Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Okay, Now I See the Problem

I went to a Stephane Dion rally at Kitchener's Conestoga College today. They must have been expecting a lot fewer people than they got, because they had re-arranged a large room so that it held only 100 people or less and they got three or four times that. I managed to see the proceedings only because I found a slit in the material at the back of the stage that I could partially see through - and a hundred people around me seemed envious that I had that much.

Andrew Telegdi spoke first - a slow, preachy, information-laden talk about child care. Then Ken Dryden got up and spoke some more about child care. He was a bit more animated but it was still pretty bush league. Then Dion got up and... well, from my vantage point I could read his teleprompter but I couldn't really understand him. Doesn't he practice these things? Couldn't someone have told him that we say "one point two five billion" not "one point twenty-five billion"? The strange pronunciations and odd cadence distracted me from the speech and made it hard to follow. Ditto the large chunks of the speech he gave in French. And why the heck were they talking about child care to a crowd of nineteen year olds?

And why are they giving rallies that do nothing more than recite facts and make pledges to spend money? Where's the feel-good stuff? The part where they engage the audience emotionally and make them feel that we're all part of the same cause? The big picture stuff and vision of the future? I want campaigns to be about the issues, but they shouldn't be all dull facts. Plus, by talking about nothing but a single issue they sort of lose people like me who don't really care about that issue.

Dion does not apparently have a "stump speech": this speech was dedicated to the issue of child care and his pledge to increase federal spending on it. I think he needs at least a few minutes of more general issues. And it would be nice to think about who the audience is and say something that would engage them. And have somebody handing out buttons.

Maybe we have developed false expectations from watching American TV, but couldn't our politicians learn how to pause for applause, signal the end, and so on? The whole event was awfully, awfully amateurish - more like you'd expect from a city council race than a national campaign. I can see why people are responding so well to Bob Rae - the man is a great orator but he could be a quarter as good as he is and still stand out as the best in this crowd. (Rae was there but didn't speak.)

I have been really enjoying Curosity Cat's coverage of the election. She's been writing about George Lakoff's work on framing issues in election campaigns and fleshing out how the Liberals should do that. But the lack of strategy in the rally I saw today was so blatant that it seems that the Liberal campaign planners are about ten miles behind Curiosity Cat's sophistication. Dion ran for leader on a campaign of kicking out the backroom boys, and I guess that's showing.


deBeauxOs said...

"Maybe we have developed false expectations from watching American TV ..."

It certainly seems like you have.

Yappa said...

debeauxos: Insults without content are not very effective.

saskboy said...

"And why the heck were they talking about child care to a crowd of nineteen year olds?"

Yeah, that's strange. It's not like 19 year olds are a child bearing age at all.

Anonymous said...

As an FYI it is common practice in politics to get a much smaller room than the crowd you HOPE for that way the room looks full, most people stand - standing people are more animated usually (even if all they are doing is shifting their feet).

The rhetorical style in Canada is different and there isn't really a tradition of stump speeches because our campaigns are usually much shorter. So the focus must be on the platform announcements more than on the set up.

Finally, although Canada has had great orators, are leaders tend to be more debate focused because most of the time that is their job to debate effectively.

That was the non-partisan moment.

Now for the partisan:

Yeah! Vote NDP!

Yappa said...

Hi saskboy -

Based on my own experience, childbearing is probably not much on their minds - except for how to avoid it. ;-)

But seriously, I didn't write the post to criticize Dion. I wrote it as a companion piece to my post two down about how puzzled I have been by the criticism of Dion. And my intention was to suggest things we need to change. The rally was a dud and if we have any hope at all we need to realize that we need to rejigger our approach. You're right that the choice of topic was probably the least important problem, although the lack of talk about anything else was.

Carrie said...

Thanks for sharing this info. I'm a Dion supporter but have to agree with your observations.

It seems they're speaking more for the evening and daytime news/election coverage than the actual audience in attendance. They should shift their focus to include more than one topic per day. Especially with a target audience unrelated to the issue they're speaking on.

I really hope they get better. That said, I would rather hear facts and plans than have charm and flash from my leaders. Rae and Layton do the flash and charm thing well. But how well can they run the country? Not very well would be my estimation.

wilson said...

Why did Dion make a food safety announcement at a highschool?

Geekwad said...

"...couldn't our politicians learn how to pause for applause, signal the end, and so on?"

I suspect there may be more than one problem.

Saskboy said...

Why not wilson? Kids eat food last time I checked.