Saturday, January 24, 2015

On changing reputations

Following up on this post as to the value of a common message in countering the Cons' campaign spin, let's test out Stephen Maher's theory as to what the opposition parties need to offer:
For years, Harper has missed no opportunity to portray himself as the only leader who can keep us from ruin, characterizing his rivals as unhinged crackpots with crazy schemes.

Harper has spent more than $100 million in tax dollars on advertisements promoting the Economic Action Plan, a transparently partisan expenditure aimed at inducing a pavlovian response from voters. Add all the cheque presentations, ribbon cuttings, speeches, interviews and party advertising and you have an almost decade-long communication effort that has succeeded in associating economic competence with Harper.
(T)o get rid of Harper, the opposition has to convince voters not that he is nasty or dishonest, but that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

That looks like a hard job, but if they don’t do that they won’t win.
Now, there's certainly some appeal to the idea of running an election based on Harper's economic record, and indeed some polling data to suggest he doesn't have any particular advantage in the area.
But as Maher notes, any attempt to present mere facts on that front is running into a headwind generated by hundreds of millions of dollars of past advertising - not to mention the corporate media which has so determinedly ignored Harper's actual record in promoting him as an economic manager in the first place. Which is to say that a successful message focused on the economy today would have to go a long way to account for people who may have found Harper acceptable on the same issue in the past. Maybe "Harper: He's Had His Chance"? Or "Harper: Tried and Failed"?

At the same time, though, Harper is likely far more vulnerable on other issues such as ethics or social policy than he is on the economy in any event. So while it's worth having some economic counterpoints available to highlight how Harper hasn't lived up to his billing, I'd think a core message should probably focus elsewhere.


  1. Canada as an "energy superpower" doesn't sound like the work of an economic mastermind, right about now.

    1. Agreed. But those of us who (however rightly) questioned the theory from the beginning need to be careful about driving away voters who were willing to buy in initially; hence the need to explain what's changed.

  2. .. its smart to opt out of describing The Harper Government or Harper Party
    as Conservatives or 'the Tories'.. That was just a brand takeover via Peter MacKay
    & they are neither.. I stick with 'Reformatories' or Reformatives ...
    and like to mention the large number of Evangelical MPs and Ministers

    Listing the Harper failures, the outright travesties, secrecy and obstruction
    the closeted factions, the pretend marital status of some,
    the ignorance of refusing to represent their ridings or electorate
    just makes peoples eyes glaze over, or shake their head in disbelief..
    So I think you are on the right track.. to help 'codify' or compress the message..
    To a certain extent, reflecting back the opposite of strong - with weak
    or the opposite of capable - with incapable
    and certainly countering their constant demands for donation - with ridicule
    'send 5 dollars to help us leverage Laureen'

  3. - Stephen Harper & His Reformatories -
    Ruining the Country & Letting Canadians Down

    - Stephen Harper - Untrustworthy -
    His MP's Are Not Working For You

    Harper - Multi Millionaire Now - As Your PM
    Ruining The Country - Sure Has Its Rewards

    Ruining Canada - One Omnibus Bill At A Time
    Stephen Harper - Making It Up As He Goes

    Stephen Harper - Dividing Canada
    Selling As Much As He Can To China

    Stephen Harper vs Canada
    The Charter of Rights?
    He Wants To Tear It Up

    1. My concern with some of these is that they're targeted to the 60% of voters who won't consider the Cons anyway, rather than the 15% who can be considered Con/other swing voters.

      But I do think the untrustworthiness and patronage points could work as general themes. "Harper let you down", and "Good for his friends. Not so much for you", maybe?

  4. Anonymous10:54 AM

    The opposition parties have to focus on all three: tell voters he is nasty, dishonest and incompetent. Keep repeating the messages. Don't expect dumb voters to remember Harper's scandals, lies and policy failures. The recent collapse in the oil price is an example where even dumb voters can understand why Harper had failed by insisting on supporting only the tarsands. But do get up on the rooftops and shout this out, every day.

    And the NDP and Liberals should stop fighting each other and focus on the real enemy. Any less and Harper will win, if only by standing back and letting Mulcair and Justin backstab each other and telling Canadians the other is not qualified to lead the country.

    The message should be loud and clear: either one or even Liz May woould do a better job leading the country. And do remind voters of how he had left his own caucus to fend for themselves when the shooting started.

    1. My premise is that we shouldn't be looking only to the opposition parties: they have rational calculations to make as to which messages which best serve to maximize their seat counts, and those calculations may not lead to the messages which best challenge the Cons.

      (Meanwhile, citizens working for ourselves also have the opportunity to spread messages which the opposition parties might not want to emphasize for themselves. And "Stephen Harper: Hiding in the Closet" probably falls under that category.)

    2. .. very good points - and excellent analysis ..
      My suggestions are just topic starters ..
      For sure the closet theme, cowardly exit..
      and how these political animals have somehow
      become millionaires or multi millionaires
      won't come from the Opposition
      Will have to be developed and delivered
      via Indy bloggers and Indy Twitter

      The Harper 'Exit Plan' - A broom closet during crisis