Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On negativity

The Liberal Party’s message in this Canadian federal election has become very negative. It started last week, with their aborted, misquoted attack against Stephen Harper. Now, they’re attacking the NDP.

There are many things wrong with this approach. First, it shows desperation. The Liberals began with one message, and then with two weeks left in the campaign, changed it. A week later, they changed focus again. They know they’re losing and are trying everything to change their fortunes.

Second, it shows they don’t know what their strategy should be. They began fighting against the former government, the leader in the polls and therefore the biggest target. Now, they’re targeting the party that was in third place going into the campaign. So, what is the Liberals’ goal: to become the government or the official opposition?

Finally, I don’t like negative messages in any competitive situation. Don’t tell me what’s wrong with the other guy. Tell me what’s good about you. The Conservatives have had a completely negative campaign, which really has put me off. The overall impression I get from Harper’s ads and speeches is that all will be right with the universe, or at least Canada, if Stephen Harper is Prime Minister, and therefore we voters will be in the wrong if we do not ensure his party wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons. I react against the admonishing tone.

Likewise, the Liberals’ attack ads are not convincing me. I can think of many messages they could have said that I do not hear from them.

Yes, the other parties and leaders should point out their opponents’ shortcomings and misspeakings. But the loudest, strongest message should be what they themselves are good at and what their plans are.

I know that negative ads have worked in the past, but I have never liked them. US elections are full of negative ads, and to me, they’re a weakness of their political culture. Now, I see them used increasingly in Canada. It’s a development I do not like.

What do you think?

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