Five Things That Had The Biggest Impact in the 2009 Sask NDP Leadership Race (And Five That Didn't)

I'll still
thinking about a post with my thoughts on some of the things the Meili
campaign could've done differently to perhaps put themselves over the
top.  But until that comes clearer, I thought I'd do a post looking at
things in the bigger picture. 

I never get a
good response when I call for audience participation but I'll try it
again. I'd love to challenge anyone reading this post to add a comment with their own
lists/thoughts on this subject – anonymously or otherwise.  If you have
a blog and are desperate for content ideas, feel free to steal this idea as well!  Or respond to it. 

(My only suggestion if you plan to do your own list – don't read mine
first.  I'm curious whether people would come up with the same things
as me or not.)


1. Advance Voting

Did I read
somewhere that Ryan Meili got something like 75% of the votes of people
who chose to wait until the convention day, hear all the presentations
and endorsements, see the buzz for each candidate before making their
own choice?  If so, it's tempting to re-imagine the results had
everyone been required to wait until the day of the convention to
vote.  A couple real life examples – we had one woman at our table who
said she was torn between Ryan and Yens based on everything she'd seen
so far.  After the floor shows were over, I asked, “So?” and she just
smiled and asked if she could have one of the Ryan buttons I'd offered
her earlier.  I also heard from a couple people who said they would've
changed the order of their vote based on the floor shows.  I'm sure
many others felt the same way.  I still love the idea of every
individual member being able to vote by a variety of methods (by mail,
phone, online or in person) but perhaps limiting the vote only to the
day of the convention would reduce the chances of people re-thinking (or regretting!)
their choices? (Can you imagine if the news of the membership scandal
had broken on June 3, only a couple days before the convention and
after most early votes were already in?)

2.  Baby Boomers

I made this point on my blog before when discussing some of Ryan's biggest challenges
and I suspect that ultimately, there was a huge portion of the NDP's
membership who are baby boomers (roughly everyone between 45-64 years
of age) that identified most closely with Dwain Lingenfelter as a
contemporary whereas the idea of Ryan as party leader was about as
palatable as the idea of putting their own Gen X kid in charge of the
family business no matter how accomplished or successful that young whippersnapper was otherwise.

3. Yens Pedersen Conceding

Yens Pedersen
withdrawing when he did after the first ballot right after Deb Higgins
was eliminated, meant that nearly all of his support went to Ryan.  Had
he waited for a third ballot, Link would've likely gone over the top
with enough support from Deb supporters who picked him second, leaving
both Yens and Ryan in a more marginalized position rather than the
final result which made for a much closer result in the end and stronger showing for the progressive wing of the party.  Again,
you  can't re-write history but I can't help but wonder what might
have transpired if Yens had been eliminated first and Deb was still in
the field as
most people expected.  Would she have withdrawn as well leading to a similar finish or would
she have hung on to send things to a third ballot which may have
diminished Ryan's strong finish? 

4. The Money Bomb
Even more than the cash
infusion it gave to Ryan's campaign at a critical time, even more than confirming Ryan as the most innovative user of new technology, the biggest impact of the money bomb may turn out to be that doubled Ryan's
total number of donors which, if I can make one last
Obama parallel , gives Ryan a much bigger mailing list for any future endeavours he may
undertake – whether it's his own political future or directing support
towards other
candidates he's backing.

5. The YouTube & Floor Show Videos

Ryan released a series of campaign policy videos
that I found stunning in how professional and engaging they
were.  For a candidate without the resources to visit every
constituency like Link was doing, this put them on a more level playing
field – anyone who wanted to learn more about Ryan and where he stood
would get a very good idea after viewing even one or two of these
videos.  The
floor show video was
even better and I'm glad when offered the chance to see a preview
in the days leading up to the convention, I said no.  I decided that I
wanted to see
this video the way everyone else would – like going to the opening
night of a big summer blockbuster for the shared experience.  I'm glad
I made that choice – seeing it for the first time was one of the
highlights of this entire campaign for me.  The
impact of the floor show video also ties into my first point that if
everybody who voted was required to vote on the day of the convention,
we may just have had a different result than we ended up with!

Bonus: Name Recognition
It's unfortunate but it was quite clear as I was doing my calling for Ryan that a lot of people didn't appear to even realise that there was a leadership race on or weren't really paying attention if they did know.  So this vital decision that will have major implications for the future of our province was partly in the hands of people who were going to receive a ballot, see one name they recognized and send it off.  I had more than one older member who told me some variation of “I always vote NDP!” clearly not realising that all of the choices *were* NDP.  So if they see a ballot on it with one recognizable NDP name, that's a pretty big hurdle to overcome. 

1. The Membership Scandal

This was the
elephant in the room at the convention and I was surprised how little
attention it got except in subtle allusions and whispered side
conversations.  Yes, the party did a report that cleared Dwain
Lingenfelter of any wrongdoing but the day after the convention ended
(nice timing there!), the RCMP announced they were investigating the
matter then a couple days later, announced that it had become a criminal
investigation.  Some people are able to let bygones by bygones and
chalk it up to “just politics” or “that's behind us now” but I think there are also a number of
people who saw “Waterhengate” as going beyond the usual attacks and
back and forth you might see in a political campaign.  (Since I keep
rewriting history in this post, I should also note that the flip side
is that Ryan might not have had as strong of showing as he did had this
scandal not happened.)

2. Deb Higgins

As I said above,
not too many people expected Yens Pedersen to come in ahead of Deb
Higgins.  If you paired off the candidates that were most similar, Ryan
and Yens were an obvious match – both the “renewal” candidates, both
very progressive, both courting the youth vote.  For a variety of
reasons, Ryan pulled ahead in all of these areas and it appeared that
Yens was being left in the dust.  Dwain and Deb were also very similar
– experienced with long histories in the party and actual time in the
Legislature on their resumes.  But their differences were also more
striking and I might've thought that alone would've been enough to gain
Deb more votes over Dwain than Yens took from Ryan (if that makes sense
– re-reading it, I'm not sure that it does!

But as just one example, Deb didn't really play the “first female
leader of the party”
card very much from what I saw but that might've been one way to gain a
lot more support than she ended up with.  Anyhow, I can't be too hard
on her – she's ended up as
Deputy Party leader after all!

3. Traditional Media

I'm so
completely biased here as I already think traditional media are a dying breed that I'll admit that I'm probably wrong about
the type of impact traditional media had on this race.  I mean, simply
on the basis of the audience that a Leader Post columnist or a NewsTalk
radio host has, obviously, their having an impact is inevitable to some
degree.  And whether it was Stefani Langenneger's line about Ryan being
“a social democratic doctor living the social democratic life” being
seized by the Meili campaign as an unofficial slogan to
John Gormley's warming to Ryan, just
because he didn't refuse to appear on his radio show, they were
definitely part of the narrative of this entire campaign.  But I guess
my point here is two-fold – the first is that there seemed to be very
little attention given to the race – at least until the membership
scandal happened and then, the coverage often tended towards the
sensational and confrontational rather than in-depth analysis. 

4. Lorne Calvert (and Roy Romanow and Allan Blakeney)

I did a tongue-in-cheek post where I begged
kindly asked Lorne Calvert to endorse Ryan.  I didn't expect a response
and it was one of the few times in this race that I was right about
As I said at the time, I understand all the reasons why senior party
figures have to seen to be neutral.  But at the same time, where is the
democracy if they're not allowed to share their opinions just like any
other member of the party?  Those who are in roles that may impact the outcome (President, etc.) with their decisions should stay neutral of course.  But how does it
strengthen the party when the men who arguably know best what it needs
have to sit on their hands while the race runs its course without their
valuable perspective?  Which leads directly to my next point…

5.  “New” Politics

The idea that politics can be done in a new way – that you don't
necessarily start from the position that the Sask Party are
The Enemy but
that they're good, decent Saskatchewan people who just
happen to have different views than you.  (Note: I said you *start*
from that point!)  Or that you can talk about things
rather than shouting about things.  Or that you don't go on a talk
show just because the host is a conservative and you're the leader of a
social democratic party.  All of those ideas about new ways to do
things didn't seem to have a major impact in this race.  I guess even
the new political idea that's been proven in so many places and
political races in the last few years

– that Web 2.0 has the ability to
otherwise insurmountable odds – wasn't proven here.  At least not yet. 
But whether Ryan's running for leader in 2012 should the Sask Party
happens to win again and Link decide to step aside or if the NDP pulls
out a victory in 2011 and Ryan has to wait for his chance to come
around again in 2015 or 2019, as I've said a million times before the
impact of the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies will only continue to
grow.  The Internet has changed how we think, how we see the world and
how we interact.  And I firmly believe that this influence extends to
the way that we will do politics in the future as well.

(Jason hands out guitars – everyone
to sing “Kumbaya”.)

Comments 1

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Accidental Jurist has a reply to this post on his blog.

    Posted 22 Jun 2009 at 3:09 pm

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