Saturday, October 15, 2011

The myth of the positive 2011 NDP campaign

There seems to be this impression out there that the 2011 NDP election campaign was all sunshine and lollipops. NDP leadership contender Brian Topp sought to re-enforce that impression yesterday, as he tries to paint himself as the candidate of positivity (unlike those other bastards? -- ed.)

"I don't believe that straight negative campaigns aimed at the Conservatives will defeat them," Topp said Friday, noting that the Liberal party failed miserably in its hardball campaign against the Tories.


"The style of our next campaign may emerge as a point of debate in this leadership race. In my view, we won't defeat Mr. Harper by 'taking him on,' by 'hammering' him, or by 'facing him down,'" Topp wrote. "Angry, negative campaigning works better for Conservatives than for social democrats, because it motivates Conservative voters while persuading progressives not to vote."

Topp, in his "let me say hello" letter, said Jack Layton's "propositional" approach that focused on policy solutions rather than attacks is the way to win government.
It's funny, because I remember being impressed with some of the NDP's negative TV ads in the last election campaign, particularly the health care pieces. And in British Columbia, where I spent the campaign (in an NDP target riding), they spent millions blanketing the radio waves with highly negative, fear mongery ads on the HST. Basically, they said Harper will make BC fire doctors and nurses and jeopardize the health care system by asking for the HST harmonization money if the referendum fails, but if you vote NDP you can keep the money and your doctors.

And Topp, of course, played a very senior role on that campaign and called a lot of the shots. He was national campaign director in 2008, when they blanketed Quebec with particularly impressive negative ads. He ran negative ads against the Liberals while trying to negotiate a coalition with us. So he certainly has no aversion to negative campaigning. So I find his claims of piety a little amusing.

If he wants to turn over a new leaf though, power to him.

(Not to say their 2011 campaign didn't also have very positive messages; just that it also had very negative ones.)

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Mark said...

On a slightly related note - Does anyone remember how the NDP used to complain that monthly disclosure of campaign donors during other parties' leadership races was inadequate?

Brett said...

The NDP also ran a very negative campaign against Liberals in Toronto putting out a central party piece against Mario Silva, Gerard Kennedy and Michael Ignatieff about not showing up to work. They were using the same type of tactics as Harper and got away with coming off as positive to voters

rockfish said...

It's the revisionist thinking that Harper's scoring points with, too. Amazing how the 'Jack' campaign took wing even though there was little whiff of any new policy, new approach... Other than a cane and people's sincere concern for the leader, the NdP offered nothing. And the one campaign that presented new ideas, a platform that seemed fresh? those hapless Ignatieff Liberals. Funny how now the revisionism is all about the 'negative liberal campaign', the sunshine-and-roses NdP show (nevermind that it ended up shortening Layton's life)... the media is enjoying this game, too. Topp's got some major support from some funny circles, none the more sly than the PM.

JR said...

Don't worry about the NDP. The enemy is to the right not the left.