Five days after posting, my little election missive has had over 6,000 page views. And more than 60 commenters have posted, all passionate and articulate, a great many very angry and almost all calling for change.
I’m happy that Brian Topp, the NDP campaign manager, was one of the commenters. He is the first to admit publicly that the NDP brain trust made “serious strategic mistakes”.
That admission was necessary but obviously unofficial and inadequate.
As a result of the campaign mistakes, the people of BC face at least 16 consecutive years of a corporatist government whose raison d’etre is the accumulation of wealth for a few with little regard for the many.
People will be hurt. Our natural environment will be plundered. And regular folks will have to make do with even less. Personally, I expect that most everything that I value from government will come under fire.
And Alex Tsakumis is right. Watch those around Clark go from apparatschiks to millionaires. The hands will be well rewarded.
The next four years will be ugly and brutish. They will make the last two years look like the good old times.
This is not the fault of voters, or non-voters or pollsters or some of the other fall guys people are throwing around. Responsibility for this rests solely with Adrian Dix and his brain trust.
What went wrong?
In a sentence, Dix decided he wanted to “change politics” more than people’s lives. And now he will do neither.
Only politicians and wannabes want to change politics (that includes me). Voters and non-voters alike want to see change in their lives. Politics makes up very little of their lives – a thought or two a month, maybe a vote every few years, often not even that.
Regular folks want their lives and the lives of their family members to be more prosperous, more healthy, less stressful. They want more opportunities and fewer obstacles. They want those who have to take less from those who have too little. They want government to help them and not obstruct.
They rarely think about politics and politicians except to say that that politicians have generally got it pretty good and why do they fight so much?
Going into the election these people were very pissed off at the BC Liberals. They saw them as a bunch of liars and cheats who were looking after their own instead of the province.
They were right.
All they wanted was a government that put them first again, would stand up for their priorities and clean up the mess left by the old bunch.
If the Dix campaign had spoken to New Democrats and potential New Democrat voters contrasting the government’s record with those voters’ needs, Adrian Dix would be premier.
Instead Dix spoke about his own interests to the wrong voters, neglecting any critique of the BC Liberals. Therefore he isn’t. Premier, that is.
In fact, I would argue that neglecting the critique of the Liberals means he is so damaged he never can be Premier.
What is to be done?
I see enormous obstacles but a clear path to a win in the 2017 election (God, that date sounds terrible).
The first step is change. The BC NDP needs new leadership who will stop thinking about their own needs and start listening to the needs of the voters, particularly the ones they have now and the ones they need to win.
Unfortunately, Adrian Dix is not that leader. He’s badly damaged and now lacks the credibility to change. He has also shown that he is too intransigent. Over the past two years he did not listen to advice and concerns about his campaign. Through the election he was slow to recognize when the concerns turned to serious problems and was unable to bring himself to change the plan enough to perform better.
I don’t believe he’s changed. But what I think isn’t really that important. What is more important is that the NDP doesn’t have the luxury of waiting around to see if Adrian Dix can change and then demonstrate that to potential voters.
The BCNDP needs to make change now. More of the same even for a short time means the party isn’t interested in listening and is comfortable with losing. The BCNDP needs an interim leader and a leadership contest sooner rather than later just to show that they get it.
Restore the critique.
The second step is to step up the opposition game. The BC NDP blew 12 years of government criticism, a referendum defeat and the resultant 20 point lead in the polls. They need to get that back.
That means rebuilding a critique of the current government. That’s hard work. It requires putting resources into opposition research and spending less on caucus members’ various and currently useless policy whims.
It also means having a plan and a message. Does this new caucus notice how the Liberals have a message about the NDP that they repeat over and over? Do they notice that it works? Do they have the discipline to recognize they need the same?
If they don’t they will never win. And if they don’t want to win, they are in the way.
Find your voters and speak to them about their issues not yours
The third step is to start figuring out which voters they need to win and how to reach and engage them so they turn out and vote.
I always wondered why Christy Clark changed her mind on the HST referendum and decided to run a government campaign in support of keeping the HST.
But then I thought about the important role played by Campaign Research in both the HST campaign and the BC Liberal campaign. The voters key to Liberal success in this election campaign voted for the HST in the referendum campaign.
From the HST campaign and the data they gathered, Campaign Research knew where to find potential Liberal voters and how to reach them. Getting those voters to turn out disproportionately in a low turn out election was critical to the Liberal’s success.
Dix’s team went the opposite route.
More women vote for the NDP than not. They are critical to NDP success and tend to be interested in health and education, in kids and their future. This time around the NDP ran on economics and pipelines. They ran a guys campaign, for and about guys, by guys.
They abandoned women and women abandoned them. Smart women, not-so-smart BCNDP.
From the polls, the NDP knew going in that more voters were on their side than not in this election. But either they weren’t interested in finding them and talking to them about the issues and messages they care about or worse, they didn’t notice they were failing.
The NDP campaign actually drove the down the NDP vote about 3%, almost 10% of their 2009 result.
Lots of modern techniques exist to figure out how to change that, how to find voters and engage them. But going into this campaign you couldn’t teach an NDP strategist a thing.
I’ll bet anything that the platform was never tested with target voters, that ads weren’t tested and there was no mechanism for engaging our voters in an unbiased, ‘let’s hear the good and the bad’ way.
If there was a danger it would conflict with their campaign plan, the campaign leadership didn’t want to hear about it.
It seems to me the Dix campaign didn’t just think it didn’t need to listen. They were afraid to listen because they couldn’t bear any dissent. That’s not a way to win a campaign. It’s also not a way to govern.
Hopefully someone is listening now. If not, welcome to 20 great years of BC Liberal rule.