Saturday, February 16, 2013

#skndpldr Roundup

The second-last Saskatchewan NDP leadership debate took place in Moose Jaw this past week, with the most thorough coverage coming from the Times-Herald (and Justin Crann). As usual I'll hold off on commenting until the video is available - though I have a couple of earlier debates to address over the long weekend, as well as the final one being live-streamed at 2 PM today.

Friday also saw the release of the latest financial reports. There, Ryan Meili continues to have the lead both in total money raised and cash on hand, but January saw a noteworthy switch of strategies among two other camps: Cam Broten had by far his best fund-raising month but spent more than he had the entire campaign to date in the process, while Trent Wotherspoon balanced off modest revenues with lowest-spending month so far to bring his campaign as a whole into the black.

On the commentary side, Mark Lemstra evaluated the candidates' health care policies. But it is unfortunate that he limited his review to the candidates' websites: in particular while it's somewhat of a surprise that Erin Weir hasn't released a policy in the area, he's had plenty to contribute when asked about the issue throughout the debates.

And regular commenter Dan Tan put together a noteworthy series of posts on the campaign from an outside perspective, featuring in particular this take on what the CCF and NDP have accomplished in the past:
The foundations & institutions of Saskatchewan - so resented by Wall & the Sask. Party - were built over decades by (small "c") conservative NDP administrations who wisely rejected the proselytization of deluded foreign economists. They rejected the Soviet Union's insistence on utopia through oppressive & invasive totalitarianism. They rejected the United States' insistence on utopia through wild & selective applications of Darwinian savagery. Instead, they fostered the creation of a capitalist system that insured stability (crown ownership), the safety of risk-takers (public insurance), and a tolerable standard of living (social programs).

Saskatchewan needs a professional & focused NDP more than ever. You stand in-defense of what your forefathers so wisely built. You stand in-between carpet-bagging charlatans and the local population they would hustle. You stand against the juvenile anarchists who traded hoodies & explosives for sharp suits & destructive legislation.
But I don't entirely agree with his conclusions - as even if one sees "bullet-proofing" a leader as one's end goal, I view the ability to inspire new people to get involved in actively defending against the inevitable attacks as essential to that end. In contrast, the ability to present as a well-polished "alpha" in the public eye isn't either a necessary or sufficient condition. (See Romney, Mitt.)


  1. Greg,

    Those who have not read my series will be mislead by your citation of Mitt Romney. They will imagine that I have recommended some carpet-bagging, gaffe-prone, religious heretic...whose only saving grace is a dominant appearance.

    Of course, I have done no such thing. If you read my posts carefully, you would know that the particular "alpha" we are discussing cleared a number of conduct, background, and values-based hurdles...before receiving such a title.

    And, to be clear...he has no history defending or applying policies belonging to the opposition (as Romney did in Massachusetts), he has not ignorantly insulted large segments of the voting population (as Romney did with "47%" & "binders full of women"), and he did not participate in a religion portrayed as cult-like & polygamist (as Romney did with Mormonism).

    Hope that clarifies things,
    Dan Tan

    1. Understood and agreed that Romney's specific weaknesses don't apply to Wotherspoon. But I do hear an echo of the argument for Romney in your case - that the deciding factor should be choosing a leader who looks like a prototypical alpha male with surface appeal to more voters, and that competing parties will have a substantially more difficult time criticizing the leader's message because of that set of traits. And Romney serves as a fairly striking example as to how that theory may not work in practice: the central-casting look and polished resume didn't keep genuine concerns from sticking to him.

    2. Greg,

      Again, you have selected only one aspect of my argument - ignoring the rest.

      Yes, it is an unfair world - and visceral appeal matters. We have temporary emotional responses to such things - we are set back, vulnerable, and receptive. For a politician, this means you get a "foot in the door", an opportunity to make your case to the casual, disinterested, and otherwise hostile mass of voters.

      But (and this is where I believe you have a disconnect with my series of posts) - once you get that "foot in the door", it is your way with words & style of presentation that "completes the sell". As I explained in my second post, Wotherspoon has a talent for taking the substantive & meaningful - and making it seem innocuous, unemotional, and most importantly: safe. This is done through careful phrasing, choice of emphasis, and vocal tone.

      And just in case there is any confusion, my second & third posts make clear that Wotherspoon is a genuine NDP-values-based candidate. There is substance & daring in what he says & proposes. And in those areas where he lacks the social-democratic innovative spirit - he has shown himself to be humble & wise enough to accept instruction from his rivals.

      None of this happens in isolation - as you continue to insist. Rather, it all combines to ensure a relatively "bullet-proof" NDP leadership & campaign approach.

      The meaning of "bullet-proof" is this: yes, the Brad Wall & the Sask. Party will still attack our substantive policies & attempt to distort them. But, they will not be aided by the self-sabotaging & careless manners of presentation some NDP leadership candidates have engaged in (knowingly or ignorantly). And, they will not have the opportunity to cheat, through the application of caricature & the resort to popular stereotyping - so effective as recent federal elections have proven.

      Again, hopefully this clarifies my meaning,
      Dan Tan

  2. Greg,

    You said: "I view the ability to inspire new people to get involved in actively defending against the inevitable attacks as essential to that end"

    If a leader persists in uttering carelessly crafted statements - and - insists on remaining blissfully unaware of how badly he has left himself not be surprised when "new voters" resist his attempts at "inspiration".

    Just as a determined membership can advance any policy...a successful leader can "sell" any policy. Such a leader possesses (or is advised-to-possess) correct assumptions about human nature, the prevailing culture, and the potential of his enemy. He constructs his approach accordingly.

    In the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race, some approaches will prove to be more fatal than others.

    Cross your fingers,
    Dan Tan