ILLUSTRATIONS: “You voted for whom? Are you mad, man?” … No way to win friends and influence people. (Historic illustration from Punch – no idea what point the artist was trying to make.) Below: Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever (Metro Newspapers photo). Below her, an illustration from the author’s Facebook page of why all of our social media accounts could use a little judicious photo pruning from time to time.
Bitter complaining by so many of the Usual Suspects on the political right about the supposed inexperience of the Notley Government’s 54-member caucus is evidence more of the right’s weakness than anything else.
This is particularly true about their noisy griping about a couple of photos dredged up from one young New Democrat MLA’s social media accounts.
Really, if the Wildrose Party, the Progressive Conservatives and their various institutional and individual supporters intend to launch a serious attack on Premier Designate Rachel Notley and her government – which, of course, they do – they will have to find more substantial issues than these.
Above all they will need to stop sounding as if they’re just whining about losing what they thought they were entitled to, and they’ll have to stop telling voters they think they were stupid for voting NDP.
After all, potential governments don’t piss and moan, they dominate and command – as Ms. Notley dominated the lame performances by PC Premier Jim Prentice and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean in the April 23 leaders’ debate on Global TV.
They also make it easy for voters to support them, which you don’t do by telling the voters who rejected your offer that they’re idiots for doing so – another lesson the Alberta NDP proved it had learned in this campaign after a long struggle.
The various conservative parties will remember these lessons, naturally. On May 5, they were routed in a fight they thought they could win with ease by an enemy they hadn’t taken seriously until only a few days before. They are, in a word, shell-shocked. Understandably so.
They’ve had it so easy for so long, it will be a struggle for them to overcome their deeply ingrained arrogance and entitlement. But I think we can assume they will do so, probably sooner than later. They have a lot of political talent on their bench, notwithstanding the flaws of the cause they serve.
In the mean time, though, I hope readers can forgive me taking a certain amount of wary satisfaction from their present discomfiture.
I doubt the complaint about inexperience will have much impact with Alberta’s now highly engaged voting public because members of the public obviously knew what they were doing when they voted for the NDP.
After nearly 44 years – or maybe it was only the last dozen years or so, or maybe even just the past couple of months – voters had had it up to here with the Tories.
I believe they correctly concluded the Wildrose Party was made up of the same people with the same agenda and essentially the same flaws as the PCs – and were quite possibly tinged with a social-conservative ideology as well that in some ways made them even worse than the Tories.
Naturally, this interpretation will be disputed by Wildrose supporters, and fair enough – a proposition about the reasons for voter behaviour can’t really be conclusively proven by either side of the argument at this early stage in the new NDP government’s life.
Regardless, to slam the NDP for inexperience if you’re going to define experience as having held a seat in the Legislature is a meaningless tautology.
Voters were completely fed up with the party with the most experience. They knowingly voted for a party that had only four MLAs. Therefore they voted for a party with little “experience.”
So knocking voters for behaving as they decided to do is just another way of calling them stupid – which is no way to win friends and influence people!
Anyway, it’s a bum rap. Yeah, there are a few young people with a limited number of years under their belts in the NDP caucus, some of whom may not have expected to win their seats. They’ll do fine. There are also many new MLAs with enormous experience in other challenging fields – nurses, teachers, a cancer doctor, university instructors and researchers, a psychologist, an accountant, social workers, a company manager, union executives, an environmental engineer, lawyers, one of whom leads the party, and a bus driver with one heck of a lot of legislative experience.
In addition, when they voted, Albertans knew the NDP has been around for a very long time in this province and has influenced policy much more than suggested by its sometimes low numbers in past Legislatures – another kind of experience that taught the NDP plenty, including, obviously, how to fight an effective election campaign against the odds.
The point is that the NDP is exactly what voters wanted. What they didn’t want was another four years of neoconservative assaults on public services, especially on health care and education, no matter what the name of the party doing the assaulting was.
And they certainly didn’t want a government so arrogant and entitled that at times its past behaviour had sounded to many of us like outright corruption – and, sorry, they can’t make Alison Redford wear all of that!
As for the manufactured crisis about Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever’s tasteless photo appearances, political opponents do troll through your social media accounts, and Ms. Drever really should have known better. So should we all, I guess, and not just young people.
The lesson here is that a little prophylactic social media photo removal by any potential candidate is probably in order – especially since more than one political party can play the game of creeping their opponents’ Twitter and Facebook accounts.
But as Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid pointedly Tweeted about Ms. Drever and certain unsuccessful Tory candidates: “In general, I prefer a Facebook slip or two to a court case involving domestic blowups and PC candidate who solicited prostitutes.” I expect a lot of voters felt the same way.
Count on it, there will be other future embarrassments for Ms. Notley and her NDP government to deal with – and no doubt a few for the Wildrose Opposition too. We can be pretty confident of this because these things happen to all caucuses in all democratically elected governments.
As for the PCs, well, Alberta voters already know what they think of them, don’t they?
Both conservative opposition parties are going to have to do better than carping endlessly about NDP inexperience, or even finding an example of it, to have an impact on the hope and optimism the election of our new majority government has measurably created among a majority of Albertans.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.