Saturday, October 10, 2015

On conversation pieces

Following up on this post, the stretch run of the election campaign (particularly a holiday weekend with advance polling already underway) is exactly the time when our messages in talking to unpersuaded voters will matter most in shaping the results. And I'll offer a few suggestions as to how to argue for both a new government, and the best possible alternative.

First, the main theme should be the need for change - putting the focus squarely on the Cons' failings and the need for a new government to reverse them. But as I've noted before, that doesn't mean implicitly or explicitly insulting people who have voted for the Cons in the past; instead, it means making a case as to why any past reasons for supporting the Cons longer apply.

On that front, it's worth highlighting the contrast between Con promises/branding and actual outcomes: promised wait time guarantees gave way to the abandonment of any health policy whatsoever; promised emission reductions gave way to climate obstructionism; promised honesty and accountability gave way to a corrupt and secretive party and PMO; promised economic competence gave way to stagnation and uncertainty. And whether or not a voter gave the Cons the benefit of the doubt in the past, the important point is to ensure that doesn't happen now.

Second, in differentiating between the opposition parties, it's important not to reinforce Con messages. And since the Cons have been abundantly clear about their three primary themes (economy, security, bigotry), it should be easy enough to avoid reinforcing Harper's messaging on any of them.

Finally, I'd suggest that due to the dangers of voters giving up on the possibility of change, it's not helpful to argue that any national opposition party is unable or unwilling to deliver change of some sort - and conversely, it's important to point out how change can occur across party lines.

To be clear, that leaves ample room to make the case that one party is more desirable than another in the contents of its platform and/or the likelihood of delivering on it. But I'd draw a distinction between saying another party is too similar to the Harper Cons - which at least leaves the Cons isolated as the worst of the lot - and saying that it's no better than the Harper Cons, which opens the door to arguments between supporters of different opposition parties which may leave observers thinking there's nothing to choose between any of the parties.

There's still plenty of room for the campaign to shift - either for better or for worse. But it's possible to make sure that our own messages lead to improvement in terms of both support for our preferred parties, and a wider case for change in this election and beyond.

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