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Monday, July 05, 2004

Run your mouth and accomplishments into the ground...

I took a break away from the city and went to the cottage this weekend. No news, no noise, no post election rants and triads. While visiting with my mother, she posed an interesting question to me. Why are conservatives so bitter with the election results? Other than the obvious lack of an outright victory, it posed a very good question. Upon further analysis she is right, while avoiding the muck during the election, post election, we conservatives seemed to have decided to get down and dirty and wallow in the dirt and feel sorry for ourselves. To me this has been to the detriment of the dignity and composure displayed during the election. We have looked for countless reasons for what is seen as a failure. We have played up the old regional divides. The West is ignored and underrepresented, Ontario is self-absorbed and power hungry, Quebec is perpetually whining and trying to destroy the country, and the east has a severe case of small man syndrome. Once we have beaten that to death. We then move on to personal blame, Harper wasn't aggressive enough, social conservatives tainted conservative policy, Ralph Klien should have kept his mouth shut. Is there validity to any of these points?...sure. Is there a point to beating a dead horse?...not really.
Lets look at the facts…
Yes, Canada has an identity crisis, and yes the Liberals have capitalized on it. The Liberals have smartly realized the crisis and created a persona and Canadians are reluctant to give it away. To me, there lies the key to victory.
The Conservative Party has moved mountains in the last year. They have taken a party and philosophy from the brink of extinction. Reunited its fractured parts and tossed aside the old PC Liberal in disguise. All of this is quite remarkable. However, it doesn't end there. Despite an early election that was meant to force Conservatives to run a bumbling bid. Conservatives from all across the country managed to unite and pull off a strong campaign that at points looked capable dethroning the Liberals completely. The fact that the Liberal sewer attack machine was needed displays the effectiveness of the Conservative movement. The Liberals barely pulled off their half of a victory, which isn't saying much, considering just a few months ago a majority was a shoe in, and some were speculating they could have as many as 200 seats. All of the above happening in a matter of months borders on the miraculous.
Which is why the breakdown of this momentum dismays me!!!!
I would suggest that after what I can only see as an effective and successful debut, the Conservative Party and it's supporters should be standing tall, proud of their accomplishments. Continuing to operate above the fray to set the example for Canadians. Building on the successes and putting forward a strong, Teflon vision for Canada. As I said before, Canada is looking for an identity. It was the biggest campaign issue that was not mentioned, but was, in my opinion, the issue that was voted on. Conservatives missed the mark because they didn't present a clear enough picture of Canada led by the Conservative Party. Conservatives need to stop preaching to the converted and present Canada with an identity through example. If this happens the success of the next election is guaranteed. If it doesn't ...well, I'd rather not think about it...

Cross Posted at Spin Killer

Posted by Spin Killer on July 5, 2004 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink

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Comments

In large part I agree, until I get to the reality of campaigning in this country. Much of the message is delivered by the major media.

Exactly how do you get your message out, when you are campaigning against both the Liberals and the Toronto Star, CTV, CBC.....?

How do you stay on message when reporters come to your events with their own agenda, determined to hijack the discussion, and then present their own opinions in the form of news reporting?

That's the fundamental problem - there is no true reporting during elections - accusations by the Liberals were simply parroted as fact - true reporting would involve examining the accusation for relevancy and accuracy, but this so seldom occurs in today's news media that the whole thing becomes a farce.

With those who are plugged in to the issues, and who follow them on our own terms, we make the mistake of looking at the media bias problem as a side issue. It's not. It's at the core of getting the message out - the majority of Canadians don't have the time, or the energy after a long day, to do the sort of fact finding one needs to, to unravel the propoganda.

Posted by: Kate | 2004-07-05 9:20:54 AM


Kate is right, the major media outlets were always going to take the Conservatives off-message, because they control the message even if fabricating a crisis entirely is necessary. Witness the "bogged down by social questions" crisis that dominated about two weeks of the middle of the campaign. The media essentially reported that they, themselves were bombarding Harper with hostile questions on social issues.

How is anyone supposed to stop a storyline like that? They simply inserted themselves into the campaign as an adversary and then reported on their own activities, not the campaign they were supposed to be covering.

The only solution to that is to bypass the media filter entirely with your own advertising. The media are not going to debunk Liberal smears, so it is necessary for the Conservative campaign to do it themselves. One thing I didn't understand was how limited the Conservative advertising campaign was. Perhaps they simply ran out of money. Swallowing all that debt from the PC party in the merger may have been the biggest obstacle in the end.

Posted by: Kevin Jaeger | 2004-07-05 9:45:47 AM


I rant incessantly about the media. Media bias is a sad but true reality. More to the point media reporting on each other to create non- stories is a sad reality. However, being a conservative I realize the logic in the Conservative message. If you watch the responses from many Canadians when asked about politics, you will notice they are very out of touch with how their country is run. I think the answer is leading by example, as Harper did for 3/4's of the campaign. However, I did feel that policies we understand were not presented so the average Canadian could understand their value. The policy was stated but its validation was left to the media, which as you point out is useless. Further, I live in Toronto and I have never, ever, had the conservative rep for my riding, anyone who represents him, or even a flyer come my way( sorry I got a prerecorded message on my phone). I think there is a grassroots, winning the hearts and trust of the individual ridings, problem. Over all too much time preaching to the converted. It is funny I managed to convince more people to vote conservative in my socialist artist neighborhood than my rep... All I’m saying is we can point out media bias till we are blue in the face and it won’t change a thing. We have to figure how to defeat it or expose it an use it to our advantage. If you recall Reagan was constantly slammed by the media, yet he managed to talk over them and win the hearts and minds of the people. It is possible! But only if we do NOT wallow in defeat. It happens person by person. Maybe a few better rep's in the ridings would help...we make a HUGE mistake when we rely on the leader only!

Posted by: Spin Killer | 2004-07-05 10:12:24 AM


SpinKiller, you're exactly right. I was going to suggest a "Reagan" strategy. Before cable and the internet broke up the stranglehold the three major networks had on news delivery here in the States, media bias was *much* worse and Republicans usually had to run against the Democrats *and* the media, just as you say about Conservative candidates. Reagan simply "talked over" the media, directly addressing the public. It helped that he was rather quick on his feet and, besides having good speechwriters, could also come up with bons mots on the spot. He also *rarely* went "negative" - instead, his speeches and campaign ads were positive, pointing out our current situation, any improvements, and where he wanted to go. As GHW Bush would say, he had the "vision thing" down. The only times I can remember him being somber and saying something remotely "negative" were when he'd talk about the Soviet Union, or about abortion (he was a very strict pro-lifer, even wrote an article about it that was published in a pro-life journal and then made the centerpiece of a book - unusual for a sitting president, to say the least). When he'd criticize what someone on the other side of the aisle had said, he'd always start off something like, "Well, I'm sure they didn't mean to be unkind (or personal, etc.)", when often that was exactly what was meant.

However, in all of this, the most powerful thing that Reagan left to Republicans is something that the new Conservative party might reflect on. Obviously, there are times when one must abrogate it for party discipline, but they are few and far between and must be very private. It has helped to keep the peace between the "country-clubbers" (social liberals) and "fundamentalists" (social conservatives) over the last 20 years (we'll see how long it lasts). It is Reagan's Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.

The other thing is getting grassroots volunteers. My parents did volunteer work for years for the Republican party and went to local and state conventions, as did I once I was 18, but there are plenty of other people who will do volunteer work without even the "gratification" of convention. Phone trees, making signs, rallies, handing out bumper stickers . . . maybe this is more "American" boosterism than Canadians could handle, but I think you're up to it.

If I was a Conservative party speechwriter/campaign guy/etc., I'd go down to the Reagan library and watch tapes, go over speeches, etc. Reagan qua Reagan may not be what the majority of Canadians want. But from what I've seen and read, they seem to be more center-right to center than what their gov't has been lately. A rightist platform presented positively might be a winner. The Conservatives did pretty darn well for a new party just getting their act together; I think the fact that they still hadn't jelled is part of the reason Martin wanted an election now, though everyone expected an election before the middle of the year. Don't give the Conservatives more time to get it together and don't give scandals more time to develop. Of course, I'm down in the States, watching at a distance, but I'll be living in Canada in less than a month now so I have a strong interest!

Posted by: Meg in Dallas | 2004-07-05 12:23:25 PM


An interesting aside - Bill Clinton did an extensive study of Reagan tapes and speeches before his run for the presidency. Obviously, not for the content, but for the form. And, as president, Clinton rarely attacked anyone by name. I think that was part of his success. -Although, for Reagan, it was a development of his character; Clinton was just copying, as you can see from his post-presidency speeches.

Posted by: Meg in Dallas | 2004-07-05 12:28:31 PM



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