Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Liberals have forgotten the KISS principle

The Liberal message last week after the announcement of the coalition:

Canadians do not vote for a Prime Minister. They vote for an individual Member of Parliament. Those Members of Parliament make up the House of Commons and for a Prime Minister to govern he must have the confidence of that House of Commons. Stephen Harper only won a minority government so the opposition, which is the majority in The House and represents 62% of those who voted in the election a few weeks ago, can take over after they vote non-confidence in the government on December 8.

The Conservative message last week after the announcement of the coalition:

We won the election, we earned the right to govern, and the losers are just making a power grab with the help of those evil seperatists.

Which argument won? Exactly.

It does not matter that the Conservative message is wrong. It does matter that it is a simple message, easy to deliver and it acknowledges the fact that Canadians are too lazy or too uninterested to really get the truth about most issues and the fact that even if they were interested the MSM in this country don't do facts.

Conservatives on both sides of the 49th parallel have perfected this, which is why they have been so successful in this decade. The Liberals have been terrible at this and the Democrats were until Obama came along. He at least understands that you need to remember the KISS principle.

As soon at the coalition was announced they should have changed the channel and went with a very simple argument. Pounding the Conservatives on the economy and their lack of help in the economic statement, while throwing a line to the Conservatives that included a simple explanation of what the coalition would do differently would have been a great idea.

What bothers me the most about all of this is the Liberals have shown no signs of changing. They are still trying to explain the niceties and nuances of our Parliamentary democracy to Canadians while blaming Stephane Dion for the current mess. As I stated yesterday he does share some of the responsibility for this situation but he is not the only one. As well, none of his erstwhile replacements have shown that they would be an improvement on this score. Bob Rae is still trying to sell the coalition. Michael Ignatieff just seems to be in a fog. I watched him yesterday on Newman's show and I was just left shaking my head. Thankfully, no one but political junkies watch that show so he did not make any real difference with that performance.

Liberals are going to have to come to grips with the fact that replacing Stephane Dion, whether it is now or in May, is not going to solve this problem. They are going to have to learn how to boil down their ideas into simple, believeable and punchy arguments. They are going to have to learn how to fudge the truth. They are going to have to acknowledge the fact that the days of trying to explain anything to an uninterested electorate are gone, to be replaced with the need to dumb down your arguments, and adjust their communications strategies accordingly.


Blogger Joseph said...

I agree. The only caveat I would add though, which I do think is very valid in this instance.

It is extremely difficult to have a simple straightforward message on anything when you have a leaving but still active leader, potential interim leaders, and candidates for the leadership hovering.

I think it is time the Liberals learned to manage their time a bit better and get a single leader. Then start crafting and promoting the basic messages to explain their values, their policies, and their objectives.

The leadership component cannot be evaded in communicating to Canadians.

December 06, 2008 5:01 PM  
Blogger Darryl said...

That is a terrific post. I am glad someone finally pointed it out on your side. Conservatives are not arguing if it is legal or constitutional to form a coalition and government. They are arguing Dion is not the right Prime Minister, separatists shouldn't be included in Canada's government through a formal coalition, and also NDP policies are bad for the economy like Dion pointed out during the campaign. The question is who makes up the coalition, not so much the method of gaining power. Canadians do not want a government with separatists or Dion as Prime Minister as confirmed in the last election.

The Conservative message is as simple because it is the truth. The message sent from the Canadian people to the Liberals is equally as simple. Liberals should listen to John Manley on both Dion and rebuilding your party.

December 06, 2008 5:47 PM  
Blogger wilson said...

The coalition itself is too conplicated, with mixed signals. Complicated by the Bloc.
A united left, but by numbers only.

1. Dion,
2. the Bloc,
3. sneak attack

If you want to unite the 'federalist' left, be straight up with Canadians.

Next election, tell Canadians if the Libs and Dippers combined have the numbers, they will share government.

December 06, 2008 5:56 PM  
Blogger wilson said...

next election
Libs will not be able to convince Canadians that they will not form a coalition, even if Iggy is crowned.

December 06, 2008 6:01 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

A large part of the problem is that the coalition appears to come out of no where for many people who do not follow politics. Yes, there was Harpers autocratic handling of the economic update, but that is not the source of the anger that resulted in the coalition talks. This goes back to the last sesssion. The story must include that.

So here's a simple storyline:

For the last two years, Harper has regularly made routine legislation a matter of confidence which means its defeat would lead to an election. The constant use of this dictatorial tactic and the threat of elections is an abuse of power. The Governor-General has the right to break this abuse of power by appointing a new government with the support of the majority of the elected House of Commons. The Liberals are considering this only to break Harper's abuse of power.

This storyline explains to people who do not follow politics closely why Liberals and the rest of the opposition are angry. Ahhh this has been happening for two years now. It speaks to the base who have been infuriated by having to back down on everything.

It pins the blame securely to Harper and ties in with the overbearing partisanship narrative about him.

The story is expandable for those who want to know more. There are tons of examples which allow Liberals to return (for those who want examples) to the "markers" that were supposedly laid down.

It makes the case that Liberals do not want election after election which Canadians find unacceptable. We do this only reluctantly after two years of trying to find an alternative. And only now because of the overriding imperative to stimulate the economy.

If the Governor-General accepts the coalition it would be described by us as: ending Harper's abuse of power.

And, unlike the Conservative talking points, it has the benefit of being entirely true.

December 06, 2008 7:44 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Shorter version.

The coalition is a response to Harper's undemocratic abuse of the threat of elections.

December 06, 2008 7:49 PM  
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December 07, 2008 12:35 AM  
Blogger wilson said...

We all get the Liberal perspective Aaron.

The Conservative perspective.
The Cons have no natural allies in parliament.
No matter what the Cons tried to do, such as the crime policies they were elected on,
the Opps would gang up and crush the policies.

A confidence vote was the only way to get policies thru parliament.
Canadians agreed with the Conservative policies evidenced by giving PMSH an increased mandate, the second time.

Aren't the Dippers and Bloc MORE to blame for the Libs having to abstain,
where were your coalition partners then?
Seems to me the Dippers took great pleasure in making Libs squirm.

Cons just wanted to get their policy thru parliament,
Dippers wanted to hang the blame on Libs because they wanted to replace the LPC as Official Opposition.

Liberals can blame everyone else, but they made themselves vulnerable,
so vulnerable that the Dippers are about to swallow the Liberals whole.
Liberals are going to move into the House That Jack Built.
Who's fault is it really?

December 07, 2008 2:16 AM  
Blogger wilson said...

Leadership is the root of the Liberal Party of Canada's problem,
not Harper.

Picking a weak leader like Dion instead of Iggy was your fault and your problem, not Harper.

Dippers running your party from the inside now, is your fault,
not Harper.

Martin runs off Chretien,
LPC runs off Martin,
LPC runs off Dion

You are about to pick the next leader you will run off,
that's 4 leaders since 2004.

And the next one may have to share power with Jack Layton.

NO, Harper is not the problem,
the LPC is the problem

December 07, 2008 2:27 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Wilson, and now the parliamentary majority asserts itself. The conservatives may have no natural allies (they do on many issues but lets just leave your exageration intact for a moment), but that doesn't mean that the other parties should just aquiesce.

The truth is Harper should have reached out to at least one of the parties. But his personality will not allow it.

If you want to get a policy thru parliament how about convincing the majority that it is worthwile, anything less is undemocratic.

December 07, 2008 3:50 AM  

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