Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On core products

It may not come as much surprise that I thoroughly disagree with Murray Mandryk's paean to corporate protection agreements. But his take on the CETA does signal one point worth highlighting.

Last week, my column dealt with the shift toward seeing politics as a matter of marketing and microtargeting, rather than the development of (and advocacy for) broad ideas as to how society ought to function. Using Susan Delacourt's terminology, the most obvious move is toward MOP rather than SOP-style politics.

But while Stephen Harper's Cons may have won over swing voters by focusing on the former, they've certainly maintained some policy areas where they're in the business of selling a particular political philosophy rather than listening and responding to public demand. (Which is true however much one disagrees with that philosophy, which involves using every lever of state authority available to elevate corporate interests above mere citizens - and is probably best evidence by the twin focus on anti-environment lobbying and free trade promotion.)

In contrast, one can see the Libs' endorsements of substantially the same policies as a matter of marketing rather than principle. (Would anybody think it out of place for Justin Trudeau to reverse course and question pipeline development and resource exploitation just as fervently as he's actually supported them if that's the way the political winds directed him?) And the list of issues where the Libs wouldn't suppress principles in favour of marketing strategies doesn't figure to be a long one.

That leaves the NDP as the more plausible source of a genuine clash of ideas which allows for people to be heard in contrast to the desire for perpetual corporate growth. But there's still a significant gap in clarity and enthusiasm as against the Cons: while it's clear the NDP party apparatus at both levels of government is working feverishly on marketing itself to build political capital, would anybody want to make any predictions as to the causes which would take priority when there's an opportunity to use it?

That lack of clarity is obviously worrisome for those of us who see the political system as an important means of collective action. But it can cause problems even on the marketing side. After all, the Cons' most effective tactic so far has been in defining their opponents - and that task is far easier when a party is reluctant to talk about core principles which form the basis for a distinct choice.

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