03.02.2015 08:38 AM

Axelrod on losing the narrative

The Globe scored a bit of coup, and got former Barack Obama (and former Dalton McGuinty!) advisor David Axelrod to talk to them over the weekend.  He provided some fascinating insights, among them:

“We turned him into kind of an announcer for the government rather than a narrator of where we, as a country, were going. I think we wore him down as a communicator and we wore out his effectiveness, to some degree, by overusing him.

Ronald Reagan, when he addressed the nation, 70 million people would watch. We were all essentially watching a few networks. Now, there are infinite choices. And you almost, around every issue, have to assemble your pulpit piece by piece, going out and reaching for those voters or constituencies who are motivated by particular issues.

Understanding where the people are that you need to reach, and then the tactics required to reach them, is going to be a mission for every leader here and elsewhere.”

Ask yourself: which Canadian federal leader is the best narrator for where we are going, or should be going? Who is best at reaching out to segmented audiences in an environment where the media atom has been blown to smithereens? Which leader best knows who their audience is, and how to reach same?

I think all three leaders have some of the attributes that Axelrod describes. What do you think, dear reader?


  1. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    gyor says:

    Mulcair, but I’m biased.

  2. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Tiger says:

    I’m guessing this is a rhetorical question.

  3. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    the salamander says:

    .. who else but Mr Harper has substituted constant mealy politicking for governance
    Put another way.. he’s a fearless promoter of his promises and fabrications
    a master of the wedge.. (Note the masked snipers & machine guns at a ceremonial faceoff)
    and not a public servant responsive to the dreams, need or wishes of the majority of Canadians
    in any way shape or form

    Its all about the votes.. the votes.. the votes of a committed base
    and the non votes, the apathy or discouragement of the non or uncommitted voters

  4. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Al in Cranbrook says:

    The greatest political leaders display an innate understanding of what is important to Joe Average, and know how to speak to it…usually over the heads of the media. Ronald Reagan was classic, perhaps with no equal in recent memory. Media journalists despise this, because it end runs their eternally ideological inspired narratives du jour. They call it “populism”, and heap no end of derogatory script upon it…as if, God forbid, what Joe Average thinks about anything, beholding to no ideologically sacred written word, and thus obviously ignorant, ever could matter a good God damn in first place.

    Both Mulcair and Trudeau first and foremost speak to their ideology, trying to sell it to Joe Average as the end all, be all that will solve everyone’s problems, blah, blah, blah, and so on. There is an almost ever present underlying insinuation that those who don’t get their sales pitch for their little Holy Party Book of ideals and imperatives must therefore be somewhat ill begotten or pathetically uneducated, and thus unworthy of further attention.

    Joe Average very often knows when he’s being talked down to.

    Joe Average is also increasingly sick and tired of being promised the impossible, and left with little else to show for it except horror stories of waste and bungling, more debt, and higher taxes. Slapping Canadians with a carbon tax on the premise that it somehow will measurably alleviate global warming (on the heels of just about the most devastatingly frigid winter in many decades), is yet another classic example of ideologically inspired bullshit doomed from the get-go to achieve absolutely SFA besides increasing the cost of everything, but particularly those items most essential to a decent standard of living: energy, food, transportation and housing. Oh, and alleviating the eternal guilt of the left wing for ever being born.

    While no great orator or people schmoozer, Harper understands what matters to Joe Average. He is far less concerned with “conservative” ideology than he is with leftist dogma he considers destructive. And thus, far more bent on pragmatic policy than “conservatism” as the best means to defeat leftist ideology. If one word could best capture Joe Average’s sense of an ideology worth more than five minutes of their time, it would be “pragmatism”.

    While Harper understands “ideology” far better than his political competitors for the job of PM, he is by no means nearly as obsessed with it as are they.

    And neither is Joe Average.

    • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
      smelter rat says:

      You’re delusional

      • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
        Al in Cranbrook says:

        Not gonna talk in nine second sound bites just so you two can cope.

        …except this time.

    • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
      the salamander hordes says:

      .. I guess Al in Cranbrook sent 5 bucks .. pragmatism ..

    • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
      jeff316 says:

      Harper’s opponents often underestimate him, mischaracterize his nature, overemphasize his faults and underappreciate his skills, absolutely.

      But this post is completely detached from reality or sensible analysis. Harper is the anti-thesis of what this poster says he is. And that’s not a negative or political judgment.

      But this post is just complete partisan silliness and shows why rationale debate about leadership and politics is almost impossible these days.

  5. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I think our leader is best served by speaking sparingly but when he does, having something highly significant to say.

    People are looking for a further reason to support the Liberal party. Justin needs to speak to potential voters and bring them along by using convincing arguments on matters that are directly related to their aspirations and concerns.

    Speaking with authority and conviction. That can never be a bad thing.

  6. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    wsam says:

    Trudeau is clearly the leader positioned to be the least like Harper.

    Harper is not obsessed with ideology?

    So, Harper destroyed the census in a fit of pragmatism?

    • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
      Al in Cranbrook says:

      They got rid of it because threatening people with prison for not giving up private information is the literal antithesis of what Canada is supposed to be all about.

      That’s not ideology, it’s just common sense and decency.

      …clearly lost on left wing ideologues.

      • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
        Ronald O'Dowd says:


        It was all about giving the base a collective orgasm — so they could drain even more cash out of them.

        All the government had to do was remove the jail option but no, why don’t we go further and screw up statistical analysis while we’re at it…

        • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
          Al in Cranbrook says:

          Why is it that usual suspects of the left have a big problem with (mostly hypothetical) privacy issues when it comes to protecting our nation and citizens from getting shot or blown to bits in our streets…

          But no problems whatsoever with trashing privacy when it comes to mining information to rationalize (especially massive) government programs and (largesse) spending (that they love so damn much)?

          You know?

          • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
            doconnor says:

            Because one has proven to be effective and can be used making rational decisions and the other has proven to be ineffective and can be used to target political enemies and undermine rational decisions.

            Besides, poorly designed social programs will kill a lot more people then terrorists.

          • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
            jeff316 says:

            No, no one knows what you’re talking about.

            You’re incoherent. You don’t understand the data you’re talking about.

            The former rationale is rhetorical silliness used to cover the collection and use of non-demographic information without effective checks and balances for ulterior purposes, and will have little or no bearing on safety in the streets.

            The use of demographic data for program analysis is benign and has legislated checks and balances.

            Plus, let’s not kid ourselves. Almost no one is “left” here, at all.

      • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
        wsam says:

        That is ridiculous.

        To pretend Stephen Harper only wants to protect Canadians by not making them fill out a form and not acting out of some kooky libertarian impulse.

  7. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Africon says:

    Good question.

    Presidents and PM’s have virtually nothing to do with the success or failure of an economy – timing, technology and luck are probably far bigger factors.
    The next POTMUS ( regardless of party) will go down in history as one of the greatest ever – simply due to the new energy situation ( self sufficiency) in the US.

    Great oratory skills do not necessarily mean that the speaker is a such a great personal model for his people to follow – Churchill, JFK, FDR,PET, Clinton to name a few.
    Others with few speaking skills but with a certain gravitas and believability like Chretian illustrate to me that being a great speaker is the be all to end all.

    The other and fairly recent factor that we can thank society and the media that we now live in is that the office of Pres or PM is no longer revered or even respected. Sadly now a very large % of voters simply do not pay attention or seem to care or believe that their own lives will be affected by this or that Party and their platform that few even bother to read.

    Gravitas, oratory, being personable, able to connect and being photographic all help but are not critical.
    None of the above would have to be my answer as none of our 3 party leaders have an edge in this.

  8. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Africon says:


    illustrate to me that being a great speaker NOT is the be all to end all.

  9. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Elisabeth Lindsay says:

    Pragmatism…….Chretien and Harper.

  10. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Beth Higginson says:

    I think that Kathleen Wynne is a great communicator. I saw a cousin last weekend who lives in her riding. She spoke about a neighbour who was upset about support for young people with disabilities. Kathleen Wynne came to my cousin’s door and asked about the neighbour. My cousins said that the neighbour probably would not be someone that she would want to speak to. With that, Kathleen Wynne said that the neighbour was exactly the type of person she wanted to speak to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.