Spoke to CBC’s Mike Crawley yesterday about why Kathleen Wynne is doing so badly.
Told him Wynne made herself the only face of this government – that she didn’t ever use her capable ministers or caucus to spread the Ontario Liberal gospel. She insisted on being the only Ontario Liberal people ever heard from – to the extent, even, of actually going to grocery stores to repeatedly announce beer sales, and treating it like it was the moon landing.
Being the only recognizable face of your party is fine, I told him – if you are certain you are always going to be popular forever.
No one is popular forever.
“We teach our clients that simplicity, repetition and volume work. That’s what [PC leader Doug] Ford and [NDP leader Andrea] Horwath are doing. Sounding like a deputy minister at a policy convention doesn’t work. It’s how you lose.”
“A daily frenzy of seemingly-unrelated announcements doesn’t equal having a narrative. When you don’t have a narrative, you don’t have much of a chance.”
Now that Ontario’s election is underway – and Quebec’s and New Brunswick’s are in the offing – you’re going to hear this tired old chestnut a lot: “campaigns matter.”
Do they? Well, sure, sort of.
But certainly not as much as the cliché suggests they do. Not anymore.
Case Study One: Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. My wife Lisa and I worked on that one, in Maine, New Hampshire and at her Brooklyn headquarters.
Hillary’s campaign was the best-financed, best-organized, best-prepared campaign I have ever seen. She had the smartest people, the smartest policies, the most money, and the greatest get-out-the-vote organization in modern political history.
Her loathsome opponent, meanwhile, spent virtually no money on advertising. His campaign was run by crooks, amateurs and grifters. He was wildly disorganized and undisciplined. He, and his team, did everything wrong. But he still “won” – thanks to (a) less than 70,000 votes (b) and Russia manipulation of state-run voting systems in (c) three places – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Lots of uneducated theories persist about why Hillary “lost,” however. Like: that she should’ve gone to Wisconsin. Like: James Comey’s reckless intervention mid-campaign. Like: nobody really knew who Hillary was – or they did, and they didn’t like her.
Here’s a memo straight from folks who actually worked on Hillary’s campaign folks: that’s all bunk. Everyone knew who Hillary was, and the ones who didn’t like her? They werenever going to vote for her. Comey’s suggestion that we were under criminal investigation hurt, sure – but our opponent had admitted to sexually assaulting women on tape, too. And Wisconsin? Please: spare me. In the final days, all of Brooklyn H.Q. was emptying out to head to Pennsylvania, which had twice the electoral college votes that Wisconsin did.
The unvarnished reality is this: Hillary Clinton, and those of us who were (and remain) honoured and privileged to work for her, believed that campaigns matter, too. Her loss – and Donald Trump’s “win” – showed that campaigns don’t matter nearly as much, anymore. They just don’t.
Case Study Two: the Doug Ford campaign.
Doug Ford – who I know and like, full disclosure – is not a professional politician. He may have been a city councillor for a single term, but he is as far from a professional politician as one can get. He does not have anywhere near the experience that Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath have. Not even close.
Unlike the other two, he has never led a political party before. Unlike the other two, he has never ruled a caucus before. Unlike the other two, he has never participated in a leader’s debate before last Monday.
But he’s still winning, and he may be winning big. Some media polls suggest he has a twenty-point lead. Internal party polling, meanwhile, suggests that the Grits are heading towards third party status. And perhaps no party status at all.
How could such a thing happen to the once-mighty Ontario Liberal machine? Three reasons. One, Kathleen Wynne needed to take a walk in the proverbial snow way back in 2017. Two, the Grits needed to jettison the profligate Martinite crew around Wynne – the ones who destroyed the federal Liberal party a decade ago. Three, they needed to be infused with new blood and new faces.
They didn’t do any of those things.
Instead, they are muttering “campaigns matter” to each other. Just wait for the campaign, they say. We’ve got incriminating tapes and dirt on Doug. We’ve got big surprises coming. We’ve got the better candidate.
Newsflash, Wynne Wizards: the Clinton folks believed the same things. They were running against an opponent who was similarly populist. He said the wrong things, he was unstrategic, he got in trouble in the media. So they perfectly executed a traditional campaign – against an imperfect, untraditional candidate.
Traditional political campaigns do not work against populists.
Populists possess an extraordinary magical power: they are able to transform an attack on them into an attack on those who support them. And that is why virtually everything Kathleen Wynne said to Doug Ford in that first leaders’ debate last week – that he doesn’t understand how government works, that he doesn’t have experience, that he doesn’t get it, that he is out of his depth, blah blah blah – ricocheted off of him and onto the unhappy people who support him. And thereby wedded them more closely to their man, Doug Ford.
An attack on Doug Ford, you see, is an attack on them. Hillary Clinton realized that after her “deplorables” remark – but too late.
Kathleen Wynne still doesn’t. She thinks traditional campaigns still matter, too.
“The Liberals have fallen pretty precipitously everywhere. So this is becoming a race between these Conservatives and the NDP.”
Great work, Team Wizard.
Got that Amber Alert just as I was about to go under the scalpel. One the one hand, glad the system worked. On the other hand, disappointed the surgeon was distracted and lopped off that body part.
— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) May 14, 2018
@fordnation isn’t @realDonaldTrump, but it simply amazes me that Ford’s critics are reprising in 2018 the tactics that didn’t work against Trump in 2016: mocking his supporters, calling them racists or morons or both, etc. It doesn’t hurt him: it *strengthens* his base. #Onpoli
— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) May 13, 2018
“The Canadian Review of Materials is published weekly from September through June and is an all-volunteer online publication which features reviews of books and other materials that are authored, illustrated and/or published by Canadians and that are produced for/of interest to children and adolescents. CM’s reviewers are teachers, teacher-librarians, public librarians and university professors…”
And here’s what they say about Recipe For Hate in their review!
“[Recipe For Hate is] a complex, multilayered mystery that highlights the energy and passion of youth while pointing a finger at issues like police misconduct, irresponsible journalism and the rise of the alt Right.”
Not bad! Other reviews, to date, are below:
Quill and Quire: “Kinsella skillfully blends convincing depictions of both the punk scene and the racist underground with the hoary trope of a band of kids setting out to solve a mystery. The novel is a suspenseful page-turner that also gives considerable food for thought, anchored in realistically drawn characters and an eye for significant detail.”
Publisher’s Weekly: “Adult author Kinsella (Fight the Right) sets this riveting murder mystery in Portland, Maine, in the late 1970s…Tension starts high and stays there in this unflinching page-turner, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the early punk scene and a moving testament to the power of friendship.”
Globe and Mail: “Portrayals of rebellious and non-conforming teens can feel reductive or contrived but Kinsella nails it without any stereotyping or embellishment. Though this authenticity will have big teen appeal, the novel is also part police procedural, part detailed history on the emergence of punk and part gritty murder mystery, all elements that skew more adult. Classification aside, it’s absorbing, jarring and raw.”
Toronto Star: “Warren Kinsella is known mostly as a political operative and pundit, but he also has estimable punk-rock credentials (as punk historian and as bass player in SFH, which bills itself as Canada’s best-loved geriatric punk band). This YA novel is loosely based on real-life events, and concerns the murder of two teenagers in 1979 in Portland, Ore., then the epicentre of the punk scene. It will be of interest to anyone interested in punk culture — not just the music, but the fanzines, art and writing of the period.”
Booklist: “Kinsella’s book explodes off the page from the start…a dark and engrossing tale of punk-rock heroes fighting for justice.”
You get to leave power in one of two ways.
One, you get to leave on your own two feet, at a time and place of your choosing.
Or, two, you leave in a pine box.
The latter happens when politicians start to believe their own bullshit. The latter happens when politicians gorge themselves on the pap that is being served up to them by their servile stafflings, the ones who depend upon said politicians for a paycheque. The latter happens when a politician starts to lose touch with real people, and is only hanging out with Deputy Ministers and people who are on the payroll.
Kathleen Wynne, who I like as a person – even though she didn’t even deign to respond to my long-ago offer (and that of not a few others) to help – did not leave when she could have and should have. By default, she chose the pine box.
It isn’t going to be pretty.