29 September 2011

It’s unanimous: more of the same… #nlpoli #nlvotes

So now you’ve either seen the debate or read some of the media coverage about it.

Here’s a question for you:

  • what was the ballot question for you as posed by each of the leaders?

While you’re thinking about that for a second, let’s just review a few things.

Elections are about choices.

Candidates want you to pick one among them.

The ballot question is why you should vote for that one candidate as opposed to the others. The question should be stated in a way that distinguishes one candidate from all the others.  Political campaigns ought to be structured to reinforce the basic choice – the ballot question – over and over.

If you are still wondering about this – and that would be a bad thing for the parties – let’s just begin by figuring out which parties want change and which parties want things to stay fundamentally the same.

After all, in an election where there is an incumbent, the basic question is change versus more of the same.

Take another few seconds, if you need to.


Time’s up.

So what was the answer?

Let’s start with the easy one.  The Tory message is the classic incumbent one:  stay the course.  Kathy Dunderdale wants you to vote for the Conservatives because things are good and they will get better.  Tories made a change and now you need to stick with the course that brought the change. 

Kathy Dunderdale said it at the beginning of the debate and she said it at the end. her comments in between supported the proposition by pointing out the good things she and her friends have done and all the bad things the others did or would do if given the chance.

In her television spots, Kathy Dunderdale says she thinks every day about who put her in her current job. Well, it wasn’t ‘we”, but that didn’t stop her from using the magical persuasive construction of talking about joining with her:  “together, we…”

Plus, she respectfully asked for your vote.

She hit her marks every time.

So what about the other two?

Well, it’s a bit of a trick question really.

Parties other than the incumbent should be advocating change.

But if you thought that in this election you’d be dead wrong.

The NDP message was “it’s time.” 

Time for what?  We’ll, Lorraine wasn’t really sure.  it might have been it’s time to give the NDP a turn at the wheel but her heart really wasn’t in it. 

Lorraine Michael spent a lot of time in her opening remarks telling people what they  - the people  - thought. 

No need:  they already know.

She talked about how the NDP had listened and would do something.  people were looking to her for some idea where the NDP would go that was different from where things are.

But when things got going, Lorraine reverted to the default NDP mindset of being a supplicant.  Take the discussion about a seniors advocate. Lorraine talked about it as a nice idea. Kathy got away with saying:  we have no objection to that.  There was the implicit idea behind her comments that Lorraine should come talk to her after the election so the Premier could think about it.

And when Lorraine wasn’t doing that she was criticising the Tories.

Lorraine’s attitude and the general vagueness of her message confirmed that the NDP want the Tories to win.  They have already conceded that they don’t really want change.

Ryan Cleary was right.

And that brings us to Kevin Aylward and the Liberals.

His opening remarks were the first shot to make a simple, clean statement of the ballot question.  Instead, he spent two minutes talking about the other guys. He talked about their ideas and their actions.

And throughout, he spent his time criticising.

That’s what opposition politicians do.  They criticise.

They don’t push ideas of their own and force the other guys to respond on their terms.

They don’t set the agenda for discussion.

Neither Lorraine nor Kevin set the agenda.

They didn’t even try.

If you look at the election platforms of the parties you can see the same thing.  They don’t distinguish themselves.  They give you variations on a theme.

For voters, the message was clear:  better to stick with the crowd you do know than the ones who already told you that where the province is going is just fine.

And if you want to know the extent to which the Liberals and NDP love where the province is right now and what the Tories have been doing – with a few exceptions - consider which parties in this election want to talk about Danny Williams.

Kevin Aylward said the other day that Danny did some neato things.  Heck, Kevin Aylward loves Danny so much he was trying to get Liz Matthews to run for the Liberals in her father’s old seat of St. John’s North.

When confronted about their crude oil tax and tearing up agreements, Sin Jawns North New Dem and party president Dale Kirby invoked the sacred Old Man.  Lorraine would pull a Danny, sez Dale, and not stop until the job got done fighting Big Oil.

At the economic forum on Tuesday night, the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats actually spent more time agreeing than disagreeing on anything.

While the Dippers and Grits are talking about yesterday’s Old Man, Kathy Dunderdale accepted their premise that she will win the election. 

Dunderdale claimed the title of leader Kevin and Lorraine offered her and passed herself off as the agent of change during the debate even though what she is really talking about is more of the same, too.

The debate  - as it turned out - was nothing more than a continuation of the message track each of the parties has been following since Day One.

Funny thing, that.

- srbp -