Monday, March 01, 2010

Peter Puck Prime Minister

Here is the type of electoral framing Conservative types like to run on:
A recent Zogby/Williams Identity Poll reflected that. It found that 57% of undecided voters would rather have a beer with Bush than Kerry. (In Bush's case, it would be a nonalcoholic beer.)

While both were raised with silver spoons in their mouths and both went to Yale, Bush comes off as less pretentious and more down to earth. Kerry sounds like he is lecturing people rather than holding a conversation with them.

"Snob" is a word often used by people when asked how Kerry strikes them. "Nice guy" is the way many express their response to Bush.

Of course, detractors of Bush often describe him as "dumb" and "arrogant." And supporters of Kerry like to promote him as "smart" and "intelligent."

But for the most part, Bush is seen as the friendly neighbor next door. A new Pew Research Center Poll asked swing voters who comes off more as a "real person," Bush or Kerry? Bush won, 56% to 38%.
People realized they liked Bush better when he faced off in the 2000 debates with then-Vice President Al Gore. Gore projected arrogance and rudeness as he tried to demonstrate his superior knowledge. Bush seemed more humble and more in touch with America, if less knowledgeable.

He indelibly reinforced it when he stood in the rubble of the Twin Towers on Sept. 14, 2001, threw his arm around the shoulder of a weary firefighter and shouted through a bullhorn to cheering rescue workers, "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"
The Republicans succeeded in elevating personality litmus tests to a primary status in those American elections. Due in large part to that framing, the world was inflicted with Bush for two terms. Sure worked out well for the United States, left with the aftermath of two wars, a massive federal debt and a poisoned partisan environment. The swell beer drinking guy was a bust.

We're on the receiving end of the same kind of litmus test and framing in Canadian politics as a result of the Conservatives and their emulation of all things GOP. Frank Luntz, Republican adviser, told them, for all intents and purposes, to wed themselves to hockey as much as possible and they have done so. The philosophy gets full support in the Yellow Beast today:
We're electing the wrong people. It's hard to imagine an American president who wasn't a football fan. But in Canada's top political ranks, sports is an afterthought, something to be used to curry favour. Next time there's an election, and we're forced to sit through the inevitable debate, let's get past health care and how to deal with Afghanistan. My vote goes to whoever can name at least six players on the last Leaf team to win the cup, or three Montreal Canadien captains prior to 1980, or the name of the last Ottawa team to win the cup. Joe Canadian could do that in his sleep. We should accept no less from the prime minister.
While we're at it, why don't we have the boys sit around with their hockey cards too. What else would you expect from one of these Post types?

The ever-increasing Americanization of our politics that the Conservatives favour needs to be recognized and called for what it is, here it's the elevation of the superficial over the substantive. Thankfully, to date, Canadians are showing that a majority of the population is not buying this Conservative effort. Harper goes to unprecedented lengths to carry out this photo-op Prime Ministership yet he's just maintaining his standing in the polls. In Canadian politics, it's likely that never before has so much been spent for a Prime Minister's image in order to achieve so little. $1.7 million extra sought this year in the PMO's expanded budget for videos of Harper to be distributed to the news media. And it keeps coming.

You might think that in this belt-tightening era that's about to be upon us, the Prime Minister might lead by example and scale back some of that massive personal p.r. apparatus. Likely wishful thinking but it seems to be an area ripe for budgetary scrutiny, frivolous as a lot of it is. The celebrity treatment is tone deaf as the budgetary axe is about to fall.

And here's hoping that the wisdom of the Canadian people continues to prevail and the Conservatives and their allies peddling Republican communications shtick continue to be kept in check or better yet, shut out.