Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This Fire Has Embers

Ibbitson states the obvious to a certain extent, the Conservative strategy appears to be banking on this robocall storm simply blowing itself out. Hardly a new tactic, the Conservatives are masters at riding out controversy, knowing full well that today's media climate is immediate, attention spans non existent, what looks "huge" today, forgotten tomorrow. The catchword "BREAKING" is almost redundant, because our daily information is forever the now, issues go stale in hours, not days and unless a story is continually "stoked", it simply burns out, we move on to the next instant gratification. As well, a certain boredom tends to take hold, a recurring story tends to have less impact with each successive review.

Vikileaks fits into the above category, in a week nobody will remember the name of Liberal staffer, just another example of unseemly political activity, but largely forgotten. However, if the Conservatives are "banking" on the robocall controversy simply falling off the radar, I submit that strategy will fail. One caveat, given the available options, perhaps the tried and true Conservative reaction (go back and look at In and Out for example, Harper is eerily familiar now, as are the minions) is the least worst option, cornered, what other avenues are available?

I believe this scandal has "legs", there is an almost institutional element that will keep the issue top of mind. There are investigations, legal questions, the very real possibility of a bi-election or two, as well as unforeseen revelations, all congealing to create a scandal which has legs. As well, I note CBC's Jamie Watt segment on what is resonating found this issue is hitting a very widespread nerve, robocalls are resonating, it has burst outside the bubble and generating real world chatter. You could make a compelling argument that most of the previous controversies these Conservatives have confronted haven't truly resonated, which has contributed to the success of the "ragging the puck" strategies. In this instance, early evidence suggests a potentially deeper electoral reaction, which again puts into question whether the Conservatives can successfully ride this issue out.

The courts will decide in April if we will have a least one bi-election in Etobicoke Center, Liberals are looking at other ridings as well. The legal threshold for triggering a bi-election lies with the ability to demonstrate that this robocall behaviour may have impacted the result. There is a very real possibility this stipulation can be met, which would translate into a fascinating development. A bi-election, wherein ethics will be the primary issue, as impetus, no question any vote would become a referendum on this whole unseemly matter. Should a bi-election be called anywhere, it amounts to a guarantee that this scandal will stay front and center, we will have a protracted national debate about political behaviour and our democratic tenets. Voters will have the most concrete avenue available to weigh in, to sanction or punish, emotions will run high.

There are so many angles within this scandal, so much drip, drip, drip, so many formal avenues that will evolve, the Conservatives might find that this time, their formely successful scandal template doesn't bail them out. This fire has embers...


Jim Parrett said...

When the National Post digs deep into a possible Conservative scandal as it is doing now, it's time to take RoboCon seriously. I hate to concern troll but the Cons need to douse this fire fast. I don't think that will be possible.

sharonapple88 said...

National Post, and now the Calgary Herald.

From the article:

"Some of the Conservative reaction to the growing robocall scandal reminds us of Leslie Nielsen standing in front of an exploding fire-works factory in Naked Gun while telling a gathering crowd, "Move on. Nothing to see here."


"The question that must be answered is how high up the pole this goes. The Harper government's ethical reputation is at stake. Critics point to the robocalls as the apex of Conservative control politics, ranging from the long-form census issue to removing discretionary sentencing by judges - not to mention pro-rogation of Parliament."

Et tu Brute.

Steve V said...

Some of the conbot reactions are an exercise in the power of delusion. Laughable.

Frunger said...

Hebert has a good column about this, pointing out that most of the ridings allegedly targeted had huge Conservative victories or didn't stand much of a chance. Outside of Guelph and maybe a few others there doesn't seem to be much sense in the strategy, but this one MIGHT have legs as you say.

If it doesn't, the opposition will have only themselves to blame. Years of hollering "SCANDAL" over communion wafers, "busty hookers" or whatever scandal-of-the-day(tm) they could dream up has blunted the consequences of any legit act of indiscretion or ethical violation the Conservative party may have done.

This "SCANDAL" may yet teach all parties a thing or two.

Steve V said...

When someone mentions wafergate, my mind immediately stops reading... Pathetic.

Tof KW said...

"Years of hollering "SCANDAL" over communion wafers, "busty hookers" or whatever scandal-of-the-day(tm) they could dream up has blunted the consequences...

Frunger, if you want an example of a past government with a new scandal erupting every two weeks or so, just look up the Mulroney administration. Likewise most of them were forgotten relatively quickly as well. Anyone remember tunagate? Or how about when then Minister of Defence Robert Coates visited a West German strip club while on an official trip? Likewise the opposition yelling "scandal" every time blunted the public's reaction too, however eventually a few big faux pas stuck to the PC's ...namely Airbus, HST and 'rolling the dice' on Meech Lake.

The Chretien administration had a good number as well, though it took him 3 terms to accumulate the total number of mini-scandals that Harper had acquired within just 2 minorities. Again the biggie for the Grits was Adscam, everything else is pretty much forgotten by the general public.

Yes, John Q Canuck is pretty numb whenever the tee-vee goes on about some mini-scandal de jour committed by the government of the day. However every once in a while something big happens that registers, and sort of thing will stick with the government until voting day.

Harper's first big blunder was prorogation, because the greater public saw it as a paid extended holiday for politicians. He owns that one now, though on its own it’s not a big enough factor to lose government over.

Vikileaks is a circus sideshow. With the Harper government seeing a C-30 backlash within their own base and thus burying the bill, this entire episode will likewise be forgotten soon, just like tunagate, Shawinigate, busty hookers, etc, etc, from years past.

However these Robocalls are another story.

The general public gets election fraud …it's a very simple concept.

This story has the potential of putting a real lasting stench on Harper's Conservatives. Only time will tell.

Steve V said...

Great use of historical context KW.

sharonapple88 said...

Some of the conbot reactions are an exercise in the power of delusion. Laughable.

I saw some comments on G&M that seem to believe that if you fell for the scam, you deserved it. The situation in Thunder Bay is the result of a bad list. (Yeah, but if it were a "Get out the Vote" effort, why use a bad list? They should have used a list verified by their volunteers/ call centre? It makes no sense to remind people to vote if you're not sure where they live.)

The general public gets election fraud …it's a very simple concept.

And I think the public would prefer not to get caught in the middle of all the partisan crap that normally just restricts itself to Ottawa. The whole story -- calling up voters and giving them the wrong directions -- puts them in the middle of it.

As for whether this story has legs... I guess, we'll see. There are always new details coming out of this story for journalists to chew on. The latest, the cell phone was registered to aPierre Poutine, who lived on, get this, Separatist Street, in Joliette, Que.

double nickel said...

the "tunagate" scandal lead to a Ministerial resignation, if i recall correctly.

rockfish said...

The tenor and seriousness of the current scandal demands a higher intensity of interest from what we've come to know as the 'dispeptic public'... The accusations are those that ring true to all those who've been dulled, distanced and disaffected by the Ottawa culture of the past 8 years (yes, the Chretien-Martin war was a messy chapter). Harper would be reaping what he sowed when it comes to distrust and distaste -- how fitting. The man who on tape talked calmly about CON agents who he knew were going to Chuck Cadman's death bed bidding on his vote; the cruel amore for out-of-election character assassination of his opponents; the whole ingenuine toying with the rules of Parliament; and perhaps most damning -- and while we await the smoking gun, an item that should be brought up in every interview possible as a connecting tendon of this ugly mess, the 'free speech' in telling phone lies to Irwin Cotler's constituents. Although I must admit I've had this feeling before, but I dare say the ugly and rancid nature of Harper appears open to a stubborn fall.
What I'd like to see is the media now dig into these reported robo or human calls from the US. Is that through a secondary contract, is it actually claimed expenses for election work, or? Because if the rules of law and the institutes of order mean so little (ie In and Out, parliamentary committees etc) what would stop a deep-pocket party from spending mucho $ for dirty grunt work especially since the money can't be spent legally (due to election spending limits)... Questions, questions.

rockfish said...

Another note; since this scandal and the vikileaks erupted, my twitter account has been bombarded by requests for 'followers' with nubilish looking women. Of course i resist and refuse, but i have noticed an increase in 'guess what I read about you' trash hitting my spam filter in the past week.
Paranoia or just observant? Only Pierre Poutine knows for sure.

Jerry Prager said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Prager said...

Michael Sona at the Guelph Special election http://guelphmercury.blogs.com/guelphvotes/2011/04/pictures-worth-a-thousand-words.html

Tof KW said...

double nickel, you've got a good memory. Yes fisheries minister Fraser did indeed resign as a result of that scandal. For that matter Coates had to resign once the story about the strip joint broke out. Mulroney had a good number of ministers that had to be replaced.

What can I say, it was a different era back then. It was a time when ministerial responsibility actually existed ...but then Harper and his self-serving 5 year-olds took power.