Sunday, February 3, 2008

Kevin Gaffed?

Nation, we are at T-Minus 1 (or 2, depending on the pundit you're reading) from a provincial election. I will be covering the election exhaustively for my millions of devoted readers, and reporting on each move that the parties make, good or bad.

The first "bad move" of this election goes to the Liberals.

Kevin Taft issued his Alternative Throne Speech on Thursday night of last week, outlining the vision and plan that the Alberta Liberals have for the province over the next 4 years, should they win the election. By way of feedback from people who were at the event, it was a boisterous and positive room - footage of the speech is available on YouTube. I myself was otherwise occupied (and 3 hours South) at the time, talking politics and policy with the Calgary-area PC candidates at a function hosted by the Progressive Conservative Youth of Alberta and their President, Courtney Luimes.
Of note at that function was the plethora of young faces that did not betray the usual cluelessness of youthful political activity - from thirty-something campaign managers to internet gurus to the devastatingly handsome bloggers in attendance, there was a lot of youthful energy in attendance - energy that the PC Party will need going forward, regardless of the election's outcome.

The problem with Taft's message in advance of the election is a very real one, and it's a hole in campaign logic that the Liberal brain-trust are going to have to plug as soon and as well as possible, before a Tory speech-writer gets ahold of this blog post.

The problem with Taft's message is simply this: He is, in effect, calling Albertans stupid.

In the words of Pepper Brooks, from the cinematic masterpiece Dodgeball: "It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for 'em." Pepper was talking about the "strategy" of forfeiting the match - something that Liberal supporters sincerely hope their leader hasn't already done.

Taft spent a great deal of time talking about the differences between his party and the Tories. He highlighted the differences in their vision for the province, their policies, and their values. He painted the Tories as backwards, out-of-touch, unsophisticated, dogmatic dinosaurs whose continued prescence in the halls of power speaks to a great injustice being wrecked upon the people of Alberta.

Here's the problem, Kevin...

We've had elections since the Tories first took office in 1971. In fact, since then we've had NINE elections - and the Tories have won a majority each and every time. The PC Party of Alberta isn't refusing to go to the polls... far from it - they've gone every 3 to 4 years, ever since taking office. So why are they still in power? Whom is empowering this group of backwards, out-of-touch, unsophisticated, dogmatic dinosaurs? Who keeps sending these idiots to Edmonton, and makes them the government?

Henry and Martha Albertan, that's who.

Henry and Martha have elected the PC's to solid majorities for 36 years now. They, and 417,090 of their friends and neighbours voted for the Tories in 2004, the year of the "Kleinfeld" election about nothing. 46.8% of the votes cast in that election were for the Tories.

If you're telling us, Kevin, that's it so obvious that the Tories are ignorant dinosaurs, then what you're suggesting is that anyone who supports them is an ignorant dinosaur, right? I mean, granted, those polling numbers are over 3 years old now, but this party hasn't gotten any worse since 2004, and most would agree it's gotten better under a new and interested leader.

So why, Kevin, would those 46.8% of voters cast a ballot for the Tories, and not for you? Are they stupid? Mindless sheep? Unsophisticated? Too simple to understand how obviously superior the Liberal platform is?

Every time you tell us how obvious the Tory deficiencies are, you're telling us that anyone who has cast a ballot for this party is all of the above. "The Tories are awful, you damned people keep sending them to Edmonton, and you all need to stop being so stupid".

It'a a bold strategy. Let's see if it pays off for 'em.


Anonymous said...

This article should be required reading for every university / college political science course in Alberta.

Brilliant, witty & damn funny.

Now, you owe me three beers.

Anonymous said...

It's kind of an odd argument ... doesn't every opposition party need to paint the government as out-of-touch, corrupt, etc. Do you think that Harper would have won if he hadn't painted the Liberals as corrupt at every turn? Did voters think that he was calling them corrupt, or did they realize they were wrong in voting for the Liberals all those years?

I think a lot is wrong with the ALP strategy in this election, but I don't really see the logical hole you do.

Anonymous said...

This attitude you're noting is pure Taft. Its what he does, regardless of whether he's speaking to the province, his supporters, or a university class (I had the "pleasure" in the last Poli Sci class of my university career). He seems to have no understanding of the fact that he's doing this either.

Anonymous said...

The Liberals ARE/WERE Corrupt. All Liberlas are the same... some are just lucky enough to get into power.

Kevin DAFT is offensive. I hate the way he talks down to people, like we are all ordinary peasants in this province who are too stupid to know who to vote for. Regardless of him knowing or not knowing he is doing this you would think that his party advisors would have given him something better to work with. Or perhaps all 5 of them think that we are all stupid as well?

Anonymous said...

I hear what you are saying, but I think what EnSavage is suggesting is that the combination of the message "you got to stop voting for the bad 'ol PCs, don't you know" coming from this particular presenter (academic, elitist public image) is what is detrimental to the Liberal cause. It is like diesel and fertilizer... on their own they have commercial application - but together, they bomb.

calgarygrit said...

Umm...aren't you pretty much arguing that the Liberals cannot attack the PCs? Or that no opposition party can ever attack the government, or else they'll be calling people stupid?

And, in fairness, I don't think Taft is saying it's been 36 years of bad government. The attacks have really been on Ed and the last few Klein years which is what you'd expect any opposition party to attack.

Anonymous said...

Let's not paint all Albertans with the same brush. First off, only 52% of eligible voters actually voted in the last election. Of those 52%, a MINORITY, yes 46.8% is a minority, voted for the PCs. Yet for some reason they had 72% of the seats in the LA. It doesn't take an 'elitist academic' to tell you that the math just doesn't add up......The PCs are in power in large part due to the archaic electoral system they will never reform.

On a side note I wonder what Martha and Henry would think of Klein's snazzy 'elitist academic' appointments with the Fraser Institute, Mount Royal College, and the Centre for Democracy (of all places)? I wonder where Stelmach will get appointed when he gets kicked out of the party?

daveberta said...

There's valid criticisms you could make, but saying that the Alberta Liberals are calling Albertans stupid because they are criticizing the Tories is reaching quite a bit. I'd echo CG's comments, are you arguing that no opposition party can ever attack the government, or else they'll be calling people stupid?

(Anyway, I'm looking forward to your election blogging, weak arguments aside ;-) )

Anonymous said...

Anon #2:

Yes, I get your point -- a combination of the message and the messenger. Maybe Taft should let Dave Taylor do all the attacking.

The interesting thing, though, is that I don't know many non-political Albertans who hate Taft as much as people who are are political; they simply don't know him at all (a problem in itself). I can't see Taft doing worse than Ed in a debate, but I don't think he'll be able to put the distance between them that he'll need to.

Enlightened Savage said...

A lot of good comments on this post - I'll try to respond to a few of them without babbling (being sleep-deprived, we'll see how that goes).

TROY: Yes, I do.

NAHEED: The difference that I see is that the federal Liberals were quietly corrupt, out of public view. When the details came to light, Harper capitalized by convincing voters who normally voted Liberal to either stay home or hold their nose and vote Tory, to show their disapproval at the secret corruption. Taft is telling Albertans that the things that we've all been seeing for the past 8 to 10 years are reasons to kick out the Tories - but we've SEEN those goings-on, and returned the Tories to office anyhow. His argument, then, seems to be that although we've seen this stuff happening, and re-elected the Tories anyway, we've made a stupid decision - a dangerous suggestion for a politician to make. That's why most politicians will go with the "he said he'd do this, and he didn't do it - he lied to you!" approach. The Tories have done what they said they were going to, and we elected them to that platform. Criticizing our informed choice is a dangerous play, because it suggests that Taft thinks he knows better hoew to run the province than we great unwashed voters do. It's simply bad optics.

ANON @ 10:00 AM: Although painting all Liberals/Tories/NDP/Whomever with the same brush is folly, I accept your statement that the Liberal insiders should have given Taft something to work with other than "you all chose the wrong party". Let's try and get past the name-calling, please.

ANON @ 10:58 AM: Exactly my point.

CALGARY GRIT: The opposition can, and should, attack the government's policies. "This is a bad plan, this is a better one". Where Taft and the Liberals lose traction is in attacking the Tories as clueless, out of touch, etc. This is a party that Albertans elected to a strong majority only a few years ago on a platform (flimsy as it may have been) that has been borne out by their actions - he's saying that we were wrong to choose the Tories in 2004. And in 2001. Et cetera. Attacking the government is one thing, attacking the voters for making poor choices is another. We don't want to be scolded like ignorant students, we want to be respected as the holders of the ultimate democratic power in this province. I agree, though, that Taft isn't attacking all 36 years - he has, in recent days, trotted out quotes and endorsements from Lougheed's Camelot era, and from Peter himself. A much better strategy.

SPECIAL ED: The 48% who didn't vote don't count. If they don't express their opinion when it's most important, then their opinion doesn't matter. Eligible voters are democratically obligated to pay attention, and to cast a ballot. End of discussion. I agree, though, that our system needs a democratic overhaul - that WAS to be the goal of the aborted Wildrose Party.

DAVEBERTA: See my response to CG. :)

NAHEED AGAIN: Taylor needs to be the Liberal attack dog, and Taft needs to go to charm school and be seen as a populist and man of the people. This is why Bronconnier is seen as a natural to unseat the Tories - he can fake being genuine really, really well.

hunter said...

Fun times ahead! You need to look at Alberta election patterns, when we switch, we switch fast. Wildrose is still too young to get much attention, but if they win even 6 seats, watch out next election.

Change will come, but not like the national media thinks it will, and the more they push, the more Albertans will push back. They really have no clue how Albertans think.

The Toronto lefties can stick their noses into our election, but it is still Albertans that will decide.

Anonymous said...

The other part of the argument... that of ceding victory... has already occurred in the Alberta Liberals' virtual abandonment of ridings outside of Edmonton and Calgary (and possibly Lethbridge).

This is underscored by Taft's reluctance to campaign "in the sticks", and his attitude that the current Premier "doesn't get" [Calgary/Edmonton] by alluding to his origins outside of a big city. All this has done is alienate a wide potential voter base. Like it or not (and of course they don't like it), there are a number of seats out there. Telling rural voters effectively that the don't understand urban issues (what, they never visit the BIG city?) is a nice wet slap in the face to a group you need to appeal to if you want to form the government.

I understand the tactical issues that may be at hand - namely dedicating limited resources to highest return - but how can a party claim to represent Albertans equitably if they don't take rural voters' concerns into account?

I have never seen someone shrink themself into success.

Brian Dell said...

"...we've had NINE elections - and the Tories have won a majority each and every time..."

You would almost think Stelmach could afford to play fair, and not call an election just to preclude a fiscally conservative party from getting organized in time!

A Wildrose Alliance govt would set fixed election dates which would make it more difficult for us to tilt the playing field in our favour. But then again our priority isn't just getting MLA paycheques.

Anonymous said...

"You would almost think Stelmach could afford to play fair, and not call an election just to preclude a fiscally conservative party from getting organized in time!"

Play Fair? What a joke. Because you guys decided to merger with Wild Rose means that everybody must sit back and wait until you have sorted yourselves out? Would we/will we have to wait yet longer every time a member of your party's executive decides to quit?

Hinman was calling for an election last year. Well, now he got one.

And as for MLA paycheques, for a lot of businesspeople, they are no draw at all. Hmm, come work in the spotlight as an elected official AND make less money? Really compelling.