Musings —05.05.2011 06:46 AM—
In yesterday’s morning after the morning after post, I posted a fun email I received from my Ontario Liberal war room pal Bob Lopinski. It struck a chord with a lot of people; it was Twittered, hither and yon, famous Canadian columnists emailed me approvingly about it, and a bunch of you commented. Here it is again:
“I do really wish there was more science in political science.
This is what I have gleaned from the early analysis:
- Voters are moving left, unless they are moving right.
- Incumbency is bad, unless you were re-elected.
- Voters want change AND even more of the same.
- On-the-ground organization and sophisticated micro-targeting work, unless you are a bar-maid canvassing in Las Vegas.
- The separatists are preparing to ramp up their campaigns, and as a first step have left the Canadian House of Commons.”
Bob’s point – which political pros like him often make, pre-, post-, and during elections – is that there is no single meaning you can apply to the outcome. Sometimes, it’s just a bunch of things happening, some good for your team, some bad.
The discussion has arisen because, partly, Michael Ignatieff campaigned way better than Stephen Harper – but the latter still beat the stuffing out of the former on E Day. Don’t “campaigns matter” anymore? Well, yes, goes The Lopinski Theorem, except when, you know, campaigns don’t matter.
Pollsters were off; pundits scratched their tall foreheads. In the Open Election Prediction Thread, I offered swell prizes for the person who accurately picked the exact seat outcome. Out of more than 200 entries, on here and Facebook, no one did. In this morning-after entry – which attracted a wk.com record of almost 400 comments – theories abounded, but no consensus was reached.
Ditto the commentariat: Harper won because he’s an evil genius; Ignatieff lost because he had a lousy platform and Canadians didn’t like him; Harper won and Ignatieff lost because the progressive side of the spectrum is divided. And that’s just the first three columnists highlighted over on the invaluable National Newswatch this morning. There’s more discordant stuff out there to read, if you have the patience for it.
I’ve penned my own take in a coming issue of The Walrus – concluded on the morning after all the results rolled in – and I go at it for nearly 4,000 words. I won’t give away what I have to say (the magazine asked me not to), but suffice to say that, after believeing for a lifetime that “campaigns matter,” now I’m not so sure anymore. (But – here I go contradicting myself again – I think a big Conservative federal win means a big Conservative provincial win in Ontario is now gone, baby, gone. Take that, Timmy.)
Thus, The Lopinski Theorem: shit happens, good and bad. People will assign whatever meaning to the results that is consistent with their own biases and prejudices. In a country as big and as diverse as this one, it’s truly dumb to say one thing explains everything, isn’t it?
I’m a Catholic: I believe in divine mysteries. I like that there are some things I can’t explain, that they are ineffable. I draw comfort from the fact that there are some things which aren’t known facts, and that there art many, many things beyond the ken of my puny brain. I don’t need (or want) everything explained to me all the time.
Election 2011, per the theorem. Don’t try and explain it to me. Whatever you come up with will be wrong, and/or right.