Monday, 25 April 2011

Ignatieff the Goat?

How soon after the results of Election 41 are in and we start hearing the calls for Michael Ignatieff's head? How about tonight? *Note: I started this post before I read Kelly's comment.

We have two federal leaders: Harper and Ignatieff that can't much change the minds of the electorate, despite both parties having low support in the polls. Neither can overcome the weakness of the other. Add rumours of a surging NDP and the only conclusion I can come to is that the NDP has the most credibility out of the big three parties.

Now Harper has dragged the conservative brand so thoroughly through the mud I am surprised they poll above 20% at all. But the Liberal brand was so completely tarnished during the Chretien/Martin years they have yet to completely recover. Canadians are disaffected with politics, (I can't find the link, but there was a story today about how much Canadians are disgusted with our federal politics), and many find they are voting by holding their noses. Picking which party smells the least and making their X. If I look at the polls through the prism of which party Canadians hate the least, the numbers make more sense.

By all accounts, Ignatieff is doing a damned good job of campaigning. He's attracting crowds, answering questions, and diving into the election heart and soul. Despite all that, support for the Liberal party is trending downward, not up.

We hear that Ignatieff is not connecting with Canadians. And I don't think that has anything to do with Ignatieff. It has to do with the big fat Liberal albatross hanging around his neck. It would take a person of superhuman character to overcome that deficit; overcome the voter anger, apathy and general ill will. In short, the Liberal party needs a messianic person, and that person just doesn't exist.

I'm one of those that believes the Liberal party still hasn't learned the lessons of the last 15 years. And their trotting out Chretien and Martin during this campaign does much to bolster that belief.

Maybe the Liberal party will have to kick Ignatieff to the curb in order for the party to rediscover what it means to be a Liberal. But if the party membership believes that's all it will take will be making the exact same mistake over again.


Ken Breadner said...

I just saw one poll (outlier, surely?) that had Layton winning 100 seats, with the Libs getting their butts kicked.
Iggy's problem is that he comes across as if he's entitled to be PM. I think Canadians have had quite enough of entitlement politicians.

M@ said...

We hear that Ignatieff is not connecting with Canadians. And I don't think that has anything to do with Ignatieff. It has to do with the big fat Liberal albatross hanging around his neck.

While I agree with you, I think there's also something to the fact that for two years, the CPC campaigned against (and smeared) Ignatieff. The Liberals did nothing about it. It's hard to undo a two-year smear campaign with a six week election campaign.

So I think there's more to it than Liberal history. The CPC is just much better at being in eternal campaign mode than anyone else. Too bad they're not as good at, oh, I don't know, running the fucking country...

Ken Breadner said...

M@, you've hit on something there. I'm not sure Harper et al believes there's a difference between being in perpetual campaign mode and effectively running the fucking country. In their minds, it's all one and the same, since the goal is to shift the populace ever rightward. To do that you can't relax your guard even for an instant.

Catelli said...

I considered the effect of the negative ads on Ignatieff. Most of that was before the writ was dropped, and Lib fortunes have consistently fallen since then. So voters are paying attention to something else (I believe they are looking for a 3rd option, i.e. NDP because the first two have sucked)

Also, the success of the negative ad campaign cannot be laid at Ignatieff's feet. Blaming him and dumping him for your own teams inability at effective messaging is misdirected blame.

M@ said...

I've done some canvassing for the Liberal candidate in my riding (because he has the best chance of unseating the CPC MP, not because I'm particularly thrilled with the Liberals). Last week, at two separate houses, we heard that they love the candidate himself (he's a well-known city councillor) but they wouldn't vote for him because of Ignatieff. One went so far as to call Ignatieff "a snake".

The only thing I can attribute this to is the long-term smear campaign by the CPC. With Dion, it was "not a leader", and still today I hear people, Liberal supporters, say he lost because of his lack of leadership. People are buying into the CPC line, and it's damaging.

Of course, it is in the end a Liberal problem. If they can't respond effectively (or at all) to this crap, and voters are stupid enough to believe it, then the Liberals deserve to lose. I am just frustrated as hell at how people wax philosophical about the idiotic non-issues that are put in their heads by marketing campaigns, as though they were relevant issues. There are plenty of reasons to dislike Ignatieff; it would be nice if people would actually find out what they are, rather than parroting the "four legs good two legs bad" rhetoric they saw on TV a few times.

Ken Breadner said...

Smear campaigns work. Even short ones. Everyone's turning their attention to Layton now and so I predict he won't finish anywhere near as high in the polls as he currently is.
Ignatieff is a good man and smart, as was Dion before him. Both of them are political naifs, people who expect honesty to win out in an campaign. It's odd that the LPC has some of the toughest backroom operators in the game, i.e. Warren Kinsella...and some of the weakest front-line politicos. The Libs need another Chretien. Closest I can envision is Gerrard Kennedy, and that's not all that close.

Catelli said...

Heh I voted Liberal this weekend (because he has the best chance of unseating the CPC MP, not because I'm particularly thrilled with the Liberals) so that goes a long way to proving the point doesn't it?

Some people are going to hate others because of background, personality, skin, hair colour and tons of other factors. There would never be a politician that everyone liked or were at minimum indifferent too.

Not to say smear campaigns don't work. They do, but after a while they start to backfire too. Mostly I believe people are just tired of the LPC. There are other factors at play (there always will be), but the biggest one is the party name and reputation

I think CDNs at large are tired of the tough-ass political operator, i.e. Stephen Harper. If being tough and controlling was what it took, he'd be polling better too. Chretien started driving away support from the LPC because the political operator tag was becoming dominant, and we no longer knew what he stood for.