Someone in Paul Davis’ campaign has a quirky sense of humour.
They picked Bill Clinton’s 1992 election theme music for Davis to use as his walk-in music during the convention. Let’s leave aside the eventual Bill Clinton of stains on little blue dresses and just look at the 1992 presidential election for a second.
Clinton was the Democratic Party insurgent tackling the other half of one of the more popular Republican presidents in a generation. Ronald Reagan had run two successful majorities and passed on the legacy to his vice-president – George Bush – who had won handily in 1988. Bush himself had become hugely popular after defeating Saddam Hussein in 1991 during the First Gulf War. He’d faltered though, as the American economy faltered. The result was that Bill Clinton won the election in 1992 and ended Republican control of the White House after a dozen years.
James Carville was one of Clinton’s key campaign advisors in that election. He summed up the campaign messages in a famous set of three comments:
- Change versus more of the same.
- It’s the economy.
- Don’t forget health care.
Oddly enough, that’s also a pretty neat summary of the three big political challenges facing Paul Davis.
Change… or not.
Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow fit the Clinton campaign because it fit the fundamental campaign message of change. The song made no sense for Paul Davis because on the fundamental question of ne – change versus more of the same, Paul is already dead in the water. Everything he has done and said is about continuing what has gone before. There’s not even the hint of change.
You can see that clearly with the cabinet. Conservatives aren’t talking about him naming a new cabinet. They are talking about a cabinet shuffle. That’s what you do when the basic make-up of the cabinet is already settled. You just move a few people around in order to make it look like a change.
Davis still might put a few new faces in cabinet when he finally gets around to shuffling - maybe later this week – but fundamentally he’s working with the same old faces we’ve all come to know. Some of those faces, people like Clyde Jackman and Fairity O’Brien, won’t be running in 2015 but they will still play a key role in Davis’ cabinet. That’s been such a successful strategy, by the way, that it makes sense to continue it. Hint: that was sarcasm.
Just as a down turn in the economy hurt George Bush and helped Bill Clinton, the economy will play a big role in what happens in the next year. Since about 2005, the Conservatives have been riding a huge waved of cash fuelled entirely by things they had nothing to do with. Well, they won’t be able to ride that wave much longer, but they might be able to ride it long enough to get re-elected.
The risk is that oil production and oil prices might head downward in the next 12 months. So far, oil has been averaging slightly above the spring budget forecast assumed. It’s been below US$100 for the past week or so. That could be just a blip. Or it could be the start of a drop in oil prices for a while. We won’t know until we get there.
Because the Conservatives are spending more than the public can afford, they will run a huge political risk by banking on high oil production and high oil prices. They can’t afford to cut because cuts will increase public dissatisfaction with them, just like it did the last time they talked about cuts. If prices or production or – God forbid, both – drop then things will look bleak for the Conservatives just like they did for George Bush in 1992.
It’s a perpetual favourite in opinion polls that want to know the top issue on the public mind. As more of us get older and therefore need more health care, getting the care we need when we need it is always uppermost on all our minds.
Health care was a big issue in 2011. The three parties pretty much ignored it in the general election. They won;t be able to do that for much longer. For one thing, health care is such a huge part of the budget that they’ve got to get the increases in spending under control. At the same time, they will have to find ways to make each dollar do more. That’s not going to be easy, but in the long run it’s what the Conservatives or whoever winds up running the place will have to cope with.
Even if health care doesn’t become the single dominant issue in the provincial campaign it will be a factor on the local level. In Corner Brook, the Conservatives have been struggling with the new hospital since 2007. They promised the moon, the stars and a few more things besides but have had a hard time delivering. Any hiccups, stumbles, or other problems with the Corner Brook hospital and the Conservatives will have more trouble. Health care is always a touchy subject. Just ask Brian Tobin about the impact of provincial health problems on a federal election and then on a provincial cabinet two years before an election.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Davis can think about tomorrow all he wants. Focusing on tomorrow is how you find one day that time has passed and everything is over. What shapes their future is what they do today. They talk about the glories of the past but yesterday lights the path that fools take to the grave.