Obama Comes To…Saskatchewan?

I was happy to see that after a long absence, the Sask Blogs aggregator is back up and running, better than ever.



I was perusing it last night and happened upon a post on “Giant Political Mouse“, a lefty web site that focuses mostly on Saskatchewan politics.  This post mentioned that the provincial NDP leadership race was now up to four candidates after the most recent person threw their name in the ring.



Dr. Ryan Meili is a young doctor from Saskatoon who has a very impressive background
– especially in the context of Saskatchewan politics.  He has a farm
background.  As a doctor, he knows the health sector.  He's worked in
international development and is a committed social activist. 




Beyond that, (although I think his campaign is taking pains not to draw comparisons to another young upstart politician who is currently working the crowds in Canada), you don't have to look very hard to see some major parallels…



– like Barack Obama, Meili is inspiring young (and young-at-heart) people who have soured on politics as usual.

– like Barack Obama, Meili wants to run a clean campaign which avoids personal attacks and other similar tactics.




– like Barack Obama, Meili is relying heavily on social networking tools and Web 2.0 to mobilize his supporters




– like Barack Obama, Meili has a background as a community organizer working with marginalized groups



– like Barack Obama, Meili is campaigning on the idea of bringing change to the province



– like Barack Obama, Meili has traveled to and has strong connections with the developing world



– like Barack Obama, Meili recognizes healthcare and the environment as two of the most pressing concerns in our society

– like Barack Obama, Meili is a very cerebral person who obviously puts a lot of deep thought into his opinions and views



– like Barack Obama, Meili got a funny last name that's hard to pronounce (Meili – rhymes with “smiley” )



– although Meili's not the orator that Obama is (who could be?), his speeches touch on many of the same themes while using similar rhetorical devices. 



Meili isn't
Obama and I don't think he would ever claim to be.  But I think a LOT of people (including myself) are hungering to be part of something like we saw in the US.  And the parallels
to the recent Obama campaign in the United States are uncanny. So hopefully, the biggest parallel comes true too… 




Meili is facing off against Dwain Lingenfelter, an establishment candidate who (currently) has
a large backing from the “old guard” of the NDP party and has already
all but been declared as the winner of the leadership race before the campaign has barely begun, let alone played itself out. 



(Of course, we all know how that turned out for the early front-runner in the United States.

[2009/05/12 Edit: I didn't know this but just heard that Ryan apparently spoke at the NDP convention a
couple years ago – perhaps echoing how Obama introduced himself to the
Democratic party with his speech at the 2004 DNC convention.]

Comments 19

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    What major similarities? Meili is not similar to Obama in any significant way. The campaign message of hope and change has been used before Obama and will continue to be used after Obama.
    “like Barack Obama, Meili is inspiring young (and young-at-heart) people who have soured on politics as usual.”
    What proof? The younger MLAs endorsed Lingenfelter.
    “- like Barack Obama, Meili wants to run a clean campaign which avoids personal attacks and other similar tactics.”
    Every candidate has said this.
    “- like Barack Obama, Meili is relying heavily on social networking tools and Web 2.0 to mobilize his supporters”
    This is like Dean in 2004 or Kerry in 2004. Not sure why this makes Meili similar to Obama. Obama also went to every single state to campaign in urban and rural areas. So far Ryan has stayed in the two major centers. Also, the use of social networking sites is clearly being used to a better degree by Lingenfelter.
    – like Barack Obama, Meili has a background as a community organizer working with marginalized groups
    Unlike Obama, Meili has never held public office in his life. These comparisons are pretty weak.
    – like Barack Obama, Meili is campaigning on the idea of bringing change to the province
    What change? Every single comment at these debates sound the same as every other candidate.
    – like Barack Obama, Meili has traveled to and has strong connections with the developing world
    So does Lingenfelter.
    – like Barack Obama, Meili recognizes healthcare and the environment as two of the most pressing concerns in our society
    Obama never had a healthcare plan until John Edwards came out with his forcing Clinton and Obama to make it a major issue.

    Posted 05 Mar 2009 at 7:09 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Saying other candidates are hitting some of the same notes as Meili is isn't disproving my assertion that of the four leadership candidates, Meili and his campaign is the most similar to the campaign that Obama ran in the US.

    Posted 05 Mar 2009 at 11:17 pm
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    You have not proven that Meili is the most similar to the Obama campaign. The fact that I can easily link the same lines from other candidates to Obamas campaign seems to indicate that the comparisons are pretty weak at best.

    Posted 18 Mar 2009 at 6:27 pm
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    I don't think it's a weak comparison at all. You seem to be saying that since the other candidates share some of the same similarities to the Obama campaign as I see with Meili's, Meili's campaign can't be called the *most* similar to Obama's campaign.
    I'm saying that, taken in aggregate, the number of similarities between Obama and Meili is the greatest compared to any of the other NDP leadership campaigns.
    Here's a challenge – take the points I made and compare them to the front-runner Lingenfelter…
    “Meili has inspired young (and young at heart) people who have soured on politics as usual.”
    – well, I don't consider the NDP Youth who endorsed Lingenfelter as the types who've probably soured on politics as usual so no go here.
    “Meili wants to run a clean campaign which avoids personal attacks and other similar tactics.
    – sure, I'll admit that all four candidates have done this for the most part. But if we're counting totals, that's 2 for Meili and 1 for everyone else.
    “Meili is relying heavily on social networking tools and Web 2.0 to mobilize his supporters”
    – none are as successful as Obama but Lingenfelter is probably the only other candidate using Web 2.0 in an effective way. Would I give him an edge on Meili? It's close but maybe so we're at 2-2 for Meili and Link.
    “Meili has a background as a community organizer working with marginalized groups”
    – I don't know the other candidates background well enough to know for sure if they have done community organizing but one quote I read about Meili having accomplished more in his young life than many politicians do in their entire careers really resonates. 3-2-1-1 Meili.
    “Meili is campaigning on the idea of bringing change to the province”
    – here, I think we have to look at words versus reality. All candidates have spoken of change to differing degrees but really, Meili would signify the biggest change by far – from past NDP history and current NDP establishment. 4-2-1-1
    – Meili has traveled to and has strong connections with the developing world
    I believe Lingenfelter's wife is from Columbia but that doesn't necessarily count for what my poorly worded point here was trying to make – Meili has done things to *make a difference* in the developing world. Has Lingenfelter? I have no idea but it's not core to who he is like it seems to be with Meili. 5-2-1-1
    “Meili recognizes healthcare and the environment as two of the most pressing concerns in our society”
    – all candidates probably get a point here though there are some differences – for example, in terms of the role they see for nuclear energy in the province. I'm going to be generous and give them all a point here – 6-3-2-2
    “Meili is a very cerebral person who obviously puts a lot of deep thought into his opinions and views”
    – again, another point where I'm sure all the candidates are intelligent, thoughtful individuals. But my point was that, in a world where politicians often resort to politik-speak to avoid saying anything concrete, Meili seems to be able to say things in a way that resonates because of his honesty, candor and humour. The crowd reaction at the NDP candidate's forum is proof of this. 7-3-2-2
    “Meili got a funny last name that's hard to pronounce (Meili – rhymes with “smiley”)”
    – gotta give this one to Ryan too. 8-3-2-2
    “Meili's speeches touch on many of the same themes while using similar rhetorical devices.”
    – I'm not going to give a point to anyone here. No one is in the orator class that Obama is in. And all the candidates are using the same catch phrases to a certain degree.
    Oh, and the biggest comparison I ended with my post with – Meili is playing the young upstart role against Lingenfelter that Obama played against Clinton. You could maybe make a case that Pedersen fills this role too but even if you give them a half point each, it doesn't change things much.
    So, where does that leave us? We can keep going around and around and you can keep taking pot shots at elements of my points without admitting the larger truth of what I'm saying, you can post comments without admitting your own personal biases or which campaign you may be supporting.
    But in the end, the truth is this – out of the all the possible (major) similarities between the amazing campaign of Barack Obama and the campaigns of the four NDP leadership candidates, none echoes the one from south of us more than Ryan Meili's.
    Actually, let's strike that and escalate things a bit more: “Of the current NDP leadership candidates, Ryan Meili is the only one showing the potential to be a transformative leader like Tommy Douglas – discuss.”

    Posted 19 Mar 2009 at 12:00 am
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    Fine, lets take the points you have attempted to make.
    Lingenfelter has the youngest MLAs backing him and the President of the SYND. Meili backers include two former cabinet ministers who are both near 60. Who comes closest to having the youth support? Lingenfelter
    When Lingenfelter was Meilis age was brining in the biggest social program Saskatchewan has had since the introduction of medicare as the Minister of Social Services. So I would have to give Lingenfelter the point there.
    I would argue Lingenfelter has made a difference in the developing world. Look at this role in bringing in new homes to Cuba or his role in Cuba growing its agriculture sector in regards to new crops. So I am not sure how you can reward points to individuals if you have no clue what anybody else has done.
    I am not sure how you can say somebody saying we need change gets a point for deep thoughts. We need change is a quick 30 second sound bite and nothing deep about it.
    Obama had years of experience as both a United States Senator and as a State Senator. Meili has no elected experience.
    Here is what Obama did to win. He campaigned years before the race began, he had an election plan that focused on the caucus states and he stuck to a clear political message. These are the major reasons why Obama won and nothing he did in this regard is similar to Meili. Meili did not campaign for leadership before the race began but instead jumped into the race when it was already half-over. There are no caucus states. Meili has stuck to a political message but he has not put the time into the race in order for his message to make a difference. He campaigns in Regina and Saskatoon. He does not do what Obama did and travel to every place possible to campaign.
    The comparisons you do make between Obama consist of both are young. Though for the record Meili is around 33, Obama 46. So not in the same age range. Both are community organizers. Sure, I give you a connection there but not sure people voted for Obama on that. Those are the connections you have and none of them make a strong case that Meili is similar to Obama.
    Lingenfelter on the other hand and I dislike doing this because comparing the SK NDP race to the Obama campaign is weird. Lingenfelter has been working the campaign for months and years before it was on. He jumped into the race before at the very start. Just like Obama Lingenfelter put the time in to run a campaign. Lingenfelter is traveling to every part of the province and Obama traveled to every part of the United States. I would argue Lingenfelter has better tech than Meili but technology is not going to be a major factor in the NDP race. But overall, Lingenfelter has the connections to Obama that matter which is doing the work needed to win a campaign.

    Posted 19 Mar 2009 at 3:42 am
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    If you're going to rebut, at least please do the courtesy of responding in the context of what I wrote.
    I said “I don't consider the NDP Youth who endorsed Lingenfelter as the types who've probably soured on politics as usual” so for you to come back and cite the NDP Youth as an example of Lingenfelter getting youth support is ridiculous.
    In fact, I think in a lot of your arguments, you are relying *WAY* too heavily on the supposed impact of endorsements. Meili has two senior endorsers and Link has the NDP Youth so Link has won the youth vote? I don't think so.
    You're kidding if you think Obama had a grand plan to become President in 2008 based on years of campaigning alone. That came about because of a perfect confluence of circumstances which again, to me, have many echoes of what's happening with Ryan Meili. Will it be a similar result? Only time will tell but very few people thought Obama could pull it off either.
    Obama and Meili aren't in the same range but again, you're missing the main point – both were seen as younger, bright lights for their party and the citizens they were trying to reach who are hungry for a change from the old way of doing things and the old guard who were responsible for these things. There's 13 years between Obama and Meili (12 in a week or so I think) and 14 years between Obama and Lingenfelter. So again, whether you look at it generally or specifically, Obama and Meili represent a generational shift in their parties that neither Clinton (or Lingenfelter) do.
    What else? The 50-state strategy? You're saying we shouldn't even be comparing this campaign to Obama then trying to find ways that Lingenfelter is besting Meili on the major factors in Obama's success. But this one is a non-starter for me for one obvious reason – half of Saskatchewan's population lives in Regina and Saskatoon so of course, it's most effective to do your campaigning there. If Obama could've reached 150 million people by visiting only California and New York (and if the delegate system in US politics meant he could earn half the votes by visiting only two states), I'm sure that's the strategy he would've used.
    You still haven't answered me – are you willing to state who you're supporting in the interest of full disclosure?
    Does it influence how some people may vote? Maybe but I think most people in our system will make up their own minds on who to vote for – whether their MLA or their union executive or the leaders of the NDP Youth say they should vote for someone else.

    Posted 22 Mar 2009 at 6:23 am
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    Okay and I can't let a couple of your other assertions pass unchallenged….
    “not sure people voted for Obama on [his being a community organizer]”
    His whole campaign was predicated on his skills of getting people to want to be involved so yes, people definitely voted for him because of his background as a community organizer. Beyond that, maybe they didn't vote specifically because of the work he did in Chicago. But people *did* vote for him because of what being a community organizer represents – standing up for the disadvantaged in an active, direct way rather than trying to do it through traditional methods.” You're sort of making the same argument that Hillary Clinton did when she said MLK was the community organizer but it took a politician to sign the changes into law.
    “comparing the SK NDP race to the Obama campaign is weird.”
    – I've heard that Dwain Lingenfelter frequently makes reference to the Obama campaign himself during his own events. So either Lingenfelter is weird too or it's a legitimate approach to take – which is it?

    Posted 22 Mar 2009 at 6:55 am
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    It is no mystery why young MLAs would want to support the oldest leadership candidate (and, BTW, the oldest leadership candidate in the history of the party).
    Young cardinals, after all, elect old popes.

    Posted 23 Mar 2009 at 3:09 am
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    So what youth has Ryan brought in that were soured by politics? No, Lingenfelter has the youngest MLAs and the SYND President endorsing. The signs do show he has the youth support. Of course Obama had some plan to become President! That is why he did the early events in Iowa like every other potential Presidential candidate. Obama was not younger he was 46. He did attract youth support but he was not a youth candidate. Obama also relied heavily on the old guard for his support. Now if thats the main connection to Meili and Obama its pretty weak.
    If it was simply based on going after the largest delegate support Obama would have skipped Iowa just like Clinton was advised to do. Instead, he campaigned in every part of the United States like Lingenfelter, Higgins and Pedersen are doing in Saskatchewan.

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:02 am
  10. Anonymous wrote:

    You seem to think drawing ideas from a campaign is the same as comparing yourself to somebody else. Those are two different things.

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:03 am
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    Ryan has brought in a lot of people – young and otherwise – who weren't involved in politics before he ran. How do I know? I'm one of them. I've talked to them at events and online. I've seen their blog posts.
    Glad you phrase that properly – the President of the SYND endorsing him. Lingenfelter's already got in a bit of trouble for how he worded it himself!

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:15 am
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    I've said all along that it's a bit of both – Meili is using a similar template to the Obama campaign in many ways and also that, of the leadership candidates, Meili – by far – is the most similar to Obama. (if we're playing comparisons, I'd say that Lingenfelter is Hllary, Pedersen is John Edwards and Deb Higgins is Joe Biden. Or something like that… :-0)

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:17 am
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    A similar template? The campaign strategy of Obama and Meili could not be any more different. Meili sticks to the two urban areas well Obama went to both rural and urban. Meilis endorsements are largely to the left of the party well Obamas were the establishment endorsements. There is very little in common between Meili and Obama in regards to the political campaign being run.

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:24 am
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    Young MLAs and young youth including the SYND President.

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:30 am
  15. Anonymous wrote:

    You are 100% correct. Those two points you cherry-picked are where Meili and Obama are absolutely not similar in any way, shape or form. Of course, the dozen or so other ways that they are similar – irrelevant!
    You know what I honestly think is happening? I think Lingenfelter's campaign saw what happened in the US where the upstart beat out a well-backed, well-established candidate and they worry that the same thing could happen here. They know it's unlikely but still…until all the votes are in, you can never know for sure.
    And you've never answered my question about who's your horse in this race no matter how many times I've asked. So my best suspicion – based on the fact that you keep coming back and harping on certain points (especially that Meili and his campaign is *in no possible way* similar to Obama's) – is that you're somebody who's a Lingenfelter supporter and you're nervous too.

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:40 am
  16. Anonymous wrote:

    I never said this outright but definitely thought it so I'm glad Malcolm made the point.
    You have to admit that there's a certain amount of self-interest for a political insider backing the forerunner in a contest like this.

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:52 am
  17. Anonymous wrote:

    Certainly but you also have to admit receiving the kind of endorsements Lingenfelter has received is an extremely positive reflection on his campaign?

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 4:09 am
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    The problem with the similarities you do have, they are like both breathe air! Yeah, both were/are community organizers but that is not a significant connection when comparing two people. I don't see Meili having the same possibility to pull off an upset like Obama. The work to do so has not been put into place. Meili started the campaign roughly in the middle and Obama had been running for years before the primary. Obama received some major establishment endorsements. So far Meili has not but the campaign is not done so it could happen though the list of potential endorsers is becoming smaller and smaller. Obama also had been elected to public office beforehand which is a major disadvantage to both Meili and Pedersen.
    I am between Higgins and Lingenfelter. I have a hard time supporting any candidate who has never held public office before. The position of Leader of the NDP is not a position you take over without prior experience in my opinion. In all honestly, I am not worried about Meili. Come convention I suspect Higgins and Lingenfelter will be competing for the top two positions. Meili could change that but I think the lack of name recognition and lack of experience are the major draw backs. I think the reality that most campaigns find when doing any phoning or contact amongst general members is that two candidates are known and two others are not. Certainly that is to be expected with Meili which is likely why he will come third over Pedersen who as former party president should be known amongst members.

    Posted 25 Mar 2009 at 3:32 am
  19. Anonymous wrote:

    Yes, it is a positive reflection on his campaign but there's also an element of self-interest in giving an endorsement, whether you're an MLA, a member of the SYND executive or a union that has to be kept in mind too. Put another way, just because an MLA (who's in a way, “voting” for their future boss) supports Link, it doesn't mean that all (or even the majority) of their constituents will. But yes, in terms of adding organizational strength – it is a great advantage to have these endorsements.

    Posted 29 Mar 2009 at 6:05 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 3

  1. From Head Tale - “The Speech” – A Look Back at Obama’s Breakthrough Moment (and Ryan Meili’s Potential Equivalent?) on 04 Sep 2012 at 7:08 pm

    […] written before about the parallels I’ve seen between Barack Obama and Ryan Meili, one of the potential candidates in the #skndpldr race and although perhaps not as rhetorically […]

  2. From Head Tale - 10 Reasons I’m Supporting @ryanMeili for #skndpldr – #3 – That Positive Thing on 13 Feb 2013 at 6:31 pm

    […] temperament is something to behold. I already go overboard with the hyperbolic Obama and Tommy Douglas comparisons but I’ll go one further – sometimes being around Ryan, […]

  3. From Head Tale - My #ndpldr Ballot (Along With Some Random Thoughts) on 18 Sep 2017 at 1:44 pm

    […] a former party president.  But especially after the excitement generated by Obama in 2008, I was hoping to find something similar in Saskatchewan’s race – a unique outsider with a great personal […]

%d bloggers like this: