Sunday, October 15, 2017

On relentless positivity

Following up on my candidate profiles for the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership campaign, I'll point out one obvious change in dynamics since 2013 - starting with this observation from the previous campaign (emphasis added):
As long as there were four leadership candidates in the race, there were several ways to try to draw dividing lines among them. And the message that's suddenly crystallized in the media [as to a right-left split] wouldn't have registered as the most obvious classification scheme...
One could view the most important differences in the campaigns [as] geographical, with Meili/Broten and Wotherspoon/Weir largely representing Saskatoon and Regina members respectively while competing for other votes around the province. Or one could contrast the above-the-fray messages and statesmanship from Meili/Wotherspoon against the more conflict-oriented approaches of Broten/Weir.
That difference was and remains one rooted in both personality and strategy. While their forms of positive politics manifest themselves differently (Meili's to a greater extent in storytelling and political vision, Wotherspoon's more in crowd-friendly gregariousness), both candidates in the current campaign were on the upbeat side of the previous one.

And it will be worth watching whether (and if so how) that dynamic changes this time around.

In the absence of others on stage to test another candidate's vulnerabilities, neither Meili nor Wotherspoon will be able to count on other voices to do that work for them. And it will be worth watching whether both end up amplifying some more contrasting and critical messages of their own as a result.

At the same time, however, both candidates have also been strong proponents of party unity and solidarity in addition to presenting themselves as positive leaders. And a high-stakes two-way contest for the leadership will likely lead to some within the two camps seeing some opportunity in sharp attacks which both candidates figure to want to limit.

Paradoxically, the best way for both candidates to ensure that supporters don't go overboard may be to find the right level of respectful criticism in discussing and questioning each other - while emphasizing that a generally positive message is crucial to the NDP's future as a party. And we'll see who best works out that balance once Meili and Wotherspoon have to go head to head.

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