Wednesday, May 29, 2013

BC Liberals blew dog-whistle to get back straying voters in time for BC election win

What Beat NDP? Dog Whistle Politics

Libs knew how to call back their crowd with a sure fire signal.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver/The Tyee column
Tuesday May 28, 2013
By Bill Tieleman
"Dog-whistle politics. It means putting out a message that, like a high-pitched dog-whistle, is only fully audible to those at whom it is directly aimed."
- The Economist, March 2005
The BC Liberal Party's winning election campaign successfully blew a dog-whistle signal to its many straying voters, calling them home just in time to defeat the BC NDP.
The dog-whistle call is a simple one that works time and again for the so-called "free enterprise" coalition that usually governs British Columbia: "jobs and the economy."
"The socialist hordes are at the gates in British Columbia," Social Credit Premier W.A.C. Bennett would warn every election for two decades, using the original dog-whistle that proved remarkably successful in keeping the BC NDP out of power till 1972.
The current BC NDP has run three consecutive campaigns under two different leaders and two different campaign managers that attempted to mute that dog-whistle by appearing as moderate and centrist as possible for a social democratic party.
But neither Adrian Dix in 2013 nor ex-leader Carole James in 2005 and 2009 could stop voters from responding to that instinctual, if irrational, BC Liberal call.
Christy Clark had lost the dog-whistle for her two years as premier, because Dix quickly built a substantial lead in the polls while Clark's constant campaign mode that led to continual governing errors.
It was only when Clark took her own tarnished name back out of the BC Liberal Party's own logo, dropped her ineffectual "Families First" and "B.C. Starts Here" slogans, and instead focused on the campaign's "Strong Economy. Secure Tomorrow." theme -- and the alleged NDP threat to it -- that centre-right leaning voters returned.
Whistling in the fact-free dark
Never mind that the BC Liberals had increased debt, lost jobs and were constantly facing political scandals -- listen to the whistle! Fear the NDP! Ignore the BC Liberal record! Forget the media reporting facts!
Meanwhile, the BC NDP was oblivious to the constant dog-whistling during their frontrunner, play it safe campaign.
Without polling in key swing ridings -- while the BC Liberals were reportedly canvassing 25 seats every day -- and with province-wide public polling showing a substantial if expected narrowing of their lead, the BC NDP was flying blind.
And amazingly, the party was conducting riding polling earlier this year but dropped that during the election for reasons not yet explained by campaign manager Brian Topp.
Public polling appears to have led their campaign team and pundits alike to miss the kind of signs that would have been more foreboding in the days when polls were banned before 1982 during elections.
Misplaced faith
I ignored some of those signs too, like when my butcher told me he was worried about an NDP government's effect on the economy; some small crowds at Dix appearances; the email warning to me from an ex-NDP MLA that the positive-only campaign wasn't exciting the party base and the BC Liberals were being let off the hook on their 12-year record of failures because the NDP wasn't running any negative ads.
But like others, I mistakenly put my faith in professional polls showing a significant NDP lead, even the day before the election -- and polls truly are the coin of the realm in politics.
This election proved that the good old right-wing dog-whistle is far more reliable than every pollster.
And so far, in campaign after campaign, the BC NDP hasn't found its own dog-whistle to rally enough voters to win.
Clarification: I should have noted last week that vote counts for 2013 were preliminary and did not include what is now a record 180,000 absentee ballots; Elections BC reports they will be tallied this week, increasing turnout to about 56 per cent and potentially changing the outcome in some closely-fought ridings.
And the NDP's 824,544 votes in 1986 that I cited included some dual-member ridings where voters got two choices, meaning the likely NDP high point of support was in 1983, when 46 per cent of voters backed Dave Barrett in a powerful but losing campaign to Social Credit Premier Bill Bennett.


Calivancouver said...

I'm afraid you've misappropriated the 'term' dog whistle to some extent. A dog whistle is a rhetorical usage which the speaker does not want part of the audience to hear. The BC Liberals would be happy if everyone thought they were stronger economic stewards. There is nothing to hide in that rhetoric.

What would be a dog whistle would be if the liberals were using rhetoric that was designed to appeal to socially unacceptable groups with plausible deniability. For example, when Republicans south of the border drone on about illegal immigration, many would argue that that was a 'dog whistle' directed to anti-hispanic xenophobes, with the plausible cover that they were merely calling for law-and-order and security.

Saying, or even hinting, that one isn't going to wreck the economy isn't a dog whislte. It's too straightforward for that

e.a.f. said...

Perhaps we should leave the NDP eastern types like Topp out of it next time and return to how the B.C. NDP ran and won on previous occasions. Gerry Scott used to be pretty good at winning. Where was he this time?

As to dog whistle politcs, yes the message certainly was changed and it might have helped the lieberals but no one on the NDP side fought back. We didn't earplug the electorate. We won with Harcourt and Glen Clark. We should have been able to win this time. The caimpaign wasn't good enough. Dix maybe good enough but not the people running the campaign. Dix does have to understand B.C. is bare knuckles fighting. Barrett, Harcourt, Glen Clark and their teams knew it. Eventually not all the dog whistles worked when they ran.

I have watched the NDP and voted for the party since I was a kid in the 50's. This time the campaign just wasn't good enough. the lieberals ran a better campaign and the NDP failed to attack the lieberals or at least list their sins.

The NDP could have countered with jobs such as building 10 new schools in Surrey, jobs in health, forestry, and been willing to look at some natural resource extraction.....didn't hve to do it if it were not in the best interest of the province, but WACie ran on jobs building damms and roads.

Bospade said...

Mr. Tieleman - you should go away along with Dix, Sihota, and O'Brien. I've been a NDP supporter and member for 40 years - even been on provincial council. I knew the minute the Surrey king maker - Sue Hammell- decided Dix would be leader that the Liberals would win. Hammell like Dix has never shown good judgment - see yellow scarf high school girls' prank in regards to Carole James. The party has been corrupted by instant members and until bags of memberships and bags of money are not accepted by the party appartchiks it will remain lost and losing. I suggest we change the name of the party to The Numbingly Dumb Party!

Cocoabean said...

The differences between the parties these days are so insignificantly tiny that I don't think those few of us remining in the shrunken private sector will even notice which bunch is in power.

So don't worry - the Liberals are proving just as much socialists as the "moderate" NDP had promised to be. Social welfare programs will continue, even if trimmed. Taxes will rise. Government liquor, marketing boards, government insurance, government ferries, government power, government schools, health care and housing will all remain in place. Even the clipped ALR...

Up till now, times have been good. Deficit budgeting via economic growth and a "there's more where that came from" attitude have been the norm. Voters are fat and sassy. They, more than anything else, want continuity. They're afraid of any change: they want to have reliability and even the slightest tiny inkling of a hint of a threat to their consumer lifestyles is enough to send them scurrying...

Anonymous said...

^^^^^^^^ The debt will bite this province and country big time in the ass! Taxpayers are oblivious for some bizarre reason that debt MUST be paid back. It's a false economy when all the infrastructure is created with borrowed money.
Also, look at the EBC website and see clearly that the Greens took enough votes to kill NDP seats in many areas. Look at Saanich North. a prime example. It's no wonder why the Lieberals promoted the Greens. An excellent strategy on their part. A bad strategy for taxpayers, though.

Anonymous said...

So, Bill, when can any of you and and the NDP Faithful take even one iota of responsibility for your drubbing in the election?

I think that will never happen and you'll lose the next one, too.

All of you, and I mean Bill, Moe and Jeffie need to be shown the door, but that will never happen. Seems like like being in opposition. Makes it easier to sit on your high horse.

Not anon DPL said...

Hey Anon 14:47, did you happen to read the big column in the Globe and Mail today about Mrs.Photo Ops big problems trying to deliver on even part of the stuff she kept telling folks during the campaign. She opens her moth and grand plans for 20 years down the road satisfied you sort of people. Try to find a name for yourself

Anonymous said...

Think Non DPL should figure out whether he is for MSM or not. Keeps ragging on the bad old mainstream media but keeps obviously reading it.

To be perpetually hateful of MSM and yet keep using it is hypocritical.

and "you sort of people"???what is that? Non-NDPers?

and why complain? The NDP had every opportunity to win the election and to defeat the BC Liberals but lost it big time.

No one to blame but the NDP. It's their result.