Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Word of the week: positive

Congratulations, Mr. Trudeau, for expressing the antidote to negative political advertising we've been asking politician for, for decades now.

When Justin Trudeau was elected leader of the federal Liberal party in Canada a couple of weeks ago, the Conservative party launched negative attack ads against him personally within a couple of days. They already had the ads ready, it turned out.

"Is he ready to be Prime Minister?" asked the ads.

"He's in way over his head."

Newspapers have opined that the ads, depicting an old picture of Trudeau before a backdrop of stardust, impugn his masculinity.

Who designs these ads, a thirteen-year-old?

The response

On Mad Men last week, the character Peggy Olson said, "If you don't like what your opponent is saying about you, change the conversation."

That's exactly what Justin Trudeau did. Instead of denying or countering the allegations, spurious as they are, he and his team of writers (all praise to writers!) came back with a positive statement. "I'm going to work hard to earn your trust."

Of course, the Liberals could not resist the temptation to come back on the Conservative insults with one of their own, but anyone could understand and forgive that. "We can keep mistrusting and finding flaws in each other, or we can pull together and get to work," says Trudeau.

This is exactly what politics needs. For far too long, we — the voters — have allowed negative attack ads to work. Negative communications, which only say "My opponent is bad," is ultimately destructive to democracy. It distracts voters from what the electorate should be working on.

Unimaginative commentators and political writers have said for far too long that negative ads require negative responses. That's a juvenile reaction. Have our political leaders really learned nothing after grade 6?

Justin Trudeau, or his advisors, or someone in the federal Liberal party, have finally done the smart thing: responded to negative communications with positive communications. "Canadians deserve better."

Damn right, we do. We deserve a better, informed, factual debate. We deserve better leadership. We deserve to have our voices heard. We deserve to hear facts from our scientists, especially the ones we pay through our taxes.

We deserve something better than negative communications. We deserve to hear from our politicians what they plan to do about our real problems.

We deserve not to be manipulated.

The most dangerous game

Mr. Trudeau, you have opened a very dangerous game: you have raised our expectations. Now, we'll all be looking closely to see whether you live up to them.

And I, for one, will continue to look at the messages and how all the parties communicate. It's the least I can do.

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