The Liberals' woes, Part II
Rob Silver, a contributor to The Globe and Mail's "Second Reading" section online, has gone a bit further today on the theme of what's wrong with the Liberals -- subject of a previous post in this space this morning.
What I like about the online universe is the collaboration among supposed competitors. In that spirit, I'm posting Silver's piece here too, because it is definitely a companion piece (arguably more intelligent) to my offering. Here it is:
Today appears to be this quarter’s What’s Wrong With the Liberals day with three pieces already out on the subject and it’s not even Happy Hour yet. The memo I got suggested we were supposed to save the woe-is-the-Liberal-Party stories until after next week’s by-elections (I set the over-under for how many seconds before an unnamed Liberal MP ties the results in Vaughan to Michael Ignatieff’s leadership at 13 seconds) and the now near-certain vote on the Afghanistan extension (oh silly Liberals, you don’t all agree amongst yourselves on foreign policy – obviously it is a clear reflection on Michael Ignatieff’s leadership) but apparently I was misinformed. My post on how Edmonton is a big loser now that they won’t be able to achieve all the greatness of such cities as Knoxville, Tennessee – with its beloved Sunsphere turned wig shop – because of Stephen Harper’s hatred for Expos will have to wait for another day.
Susan Delacourt’s piece is a full-on head nodder in terms diagnosing many of the symptoms of the current Liberal Party’s happy-happy, fun-fun state. There are two other things I would add, risking that folks suggest that I am one of her hated “Liberal strategists” who hand out asinine advice to anyone who will listen showing how much smarter they are then everyone else in Liberal land (hey, at least I sign my name to my free asinine advice). If I were running the Liberal Party’s national campaign, and I was determined to move our numbers from the roughly 30 per cent where we are stuck in the mud up to 35 per cent – the point at which forming government becomes a possibility – I would be focused on two current challenges:
1. Who are our target voters? This drives me crazy. If you want to pick up 5 per cent more support, isn’t a reasonable first step to stop and ask yourself “who makes up that 5 per cent”? If your answer is “women” or “Ontarians” let me give you a clue – too broad, you can’t call 40 or 52 per cent of the electorate a target group. I’m not suggesting that we need to go quite as far as the Conservative Party in terms of micro-targeting or psychographic segmentation but the Liberal Party of 2010 has no idea what our winning voter coalition is never mind who our next 5-per-cent slice of the electorate might be. We still act as if the winning coalitions from 1968, 1980 or even 1993 exists today. Unless our electoral strategy is predicated on us finding a DeLorean and heading back in time, those coalitions are gone. We should consider finding out what a new one looks like. A decent place to start is that next 5 per cent – who are they and how do we attract them to our party? If you can’t answer that, you are hoping for luck which, says this named Liberal strategist, isn’t a strategy.
2. Who are our current voters? This drives me just as crazy. The Liberal Party elites do not understand our own current supporters. They don’t understand who they are or their views on a whole range of issues. They think they do – are absolutely convinced of it – but they don’t. This is the single largest reason we can’t raise money as a party. That’s different from saying the only reason but it is the biggest one. It also means we constantly wedge ourselves on issues, have little idea how to motivate or rally the base and underperform in by-elections where turnout is king. Given how convinced the elites in the Liberal Party are that they “understand the Liberal Party” – it is their “family,” after all – I am pessimistic this is likely to change any time soon. (Let me digress for a second: Some Liberals see the party as a “family.” My single biggest pet peeve about the Liberal Party is people who call what is a political party a “family.” First off, if the Liberal Party is your “family,” I feel bad for you – get some perspective. Secondly, families are closed organisms – you are born into them. You are saying something about the type of Liberal Party you believe in when you call us an organization you need to be born into for life. Third, families are not in any way meritocracies; they are in fact the opposite. Again, it speaks to the kind of Liberal Party you believe in.... I could keep going and delve into what kind of family gathers all its males and goes skinny dipping together all the while claiming you are at the forefront of progressive thought but I will stop now. Drives me nuts.)
Other than that, I agree with Susan including how exhausted and bored I am by all of this discussion.