They like him, they really like him

Last week, The Tyee's Will McMartin's stated the provincial Liberals' made a risky decision by making Gordon Campbell the focus of their election advertising because of his "high disapproval ratings and palpable unpopularity." But the fact that gamble paid off could have long-term consequences for British Columbia's political future. The reason: some may now say the Liberal leader won a personality contest between himself and New Democrat leader Carole James. So, if Ms. James doesn't resign before 2013, that could embolden those who want the premier to run for a fourth term in office.

3 Comments

"that could embolden those who want the premier to run for a fourth term in office."

I don't like jokes first thing in the morning.

If I could be forgiven for putting it in terms of branding, it would have appeared to the casual observer to come down in the end to a pretty straightforward contest between arrogant but competent vs. decent but incompetent.

These are deeply familiar archetypes (young Kirk in the new Star Trek?) and the Liberals framed it thus by sticking so religiously to the competence question. It fit nicely as the archetypal positive flip side to arrogance - meanwhile reminding everyone of the opposing stereotype (the pleasant or brainy bumbler) and insinuating quite convincingly that incompetence was the inevitable flip side to James' niceness. Not a hard case to make, given persistent negative perceptions of the NDP's last term, driven home by the hardball anti-NDP warm-up campaign by the Independent Contractors, and sealed by the NDP's failure to provide a come-back.

The average voter doesn't have to put up with the personality aspects first-hand, but would definitely perceive themselves as benefiting or losing personally on the competence question, making it a pretty simple choice for anyone who didn't have a direct stake in some key platform issue. Especially so in a time of significant economic uncertainty.

Such stereotypes would have been reinforced by diehard sexist notions of men being better at leading and managing money, as we were reminded by no less august bodies than the editorial boards of the Globe, etc (and I don't think for a moment that Campbell's "See here, little lady..." slip during the debate was innocent - simply a case of over-acting the role.) One need only browse the recent blogs and letters pages to see that some pretty deep-seated buttons were successfully pushed.

So no, I'd disagree that the deciding factor had anything to do with a personality contest, but rather about perceptions of competence, and that on this question voters were played very skilfully.

Be that as it may, competence will be the same central question in 2013, no matter which leaders are at the helm, unless the NDP confronts that it has a very serious image problem that has now become even more deeply ingrained and that needs to be resolved before it can ever be widely seen as offering a serious alternative. Just as it needs to confront and challenge assumptions of Liberal competence head-on - though that should be the easier of the two tasks, IMHO.

Hi Dawn - love your comments!

I would only add that in addition to a perception of competence was the 'devil you know' element.

This election reminded me a lot of the american one where bush was re-elected in lieu of Kerry. I don't think I need to catalogue the similarities.

This province is in desperate need of a credible, honest leader that people are willing to follow, some one with vision, foresight and the wherewith all to get things done. Frankly at this point I no longer care which party - we just need someone who is worthy of the title of Premier.

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