Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Ghastly Ontario Debate and the Fatal Weakness of Progressives

It only took about fifteen minutes of watching the Ontario leader's debate before I started to wish that I was watching something else. Anything else.

Or just lounging around with my friends on a lovely warm evening, like I suspect most people in the province were doing.

Because it was bad eh?

It was amateur hour. It was horribly mediocre. It was incredibly boring, in a painful depressing way. It was a REALLY bad movie. 

There should have been an onscreen warning of the dangers of operating heavy machinery while watching the Ontario election leaders’ debate. It was that much of a snoozefest...

A television horror show...

All three leaders made slips that likely didn’t play well across unforgiving TV screens. Wynne often refused to look at her opponents, choosing instead to stare straight into camera, a move that made her look rude and dismissive. Horwath often seemed as if she were reading from a teleprompter. And Hudak had a Nixonian problem with his shiny face. He could have used a little more powder, especially on that sweaty upper lip.

And the monstrous sight of Tim Hudak sweating like a pig, while grinning like a gila monster, will haunt me for a long time.

But of course the real horror was that he was allowed to get away with murder. 

The Ontario leaders debate cut to the chase Tuesday night, with the NDP and Progressive Conservative leaders piling on Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne over the scandal that dogged her predecessor before all three turned their attention to their competing plans for the economy.

Because neither Kathleen Wynne nor Andrea Horwath were able to take advantage of Hudak's million job fiasco, or point out that his plans were cooked up in the satanic kitchens of the Koch brothers...

And that Hudak is their little gila monster.

Who they would install in Ontario, liked they installed as governor of Wisconsin their brutish creature Scott Walker...

Who proceeded to rain terror down on the population, and turned the state into a battleground.

And neither Wynne or Horwath were able to even ask a simple question like: "Experts say that your plan shows you can't count? What do you say to that?

Or "Your plan was inspired and approved by some of the most extreme right-wing groups in America. Do you really want to turn Canada into that kind of society?"

Or "what about the lies you told in your latest video. Do you really expect to fool people with that ridiculous oath and that big whopper?

Or all that lipstick.

But then that's the fatal weakness of the progressive movement in Canada. It can't define its enemies properly. It can't come up with a thirty second narrative, a vessel into which all their crimes fit.

So Hudak can get away with going on and on about a gas plant, that both him and the NDP also wanted removed. End up being declared the winner.

Tim Hudak, who has struggled to connect so far in the Ontario election campaign, emerged the clear winner from a TV debate Tuesday evening that saw the Tory leader sharply differentiate his policies from those of his two opponents, while also humanizing a personal brand that had previously taken a protracted pounding.

His American-style campaign is seen as a winning formula.

He also has been studying his U.S. history; “It’s morning in America,” declared the Ronald Reagan campaign commercial in 1984. “Hope is coming,” declared Hudak in his closing remarks. For a politician long stuck in permanent attack mode, this was something new, and clever, in that it offsets the fear of Mike Harris-style negativity that still weighs on the Conservatives.

When it should be cause for concern.

And when of course there is no greater LOSER...

And all I can say is that progressives are going to have to get better at defining the Hudak and the Harper Cons, and much much more aggressive, or they will run over us like road kill.

And we're also going to have to start thinking in terms of videos, for only they can penetrate the clutter of the modern age, or the complacency of dumb Canadians, and wake them from the Big Sleep.

And the good news? I don't think that this debate will sway many voters. And this poll    seems to confirm that. 

Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak won the televised leaders’ debate but failed to close the gap with front-running Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, a new poll suggests.

Before the telecast, voters who tuned in said they preferred the Liberals over the Conservatives by 37 per cent to 31 per cent. Afterward, the Liberals were at 40 per cent and the Conservatives at 35 per cent.

But we are going to have to hit the ghastly tea bagger Tim Hudak much harder than we have so far. As we will have to attack the Harperite cult if we want to destroy them not merely defeat them. 

So when the debate was over, I threw this little video together to get the frustration out of my system and show how I would define Hudak.

Always a brutish Con.

Always a loser.

And always an American...

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  1. Hi Simon, You've absolutely nailed the #1 issue with progressive politicians and that is the inept ability to define the opponent and kill their brand in the eyes of the voter. If nothing else, harper and his cross-Canada tentacles have been masterful at defining progressives as the looney left-controlled by the union bosses, radical extremists environmentalists, jobs and economy, you get the picture. Playing nice only gets you a seat in the opposition. This played out in beautiful BC last year where Hudak with a skirt in Christy Clark climbed out of a swamp of corruption to be stuck with her con in disguise BC "Liberal" mess for another 4 years. I fear my home province will get stuck with Hudak, for the very reason you state, Wynne and Horvath have let him away with his outrageous lies and are in for the shock of a lifetime. I hope I'm wrong.

    1. hi bcwaterboy....I also hope you're wrong about Hudak, because it would be an absolute catastrophe if he got elected, and not just for Ontario. So far he seems to be trailing the Liberals, but has a slight advantage when it comes to likely voters. So it's going to be absolutely vital to get out our vote. And that's why defining Hudak is so important. People may vote against him for one reason or another, but what really motivates them is if you can make them see the big picture, and understand where Hudak's philosophy could take us all. Right now the signs are ominous. There are hardly any lawn signs where I live, and the election campaign might as well be happening on another planet. So we have our work cut out for us....

      P.S. You owe me. Here I am a Quebecer defending your home province... ;)

  2. Noah Patterson10:26 AM

    This is why I don't watch debates. Nobody seems willing or allowed to make strong challenges, whether that's because they don't want to potentially expose gaps in their own armour or by dictate of debate conditions I don't know, but there is absolutely no reason neither Hudak or Wynne should have come out of that standing. It was Horwath's debate to lose and Wynne's to win.

    Why the hell didn't Wynne hit right back at Hudak on the gas plants? It's out there in black and white that he also planned to close the plants were he elected as premier. But she just fumbled around when she should have been super prepared for that question. The gas plant, ORNGE, and eHealth she should have been ready with strong answers for.

    The only result of this debate is that none of these three idiots are capable of running Ontario in the 21st century. It's no wonder voter engagement is in the toilet.

    1. hi Noah....Part of the problem was the format of the debate. I'd much rather see a panel of journalists asking questions rather than members of the public, if only because journalists would get a chance for a follow-up question. And I would would allow for much more interaction between the candidates. However having said that nothing can explain how ill prepared Wynne for the debate. She should have qualified her apology, and pointed out again and again that the Cons and the NDP also wanted those gas plants moved.
      Also, I don't know who advised her to stare straight at the camera all the time. What you're supposed to do is look like you're answering your opponent, and choosing the proper moments to speak directly to the TV audience. I like Wynne, I think she's got the heart for the job, but she's going to have to put on a set of steel knuckles before this one is over. Or get some better help. And you're right, it's no way to encourage Canadians, especially younger ones, to get involved in the democratic process...

  3. sort of reminds me of the romney and obama debates. The media came out and announced Romney was the winner, lol, and I was stunned. So the bar is set very low. If you have the better lies and present them as believable truth, you win? Sad state were in, and yes folks should expect more. The politicians lack integrity and are afraid to break the mold lest in their honesty they get left behind. Its really a sociopaths dream, is politics.

    1. hi deb....I thought the MSM response was far too positive as far as Hudak's performance was concerned. His whole act looked far too contrived, he shamelessly exploited his daughter again, like he did in the last election. He is still pumping out blatant lies in his ads, and he is still refusing to own up to his million job mistake. What the media doesn't take into consideration is that people's perceptions are coloured by more than the arguments being debated at any given time. So discussing or rating it like a chess match is absurd. And the proof of that? Obama beat Romney...

    2. well said, and yes the people came thru and voted for obama, but it helped that romney was filmed in a compromising position and that he took the one debate too far and got schooled by the professor:)

  4. Anonymous4:30 PM

    I really thought whodat's new, little attack mongrel, horwath, did a brilliant job of showing the NDP electorate just how new and improved she's determined to make Ontario.Why, when she gets done with it, you won't even recognize it! Whoa! Deja Vu!

    1. hi anon....although I am sympathetic to the NDP I did not enjoy the sight of Horwath teaming up with Hudak to attack Wynne. And I suspect she probably lost quite a few more NDP votes...

  5. It is almost a Whodat with his Horthat trying to get the Wynne. I normally stay the hells away from insulting nicknames for politicos, I find it one of the tools that has coarsened political discourse, but given the respective nick of Hudak, the name of Horvath and her actions resembling Layton in terms of potentially enabling Hudak and the name of the Lib Premier even I couldn't resist. I would add that this is meant as caricature, which means not literal but with a nugget of reality to it, but don't take it too seriously please.

    As to the debate itself, I watched it despite being down here in NS, and I have to say I think the winner in as much there was one was possibly Wynne, only because she managed to stave off a clear gang-up without getting tagged with a knock-out blow. I do think both Hudak and Horvath got in some good jabs, but then so did Wynne on each of them, so in many respects I think that is a wash. I do think Hudak warmed up his image, but his refusal to acknowledge his imaginary math limitations with his million job plan and then to claim he's resign if it failed (how gimmicky can one get, the touching personal stories were bad enough but this felt positively Jr high school even by that comparison). I don't think Horvath did herself many favours with just how combative she was in tone, and her attempts to right flank Wynne I really have to wonder about. Wynne talked WAY too much with her hands, and she did get off to a fairly shaky start, but overall I do think she managed to find her footing and came off the most connected to reality in what she was offering versus what was really possible/actual. I thought her rebuttal to Horvath on the length of time actually building a new highway takes in the modern world was telling in that respect, and I suspect the infrastructure argument probably still resonated with those who remember the results form the Harris wholesale dismantling of it prior to the Libs coming to power.

    Overall, this debate made me really glad I am not an Ontario voter, because overall none of the choices presented last night were all that appealing. I do know though that I would take the same line there that I have federally since the creation of the CPC and the rise of Harper, that whatever sins the Libs have on them they are the only realistic protection to prevent an extremist government from taking power. That the NDP for all their good points simply lack enough electoral support to make it to government and that in the end their support likely will bring about the rise of the worst case scenario. I really miss when I had three parties I knew I could move my vote between because they all in their own ways still held to some basic core values regarding Canadian political principles and I knew wanted the best for all Canadians and not only their own narrow segment of the populace. While Ontario is not the federal scene, there are alas more than a few nasty echoes of 2005 here to me, and we saw that play out, which would be my take away. Really, no winners, but the populace may well end up being the losers yet again.

    Makes me weep for the state of politics in this country when really it wasn't long ago when we did substance as a core value for political engagement. The Americanization of our political dynamics by the right wing has been to my mind a grave act of treachery by all those who engaged in it.

  6. Anonymous10:22 PM

    I think Kathleen Wynne was the winner of that debate! She was attacked by both Horwath and Hudak and apologized in a humble way! She has the best platform and if people can't see that, then I feel sorry for Ontario because if Hudak is elected, he will destroy it! Kathleen might not be perfect but she is more for the people while Hudak is a corporate man. People are only numbers to him and I don't know why people can't see that. Everybody makes mistakes and Kathleen made a mistake and she apologized. Has anyone ever heard Harper apologize? Under Hudak, the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit will disappear ($1,500), the Ontario Child Benefit will be frozen ($110), it will be the end of the 30% off Tuition Grant ($7,120) , fewer options for Full Day Kindergarten ($6,500) and the Clean Energy Benefit will end ($180). The facts speak for themselves!

  7. hi's finally happened. After years of stoically enduring your abuse I am finally on your side. ;) I'm hoping Wynne does manage to hang on. I like some of the things in her budget a lot, and I simply don't know where Horwath is coming from. I think I read that she sees herself as the NDP's Tony Blair. But Blair ended up badly, we live in a different era, we badly need new and creative ideas to get us out of the mess we're in. And although I don't doubt she's a decent person, I question the direction she's taking the party. Encouraging anti-tax talk at a time when the Cons are using it as a weapon to kill government is simply unforgivable. And by going on and on about the gas plant fiasco she's only playing into the hands of Hudak. The good news is I don't think the debate will change many votes one way or the other, and I believe Wynne has a very good chance of winning, if, and it's a big if, we can get out the vote. And as I mentioned above the signs are not good.
    And yes, like you I weep for the state of this country, and the Americanization of our political culture. I wish a leader would just say enough of this bullshit, we are going to go back to doing politics the Canadian way, thank you very much...

    1. I don't know if Wynne will hang on. Is it just co-incidence that the OPP is asking for more documents just days before the election?

      Ontario opposition turns up heat on Wynne over OPP’s gas-plant probe

  8. Simon:

    The reason why I was always saying back when Harper was still LOO that the Dippers needed to save the Libs despite the clear issues with the Libs was based not on partisanship but on the voting patterns each federal election showed that the NDP simply lacked anywhere near enough strength to challenge for governing, and since that was the case the only realistic way to stop Harper would be to support the Libs. I said better those that steal your money than those who steal your rights and powers. I said that the Harper PC was not the usual Canadian Conservativism but a very ugly import of an extreme even by American standards right-wing political philosophy totally unsuited for the Canadian dynamic. I mention this yet again because I want to underscore that my reasoning has always been first and foremost rooted in my reading of actual facts and patterns as established by actual voters (as opposed to the various imaginary types partisans of all variants like to believe are secretly out there just waiting to be wooed by their side/leader) and not partisanship for a party/leader. One of the biggest flaws of "progressives" is they fail to understand that a major chunk of the voting public are not so much progressives politically as they are centrists with a mix which includes a fairly progressive social political view but not necessarily an economic or foreign policy one, and that they make up a lot of the swing vote which changes places every so often.

    Where you are now (welcome to the Dark Side btw, the water's always just a few notches below boiling but you get used to it...LOL) on the Ontario election is where I was in 2004-05 with Layton and his party vis-a-vis Harper, and my inability to believe that if all of this was so obvious to me that it had to have been to Layton and those senior advisors of his, and yet they still thought it was better to side with Harper to eliminate the Libs as an electoral rival for votes than it was to prevent Canada from having so many of its core institutions (and not just the progressive ones either, Harper has damaged/destroyed a LOT of core institutional concepts that took decades to establish) shredded and out political discourse turned into almost GOP Primary North in terms of what became the only things worth talking about. Since when was leadership of a single man the only criteria for a government in our system, the team with a strong leader yes, but the team/cabinet was still also an important consideration, otherwise Ed Broadbent would have almost certainly taken the NDP much farther than he was able to given the high consistent regard there was for him while NDP leader in the unaligned/swing voter base.

    In any event, lets hope the Ontario electorate makes a better call than the national one did in 2005, 2008,2001, thanks in part to Horvath's opportunism looking so obvious, her clear attempts to mainstream her party without properly prepping her base for it, and the example of what happened with Harper thanks to Layton in 2005. At least then that example won't have been a total negative, even if that is still a very faint silver lining against the massive blackness of these clouds.

    P.S. Ah, so all the abuse I've heaped on you over the years was actually my wooing you to the dark side, wait, isn't that what the 'phobes claim is our MO against the straights, not each other?? I always knew you were a cutie but really...LOL (sorry, couldn't resist, you are actually one of the more fun bloggers in the political sphere to me, so it is hard not to occasionally play back a little)