has knocked a lot of doors (whole neighborhoods, and entire ridings) can attest, the "uninformed" (to put it nicely) are the biggest group out there.”

That observation is golden WG, and it allows me to dredge up (of all things) Jacques Parizeau’s words of wisdom about the group that makes and breaks elections. From a UofW lecture series on Mordecai Richler

The paragraph of particular interest:

”In a moment of candour, following the first referendum, Jacques Parizeau once told The Globe and Mail's Graham Fraser, "We are elected by idiots. In Quebec, 40% are Separatists, and 40% are Federalists, and 20% don't know who is Prime Minister of Canada. And it's that 20% that makes and breaks governments." Parizeau was guilty of understatement. Don McPherson, the Montreal Gazette's astute commentator on Quebec affairs wrote on September 17th, 1996, "Quebec's fate could be decided by people who can't understand the instructions on the label of a bottle of Aspirin." McPherson went on to quote a Statistics Canada Survey that showed 28% of Quebeckers tested had trouble understanding the Aspirin instructions.”

I despise Parizeau, but those blunt words carry a lot of truth. “We are elected by idiots”. Harper’s success comes from appealing to ignorance. We all know cutting the GST and not income taxes was stupid, we all know mandatory minimums and the building of superjails is a stupid way to fight crime, we all know killing the mandatory long-form census is stupid. But in every democracy, stupid people can vote too.

The Liberals need to learn how to fight stupid with stupid. Dumb down any responses to 10 words or less, and repeat until the cows come home. Save the long, proper answers for us nerds that follow politics. Unfortunately, short soundbites are what win or loose elections these days.

Tof KW said...

And speaking of 'stupid' ...that typo should be "win or lose elections these days.

Omar said...

"The Liberals need to learn how to fight stupid with stupid."

And if THAT is what comes to pass, well you can count me out of the electoral process forever. It reminds me of this past summer when Ignatieff came to Yarmouth and boldly announced to the crowd that West Nova needs to re-elect Robert Thibault because, (paraphrase) "Robert knows the difference between a herring boat and a crab boat". Well, yeah-fucking-yeah to that inspiring piece of politicking. I'm sick and tired of all the 'stupid' and if playing dumb is how we are supposedly going to better our democracy, then there is definitely something rotten in Denmark.

WesternGrit said...

Hey Omar, I don't think either of us are saying we need to get stupid, or anything like that... We should have intelligent ideas... We just need to ensure that our message is always short and "pointed", 140 characters or less in this Twitter age...

We certainly do not need to make our ideas dumb... I've sat in rooms with well-meaning, life-long Liberals, and after downing a few realizing that we were just talking at a level that no "Joe Ordinary" Timmy's swilling voter would delve into, or even understand... Good ideas are important, but how we impart these to the voting public is as important - and requires a lot of creative thought.

Tof KW said...

Omar, the Conservatives are not stupid either, far from it. Though acts like killing the mandatory long form census seem like dumb moves on the surface, they are a means to an end. And their rationale and defence is packaged up in soundbites of 144 characters or less, repeated by 145 MPs 24-7 until the issue goes away.

As WesternGrit pointed out, the response back is likewise not based in stupidity, but unfortunately must be made short, sweet and repeated by every party member until the cows come home.

The Liberals, to their credit, tried to take the high, cerebral road, and appealed to Canada's better judgment with Dion.

We all saw how that turned out.

My comment about 'fighting stupid with stupid' is an example my proposed strategy. There is strategy, logic and a rationale behind my phase ...but I've dumbed it down to the least common denominator so even a turnip can understand it.

That phrase will stick in your brain for a while, but the rest of my long-winded writing will disappear from your conscious thoughts in less than 2 minutes after you jump to another internet site.

Omar said...

I hear you both. I just want to be inspired. Dazzle me. Give me fire. Give me a reason to want to be involved and participate. It's not too much to ask, is it? Ants could limbo under a bar set so low by this current government. Let's fight stupid with smart. Yes, I like that better. Much, much better.

WesternGrit said...

We can "Obamafy" our election and talk about "hope", etc... lol... It was his strategy too.

Steve is bang on with his conclusions... A simple message can be brilliant. MPs parroting every word is important. Say what we want about Chretien, his iron-fisted leadership was good for the party. Harper has taken that a step beyond by basically creating a caucus of mutes. Still, if we follow the Chretien PMO's less dictatorial style we'll succeed in our messaging. MPs have to be onside.

Party discipline is what Mr. "Free Votes" Harper is all about. He doesn't care for the voice of the individual MP reflecting what constituents want... He TELLS constituents what they want...

Omar said...

Ah, to hell with involvement and participation. I enjoy more freedom as a prole anyway.