Tuesday, January 30, 2007

To go negative or not to go negative...

...that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the outrageous Conservative slings and arrows...ok, that’s enough. Yesterday I made the case for a positive response to the Conservative attack ads. Over at Daily Canuck though, former Trudeau staffer Tom Axworthy makes the case for going negative:

The Liberals should cut their own series of ads, linking Harper’s Republican Lite game plan to the negative politics of disunity that so disfigure the electoral process in the United States. Dion cannot allow an impression to grow that he is a scholarly and honourable man not quite up to the cut and thrust of modern politics…
The Conservatives have begun the 2007 campaign by going negative. The Liberal Party must respond immediately and in kind.

I agree with Tom’s sentiment, but I disagree with his strategy.

First of all, these ads are over the top, personal, and coming outside of an election they reek of desperation. Refute the factual inaccuracies in the ads, yes, defend our record and, as I discussed yesterday, pivot to our message. Talk about how the new-found Conservative love for the environment rings hollow. We saw that line in question period Monday. We can do that with our earned media and through other channels though, we don’t need to do it through an ad buy.

Also, hammering the “US-style attack ads” angle is unnecessary, and inflammatory. People will make that link on their own, us hitting them over the head with it only lets the Cons come back at us with the Libs are anti-American card. And do we have money for ads at the moment anyway? We don’t have a CPC-sized warchest. They’ve got more money that they can spend, we very much don’t. Every dollar we spend now is one less we can spend during the campaign.

I’m not saying the time won’t come to go negative; such ads do very much have their place in the electoral process. But that time is not now and indeed, right now I think we’re better served by a high road approach. Defend and correct, yes, throw mud back, no.


Other then advocating going negative Tom does also make a rather good point. We need to work harder at defining Stephane Dion. As Tom says he’s been doing the right things to bring the party together internally, and that’s important, but it’s been inside the Queensway type stuff:

Dion has to get out of the Ottawa bubble and show dramatically that he intends to reach out to women, the young, and others usually ignored by the Ottawa establishment. He has to insist that Elizabeth May and the Green Party be invited to the Leaders’ Debates. He has to combine issues, showing, for example, that a healthy environment is a pre-condition to health in our bodies, so that the Liberal Party gains credibility on the two top-of-the-line issues of concern to most Canadians.

I agree. He needs to start speaking to the general public, to the people. And not through the soundbite cut and thrust of question period, that’s not going to resonate with Canadians. He needs to get out and give speeches, talking about issues and vision. Tour the country and meet with Canadians, in small and large groups. Sit down and talk with local community newspapers, radio and television stations. Take his message to the people.

Going negative right now though would be a mistake. Now is not the time. We can be firm without resorting to these sorts of attacks. We’ve been going negative for at least the last three years. Let’s give the other way a try for a bit, shall we?

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JimBobby said...

Whooee! Sounds like yer sayin' the Liberals oughta adopt every strategy an' policy o' the Greenies.

- The Greens operate on a tight budget an' will wait til an electionvote before spendin' on ads.

- Greens don't go negative but keep on pushin' green actions an' green thinkin'.

- The Green leader is personable an' ain't viewed as a Ottywa insider-wonk. Who wouldn't wanna have Lizzie May over fer a coffee?

So, JeffMan, them things yer wantin' yer gang t' do are already bein' done by the Greens. An' with ol' Mother Earth at the top o' voters' issues, Canajuns can trust the Greens t' keep their eye on the environmental ball.

Neither the Cons or the Grits can claim a good record on Mother Earth issues. The kindergarten antics from both parties while the Earth burns ain't goin' unnoticed by concerned Canajuns.

Canajuns outside o' Q-beck got 4 choices -

- The Cons: Nobuddy believes they really grasp or care 'bout green action.

- The Grits: 13 years o' talkin' the talk an' no walkin' the walk.

- The Dippers: Dirty factory (union) jobs trump real green action. In BC an' Sasky, NDP gummints fell down on protectin' Mother Earth.

- The Greenies: Respect an' stewardship o' Mother Earth underpins every policy. Undisputably the greenest national party.

Take a good look at the GPC's 2006 platform. It builds on a green foundation but it addresses purty much every topic you can think of.



bigcitylib said...

There are a lot of ways of striking back, and an ad buy is only one of them. One I don't agree with.

Attack ads don't always work and there is no sign that these ones are going to do any real damage. Most of the commentary I've read has been on the "meta-level". Why are they doing this now? What does it say about the Conservative Party?

To me this says they're not really being effective.

Which makes it not at all like the Kerry stuff, because in that "I voted for the war before I voted against it" thingie the GOP struck gold.

There are things the Libs should be doing, which is pointing out the whole unseemly nature of election type ads when it isn't election season. At the moment, they have the moral high-ground here, but once they throw mud back its lost. They should let the Tories be the ones who look like assholes.

And they should also be using the interest these ads have generated to, as you suggest, talk up Dion policy. Because it seems to Lib response will get as much air time out of the ads as the Tory attack, and it was all for free.

Anonymous said...

One must not forget and let it be known that Dion was environment minister for a "short" time - not much longer than Harper has been PM - he was environment minister in a "minority" government and was fought tooth and and nail by the opposition party (Harper) who didn't and I don't think even now believes in climate change - he's just following the polls.

In essence, it's Harper's fault that Dion couldn't advance.

Anonymous said...

One of the bloggers refers to the Conservatives as the (Refore/Alliance/Tory) party as the RAT party - I say let's call them the RAT Pack - very descriptive I'd say.

Anonymous said...

But, you've forgotten that Elizabeth May says "Dion gets it" and she'd be willing, if she had seats in the House, to form a coalition because the thought of Stephen Harper with a majority scares the hell out of her (in her own words).

Dion was environment minister for a short time - not much less that Harper has been PM - he was the environment minister during a minority government and Harper's RAT Pack fought him tooth and nail on the environment issues.

Now, Harper didn't even have a plan to put forward during the election and yet he had all that time in opposition to develop one.

It's only a priority now because of the polls - Harper really isn't into it or gets it. This is just so obvious.

Anonymous said...

Has it to anyone that all we're talking about is attack ads and not Khan, or patronage appointments, lies of Harper, etc. anymore - this is a "double" strategy - get people off the negatives about Harper's RAT Pack and put the negatives on Dion.

Let's not fall for it and keep up with the "negative" reminders about Harper's RAT Pack.

Karen said...

I would agree with you Jeff, timing is everything.

It seems to me that the Con's advertising is slowly imploding, (based on newspaper comments, media comments, etc.), but we should watch it to see how it plays out, especially this possible copyright breach.

It is all about the timing though. I liken these ad's to the swiftboating of Kerry, in that they attempted (and succeeded in large part), to define Kerry. Kerry waited too long before reacting.

Reaction doesn't mean that you respond in kind necessarily, but you do address it.

To your point about getting out there, Dion was on local radio yesterday and stated that he has never gone negative and will not start now. He trusts the intelligence of Canadians and will continue to present his vision of Canada, while defending it against the Conservative agenda.

Anonymous said...

I came upon the following while doing some research on social control:

Elément primordial du contrôle social, la stratégie de la diversion consiste à détourner l’attention du public des problèmes importants et des mutations décidées par les élites politiques et économiques, grâce à un déluge continuel de distractions et d’informations insignifiantes. - Source

[Free translation: A primary element of social control is the strategy of diverting the attention of the public away from important problems and forthcoming changes by providing the public with a continual flow of distractions and unimportant information.]

Perhaps one question to ask is What is Harper's ad campaign "smoke-screening".

Anonymous said...

I just saw that Walkswithcoffee already made that point. If you have not seen it, it's here.

Anonymous said...

"One must not forget and let it be known that Dion was environment minister for a "short" time - not much longer than Harper has been PM - he was environment minister in a "minority" government and was fought tooth and and nail by the opposition party (Harper) who didn't and I don't think even now believes in climate change - he's just following the polls.

In essence, it's Harper's fault that Dion couldn't advance."

Another blind Liberal rolling out a false defence of Dion.Harper and the Conservative's had 99 seats, so please explain how they blocked Dion and Martin.

154 votes to pass a bill.Conservatives had 99. Do the math and explain your argument

Anonymous said...

If you haven't seen it today, watch Mike Duffy Live tonight at 8:00 EST on newsnet - he shows the amateur blogger's ads and they are really, really good and "FREE".

Anonymous said...

How about bringing up the fact that Harpor almost immediately after taking office closed down the government's climate change website and removed all reference to global warming -- and then gagged the scientist who had written a book! Sounded to me like Harpor feared about this issue a long time ago... Throwing a stink bomb to distract from their own 'scent' looks like a Mulrooney tactic.

Anonymous said...

I loved the spoof Conservative ads on "This Hour has 22 Minutes" tonight.

Should be on again Friday night.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, Dion has been doing exactly as you wish. A couple of weeks ago he was in Quebec City (awfully cold territory of late); last week it was your ol' stompin' grounds -- here are a few newsclips from his visit...


Spreading the message at the local level. Kinda sounds like ol' Wizard Harpor's program, almost. Except we're not whacking commissioners and bureaucrats at the knees for a warm-up like the PM.

paulsstuff said...

154 votes to pass a bill.Conservatives had 99. Do the math and explain your argument

Still waiting for your explanation on how Garper blocked everything.Use a calculator, fingers, toes, whatever you need.