Hide this Liberal

Hide this Liberal

This is an excellent if severe op-ed in the New York Times by Stephen Marche that is very much worth your while. For those hitting the paywall, this the most important paragraph:

But an era has passed since the start of that halcyon time, when Mr. Trudeau stood in front of his first cabinet and, when asked why it was half female, answered, “Because it’s 2015.” Now a new generation has emerged, for which the liberal technocratic order his government represents has failed to offer a path to a stable, prosperous future and the identity politics he once embodied have withered into vacuous schism. The growing anti-Liberal Party sentiment of young people is the biggest threat to his electability.

It's completely true that young people who answer surveys feel that way. For all I know many young people who don't answer surveys agree. That doesn't have to mean electoral death for the Liberal Party, as long as it is smart enough to adapt to this reality. A bet I wouldn't necessarily take, to be honest. That party has a long history of showing great ability to wait until it's way too late to address obvious problems everyone repeatedly warned them about.

Still, on the odd chance that someone somewhere is in listening mode, here's how they might find a way back to relative happiness:

First of all, take those opinion surveys at least somewhat seriously. The sentiment is real and it appears pervasive. Younger voters (say, the under-45) are looking at their future and not seeing the same opportunities their parents saw and benefited from. Access to property is much harder and way more expensive. Owning a cottage is laughably out of reach for so many, including many who earn good money in solid careers. Retirement? Pfft. I'm 53 and I've known all my life I'd have to work till I croak. It's even worse for those younger than me.

Related: Don't make the mistake of assuming young people don't vote. Historically this is true enough. But that won't save you now; motivated people go to the polling booth. Aggressively court these people’s votes.

Which you can do by (second tip) focusing on James Carville's dictum. It's always, always has been, and always will be the economy. Nobody votes for foreign policy or against reforms to defence procurement. Even the terrifyingly high number of judicial vacancies, resulting in persons accused of crimes walking free because there aren't enough judges to have a trial in constitutionally-mandated times, doesn't really move the needle. People vote their pocketbooks. Always have, always will.

So, I don't know, speak to that maybe? In clear, simple and direct language? That would work better than assuming "being Justin Trudeau" is enough to win a fourth mandate.

Many people have asked the prime minister what he thinks of Canadians being tired of him and his answer typically sounds like: "I know, I understand, but I still have something to offer." And in fairness, when he's on his game (as he was during this excellent American podcast), he is able to articulate great ideas for a future mandate along with good reasons why voters should support him.

There's just one problem: Those voters aren't listening. They've tuned him out – precisely because he sounds like he always has, and also because his administration totally missed the boat on voters' legitimate frustration with the cost of everything going up like crazy.

Pierre Poilievre hasn't missed that crisis canoe, and he's been out there with simple (if not simplistic) slogans that resonate precisely because they're simple. It's hard to be "axe the tax" as a message for the age of social media. It's punchy, short, and it says exactly what it means.

That slogan has one glaring vulnerability: It's not a solution. Getting rid of the carbon tax would also get rid of the carbon rebate and as experts have been repeating until they went blue in the face, an awful lot of people get more in rebate than the tax is costing them.

This is the third tip: Find a solution to the affordability crisis and present it in a format that rivals the efficacy and efficiency of "axe the tax." You can use more than nine letters but not too many more. Come up with a slogan that conveys seriousness, maturity but also efficiency. And for crying out loud hire good communications people because in the last year you've been petrifyingly bad on that score. It took months to sort out how to communicate with taxpayers when they receive the carbon rebate. We got cryptically-described deposits in our bank account with not even an email from anyone to let us know that rebate was coming. There are excellent comms pros in this town. HIRE THEM.

Maybe then you'll have a chance of coming up with something good. In 1993 Jean Chrétien had "jobs jobs jobs" as a particularly successful slogan and you should totally take inspiration from that. I am admittedly not a great slogan writer but something along the lines of "A Home For You" or "Bringing Prices Down" would do a hell of a lot better than the depressingly tone-deaf "our plan for affordable housing." Nobody wants a plan. But they might listen to your solution – provided it's presented as a really good one-liner.

Nobody wants to know what the "Liberal plan" is. It's not about the Liberals. It's about voters and their economic future. People want solutions that are easily understood, simple and credible. They'll vote for good solutions regardless of who's championing them. Put the emphasis on your strong point, not the leader so many are sick and tired of.