Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sponsorship Fallout vs. Electoral Incompetence

Of course the Libs have to be asking themselves what went wrong with election. The two most frequently heard responses to this question are: 1. The sponsorship scandal combined with the Goodale scandal made it very difficult to win OR 2. Martin and the Martinis simply ran a bad campaign. While the fallout of the scandals was definitely a major issue, the blame ultimately has to lie in the Martin camp itself. They had a very strong economic record and an untested opposition leader with unpalatable views- yet they still couldn't win.

The first mistake Martin made, and really this applies for the last election as well, is that they never put the sponsorship scandal in any sort of context. Clearly there was completely unacceptable corruption resulting from the sponsorship program. However, it occurred at a time just following a narrowly defeated referendum which would have started the process of dividing the country. In light of this political context, it's hardly surprising that the government would have engaged in propaganda in order to preserve national integrity. The federal government is more or less obligated to do engage in some degree of propaganda when the nation is threatened. So even if the sponsorship program backfired in the end, the motivating impulse behind the sponsorship program was legitimate. They should have emphasized that on occasion rather than doing the work of the opposition and beating the scandal into the minds of the electorate. Also, the magnitude of wasted tax payer money, while large, was not an enormous sum of money from the perspective of the federal government (for example the mismanaged gun registry program ate up far more money). I'm not saying calling the Gomery inquiry and coming down hard on the corrupt Liberals was a mistake. Rather, I believe they could have down that and occasionally put the sponsorship scandal in a context which would have mitigated the fallout somewhat.

Another major mistake on the part of the Martinis was spending too much time courting candidates from other parties, and not making enough effort to mend fences within their own ranks was another mistake. As I've posted before . Stronach is certainly of no use to the Liberals, in my opinion she's more of an embarrassment than an asset. Perhaps Brison and Dosanj will turn out to be better assets, but I'm skeptical. They were attracted to the Lib fold by the musky scent of power emanating from a seemingly strong Liberal leader facing a weak opposition. They have no real roots in the party and they no longer have power, why should they remain committed to Libs??

But the main reason they lost this election was probably due to the disorganized and tone-deaf campaign the Martinis ran. They could have avoided the election by making a few more concessions to the NDP, which I always thought they should have done, but they decided to call the election- the least they could have done was to be prepared for it. Instead, they consistently came across as shrill, arrogant and elitist throughout the entire campaign. From the beer and popcorn comment, to the Chow and Chow Chow blog comparison, to Martin's hysterical debate performance, to the expression of disgust that always popped onto Martin's face when faced with criticism, to the Duffy vs. Duffy squabble, to allegations of buying out candidates, to RCMP investigations of the finance ministry- they really buried themselves during the campaign.

They did do somewhat better than most pollsters expected in the last few days of the campaign. You have to give Martin some credit for that. In the final couple of weeks they were obviously bleeding very badly but they kept on pushing for votes, a lesser leader may have run out of steam in similar circumstances. The Libs, with over a 100 seats and a fresh leader appear to be in a pretty good position for the next election which I'm guessing will be 1.5-2.5 years from now.

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