So I’ve had a couple days to let the election results sink in and I thought I’d do a few quick hits on various topics coming out of that history-making day. As I posted on Facebook immediately after, it was real mixed emotions after the results were confirmed. Elation. And puking.
Elation in that the NDP exceeded pretty much anyone’s wildest expectations but puking in that the Conservatives got a majority. I’m trying to remain optimistic that the country won’t asplode and the sun will continue to come up every day. But it’s a scary time.
Some have floated theories (and I apologize as I didn’t keep a lot of the links for articles and blogs I’ve been reading the past few days) that the only reason Harper was so paranoid and secretive and anti-democratic was that it was how he reacted to being in a minority situation and that he may actually moderate now that he has his wished-for majority.
Further to this, there is speculation that Harper’s ultimate goal in life is to switch Canada’s natural governing party from the Liberals to the Conservatives and, after focusing his whole career on this dream and being so close (though ironically, thanks as much to the NDP as the Cons), he wouldn’t blow his chance to hammer the final nail in their coffin with an orgy of right-wing craziness for the next four years.
Instead, his goal will be to sllllloooooowwwwwlllllllyyyyy put policies in place so that the movement rightward is almost imperceptible.
(Of course, the other side of the argument is speculation about just how bad Harper might be now that he has a majority – something I don’t even want to contemplate but as someone posted on Facebook or Twitter – “If you’re poor or female or a minority or not in a Conservative riding, good luck for the next four years!” An American on MetaFilter, trying to put our election in perspective, asked “Is this like when George Bush was re-elected but for Canada?” and someone else replied, “No, it’s like if Cheney had gotten in!”)
Living in the Bubble
You don’t have to read back very far in this blog to see that I’m a huge believer in the power of social media in various realms including the political world. (And I still am – when every major newspaper in the country save one endorses the Conservatives -after all their bullshit the past few years – you really can’t count on your mainstream media for balance anymore.) But I honestly thought social media would have way more of an impact in this election than it ultimately did.
Unfortunately though, when 90% of your Facebook friends turn their profile pics to a picture of the Orange Crush logo, that doesn’t necessarily translate into 90% of the population doing so! And the same with Twitter. Sometimes you felt like it was only hyper-partisans jawing back and forth and journalists either sitting on the sidelines trying to figure out what it all meant (or trying to raise their own follower counts by injecting their own pithy observations.) This “shift which hasn’t-quite-happened” feeling about mainstream vs. social media is summed up really well by Calgary-based journalist, Chris Turner, in a MetaFilter comment.
Some think this result portends the beginnings of a two-party state in Canada. I really hope not. I like that people have multiple options (and the tie-breaker for me in the elation/puking divide is that Elizabeth May got a seat for the Greens!) But the reality is that two-party states are almost an inevitable result of having a first-past-the-post voting system so it’s a big question what Canada will get first – two-party system or electoral reform to better represent the plethora of views out there. (And do you think the Liberals are kicking themselves for not implementing it when they had the chance? But to use a very relevant metaphor in my province right now, you never expect your house to be the one to sink under flood waters. Until it does.) Speaking of plethora of views, I am seriously considering running as a candidate for the Pirate Party in the next election. Seriously. (Er, just as long as I can still vote NDP!)
Someone else on Twitter or Facebook (ToF for short) posted a question asking, “In hindsight, would you give up all the NDP’s gains if it meant we were back to a minority situation and the Cons didn’t have full power?” I hate to admit that I’m a bad NDP’er but my initial answer was “yes – that was so much better.” But after a couple days reflection (and a couple very warm, sunny days too which calmed my mood!) I think that, this result, as frightening as it is could actually bode really well for the future. The NDP are well-positioned to possibly make the next leap to the Big Chair in four years, the Liberals can try to re-build, the Greens are in. And Conservatives seem to have a history of pushing things too far for Canadians comfort zones when they do get in power.
Are the Conservatives Political Geniuses?
Between-election attacks ads and micro-targeting specific ridings while virtually ignoring all others says they are. Getting less than 40% of the vote and only winning a number of ridings due to vote splitting says they aren’t. Taking three tries to finally get a majority also says they aren’t. But I do think the other parties will have to pay attention to some of the techniques they used and improve on them.
A Radical Idea for the Liberals Re-Boot
Ralph Goodale has been Deputy Leader of the Liberals and is once again acting as interim leader while the party regroups. He’s one of the most respected, intelligent, accomplished politicians you’ll find in any party – as determined by both his colleagues and his constituents. But he’s basically admitted he’ll never be Liberal Leader because he doesn’t speak French. But now, with the NDP firmly established in Quebec, why not have the Liberal party forego Quebec (for the time being), put Goodale in the leader’s chair and focus on rebuilding. I seriously can’t imagine what attacks the Cons could launch on Goodale beyond “he doens’t speak French” (which many in Western Canada would see as a positive.)
Speaking of, a lot of folks see Justin Trudeau as the next great hope for the Libs but he’s still quite inexperienced and also, his name is a big strike against him in the West. But maybe he’d make a great deputy leader? He could spend four years being groomed and no matter what happens next election, with Trudeau focusing on Quebec and Goodale working to build the west, the Liberals could rise again. (Goodale said as much in a post-election interview – admitting that his party had long ignored the west and it had caught up with them.)
Lots has been made about the relative youth and inexperience of the new NDP MP’s. Well, I personally like the idea of a House of Commons that’s more reflective of society as a whole – with some University students and so on. My own MP, Andrew Scheer’s sum total of experience before being elected as far as I know, was working for the Reform/Canadian Alliance/CRAP/Conservative parties in various capacities, being a student while working as a waiter in a local restaurant and briefly working in an insurance agency. Not too far from the resumes of many of the new NDP MP’s when you think about it.
Pulling the Vote
In a recent post about why I thought people get elected, I hinted that I don’t think door knocking/phone banks/leaflet drops are as effective as some folks think they are. Now, I admit, I’m coming to this opinion as a political neophyte (at least in the sense of being directly involved – I’ve always been an armchair observer.) I’d rank my political knowledge as a 6 or 7 out of 10 while most of the folks I know who are more heavily involved or have longer histories are 8’s, 9’s, 10’s and there are probably a few that would be 11/10 if we’re using the Spinal Tap scale. So I don’t doubt the wisdom they bring. But I also wonder if sometimes people get so focused on how things have always been done that they don’t acknowledge that those techniques may not pay the same dividends they used to in different times?
A recent article (in the Globe I think – once again, sorry for no linky!) basically said the same thing – focus groups conducted immediately after the election found that the majority of voters, across the political spectrum, voted for the leader as their main justification – not the local candidate, not a policy plank, not who had the nicest brochure. (Showing my ignorance, I missed the importance of the Leader completely in my list of reasons why people get elected! 😉 )
A lack of ground-game obviously doesn’t hurt in some cases – the Conservatives basically refused to show up across Alberta and Saskatchewan, yet, by doing the bare minimum, got elected in huge majorities.
And it’s not just one party that can pull this off. Quebec went almost completely orange with very little to no party machinery on the ground, candidates now being taken to task for not having stepped foot in their riding, etc. If you can catch a wave, have a charismatic leader, get great coverage from the traditional media, all of those things will likely do more to ensure you have a winning campaign than all of the hundreds of volunteers hours put together.
Plus, there’s a theory that we’re moving away from people accepting an interrupt-driven lifestyle. People no longer want to pick up the phone when you call them, they want to seek out a web site on their own time. They don’t want you banging on their door or dropping off a flier as they’ll hear about your campaign on the evening news or in tomorrow’s paper.
Low Information Voters
Another part of the reason pulling the vote doesn’t work (IMHO) is that your volunteers are expending huge amounts of time contacting people, many of whom simply. don’t. care. Or already know who they’re going to vote for and aren’t going to change their mind. Or aren’t going to vote because they forget it was election day (hello to my most recent hairdresser who said “I wouldn’t voted NDP but forgot all about it.”) Saskatchewan, which was the birthplace of the party that led to the NDP, can’t even elect one orange member (hell, even Alberta did that.) Short of running Snooki as a candidate, what would the NDP need to do to get that hair dresser so interested that she’d go vote? (Snooki cracks aside, I hope I’m not coming across as some intellectual snob here. I honestly want to figure out how to reach low information/low interest voters where they are, not bring them to where I am. To put it another way, there are those who want to “raise the bar” for everyone and hope they make informed, educated choices. Others, like me, want to go to where the bar is, have a shot, shoot the shit and convince everybody there that, fuck it, why not go vote?)
A lot was made of vote-splitting and “strategic” voting. Again, many of my more politically knowledgeable friends point out that “strategic voting” is stupid – you should always vote your conscience and let the chips fall where they may. Again, here I disagree but think people need to be really smart – if you’re going to be strategic, you need to have a really good sense of what’s happened historically. This analysis of Project Democracy recommendations shows an almost 100% accuracy for guiding people who did want to vote strategically rather than their preferred choice. Unfortunately, I think, especially in Ontario, the NDP “Orange Crush” hype got enough people voting NDP that would’ve otherwise voted Liberal – either out of preference or habit – that Ontario became the place where the Cons got their majority.
I do the vast majority of my reading on the bus to and from work every day. For the past month, Facebook, Twitter, various blogs, the Globe & Mail have made my iPhone whatever the Mac equivalent of “Crackberry” is. So I’m glad to be able to put away my news apps once again and get through some books again. But yeah, read through this MetaFilter thread for a lot of interesting back and forth analysis as the election happened.