Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

A Little Means a Lot

Posted by JJ in Vague Check, Strategic Planning, Golden Tacks (Thursday August 24, 2006 at 11:38 am)

A recent spate of anti-Ignatieff messages targeted at members has the Liberal Leadership candidate’s team somewhat upset. Sure, it’s nothing new, Ignatieff’s opposition has been attacking him since the Winnepeg debate in June. But there’s something new in that response, particularly given Ignatieff’s attempts to avoid fighting with the other candidates, and it’s in a senior strategist’s response:

“. . . there are people in the Liberal Party and, make no mistake this is coming from inside the Liberal Party, who are not interested in renewal of the party,” Mr. Davey said. “. . . the fact that this kind of stuff goes on, that we have people who haven’t got the courage to put their name on something and hide behind anonymity and yet have access to memberships lists, and new memberships lists, these are the membership lists that have come out in the last 30 days, so this is coming from inside the Liberal Party.

The courage issue sure is interesting, but it’s that part at the beginning that’s curious. Is an Ignatieff strategist really suggesting that those campaigning against him are against the renewal of the party? It’s a throwaway remark, you say? Strange. . .those are usually the most telling. What it shows is a remarkable kind of arrogance in Ignatieff’s team — and one that fits in with other aspects of their campaign.

Let’s not be mistaken, Michael Ignatieff has a number of good qualities, chief among which, as one blogger pointed out long ago, is the fact that his positions seem grounded in something other than political expedience.

But, of course, one might demand at least a little bit of expedience from a would-be leader.

Instead, there seems to be an arrogant detachment. Consider:

Early remarks about esoteric management principles in response to a request for comments on a convention
Proper Response: Anything about the people, rather than about how you go about controlling them. Oh, and literary references should be limited either to current bestsellers (Bible excluded) or classics available in comic-book form
Avoiding taking shots at competing candidates while they attack him
Proper Response: If you’re really that confident as a frontrunner, you don’t go negative, true. But you do go clever. Trudeau was supremely confident on many occasions, which never stopped him from getting in a good jab when things got rough. Getting in there and brawling doesn’t just make you look less like the condescending Dean from a frathouse comedy, it shows that you can attack your real political opponents without looking like a whining baby; and that’s important, too.
Fundamentally stupid remarks on the conflict in Lebanon
Proper Response: If the Chilly Wonk knew that, he’d be over there right now working on it. But this much is for sure: it’s not an off-the-cuff demonstration of professional appreciation of military necessity coupled with personal indifference to human life.

In the light of which, it’s conceivable that the man and his team consider themselves the renewal of the party. But surely that’s nonsense. Besides which, why the renewal of the party would be stopped by negative internal attacks is hard to gauge — there’s unlikely ever to be a leadership race without such things; and if their complaint is with the use of membership lists, they’d do well to remember that more restrictive control of membership lists is not the best strategy for strengthening parties.

But above all, why respond to the same kind of negative campaigning you’ve faced all along with a farcically broad, silly, and arrogant smear of your opponents?

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