September 2012 – Self-Selecting Infotainment CTV News Poll
Waaaaay back in September, right after all four candidates had officially declared, CTV in Regina and Saskatoon made the subject of their nightly online poll “Who would you like to see lead the Sask NDP?”
Right after the poll opened, (see above), it was quickly clear that it was being gamed to varying degrees by people who appeared to be submitting repeated/false votes to inflate totals so certain candidates would look better when the results were posted.
(It was apparently clear to the news anchor when the results were announced too. I’ve never heard an anchor say this before announcing the nightly poll results but he prefaced the announcement by saying: “Remember folks, these results are informal, they’re not are not official so to speak, but we wanted an early peek at the NDP Leadership Race.”)
I wasn’t yet Ryan’s “Social Media Director” (I like campaigns that let you pick your own titles!) but sent a panicked message to a couple people on Team Meili to see whether they wanted me to start gaming the poll too?
The response I got back from Ryan reminded me of the difference between this campaign and what you might think of as “politics as usual” where gaming polls and other dirty tricks are just par for the course.
…[don't] bother with gaming, I think it’s better to just leave it be and comment on flawed polls. This really will be of very little significance… And it’s just the first temptation of many…
Having been involved in Ryan’s 2009 run, I probably shouldn’t have needed the reminder that he would once again be running a positive campaign, based on honesty, integrity and good faith. But I did get the reminder (and have needed it again a few other times throughout the current race when I’ve not always lived up to those lofty expectations myself!)
As the race has gone on, it’s been helpful to keep Ryan’s sense of perspective and ability to focus on the ultimate goal in mind as we’ve increasingly dealt with trolls, media errors and pot shots from the other campaigns.
Ryan’s 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, you think “This must be what it was like to know Gandhi” or something!
>:O (If Ryan wins, expect a post where I compare Meili to a masterful combination of Jesus, Gretzky, and whoever invented sticky notes!)
But seriously, over the course of two Leadership campaigns, I can’t honestly think of a single time where I’ve seen Ryan display anger (whereas I can name three times in the last week where something in the Leadership race has pissed me off!)
Of course, in politics, being calm and level-headed is often seen as a weakness. I remember a long-time party member at the 2009 convention telling me “Ryan’s really good. He’s got all the tools. I think he’d make a great leader. But he just can’t fight like Dwain can so that’s who I’m voting for!” (I hope to see this person at the upcoming convention so I can ask him how that worked out for him. Er, unless I can remember to stay positive!)
Okay, so let’s step back from the hyperbolic comparisons and assume Ryan isn’t the next coming of Gandhi or Obama or even Tommy Douglas. Is it still possible that he might change how politics are done, simply by using a positive approach we’ve rarely to never seen before?
I don’t know. But I do know that a lot of people seem to really admire how he’s willing to try.
Ryan says he wants to “change the conversation” and he’s already seen some success. His idea to focus everything back on health is being echoed by his leadership rivals.
His plan to use an evidence-based approach for political decision making rather than other more self-serving or unreliable indicators is another idea he’s had great internal success with and which would easily transition to wider usage if he were to be elected Leader.
One thing he’s only suggested trying (and has taken some heat for) is suggesting that maybe MLA’s should sit in alphabetical order by surname rather than aligned by party to improve the decorum in the Legislature. His quip at the Weyburn debate hit the nail on the head: “If Wall and Wotherspoon had to sit side-by-side, maybe they wouldn’t be such jerks to each other.” (If the Federal NDP are proposing time-outs, is alphabetical seating so far-fetched?) It’s not like this is a completely untried idea since other jurisdictions have tried it with positive results (there’s that word again!)
At the same time, there needs to be recognition that the idea of alphabetical seating isn’t a core part of Ryan’s policy vision either – instead, just an idea he’s floated. But it definitely shows an interesting contrast between Leadership candidates where some will seemingly rule out an innovative idea out immediately versus someone like Ryan who is willing to at least consider outside-the-box ideas that might help create a positive political experience for *everyone*, not just MLA’s but especially for the people they’re elected to serve, no matter where you sit (pun intended!) on the political spectrum.
So many people lament how politicians today act very negatively towards each other (the usual comparison is to children in a sandbox.) In terms of public trust, politicians are somewhere between drug dealer and used car salesman on the trust-meter.
There’s a huge opportunity for someone who’s positive, genuine and humble to enact unorthodox ideas that others aren’t even willing to consider – whether it’s something as small as alphabetical seating for the MLA’s in the Legislature or an entirely new Crown Corporation.
Another aspect of Ryan’s positive approach is how it’s appreciated by members of the general public. Erin Weir has repeatedly said that the NDP Leader won’t win a popularity contest against Brad Wall but I’m not convinced this is the case.
I don’t know if Ryan would ever be a regular caller to the Sports Cage radio program or a big hit with the country-music loving, Dodge truck driving guys in the oil patch. But he’s got his own way of appealing to people that comes from a relentlessly optimistic outlook, a naturally humble nature and a genuine compassion that shines through.
This isn’t just about impressing current NDP members either. It’s worth noting that Ryan is the only candidate that John Gormley seems to actually like. After interviewing Ryan, Mr. Gormley observed, “I’ve got a lot of time for that guy.” If Ryan can make a positive impression on John Gormley, is there anyone in the province who can resist?
A timely article in today’s Saskatoon Star-Phoenix about the first non-partisan poll of the race appears to confirm this, noting that Ryan is the first choice of the majority of people who aren’t following the race closely (eg. members of the general public who the NDP needs to reach to regain governing status):
“‘[Meili's] never been elected, so he doesn’t have that (public persona), and yet he seems to have done a very good job of drawing abreast of [Wotherspoon and Broten] in the public eye,” Cooper said. “There seems to be something about [Meili's] persona that has some appeal.”
How Ryan’s positive, even-keel personality would stand up in the rough and tumble world of politics if he’s elected Leader remains to be seen. But given the response his approach has garnered so far from people across the province, NDP members and otherwise, I know he’s on to something.
Next – #2 – He’s Proved The Doubters Wrong