“Oh my god! It’s the Tuesday morning after and baby, who the hell did I vote for?” (with apologies to Amanda Marshall – http://youtu.be/oxUxIDOOPg0)
Albertans woke up this morning to the same thing they’ve been waking up to for the last 40 years–another Progressive Conservative majority government.
How is that possible, you say?
- FEAR. PC campaign strategists took a page from Tom Flanagan’s playbook and used terror to ultimately secure their victory. With the help of social media, they created outrage and near-hysteria over the prospect of a Wildrose government. Voters flocked to the familiar for comfort and reassurance.
- POLLS. The mainstream media took their cues from polls, rationing their coverage of the various candidates. Early on, parties like the Alberta Liberals and the New Democrats were sidelined. The media, always short of resources and forced to ration, used polls to justify editorial decisions to focus coverage on the perceived frontrunners.
- TIME. During an election, voters have only so much time to spend on understanding the policies and platforms of the various parties. It’s much easier to react to the emotion of the moment than wade through tedious platform documents.
- MEMORY LOSS. Voters seem to have a hard time remembering past grievances when faced with a “clear and present danger.” The no-meet committee, the pay raises and the broken promises were easily erased from the collective memory.
- INCUMBENCY. The reigning Tories have been in government for so long, the electorate has difficulty separating the party from the government. It doesn’t help that the Premier and Cabinet remain active in governing during the election. For loyal Albertans, challenging “the government” seems quite revolutionary and dangerous.
- CASH. The parties that raise the most money receive the most attention. It has been argued the ability to fundraise is an indication of electoral support. This is not necessarily the case. Funders need to be considered in terms of their status (corporate, union or other) and the position they’re advocating.
- CONFUSION: In the final week of the campaign, the Wildrose made a tactical error. They chose party loyalty over good governance. When confronted with two nominated candidates clearly out of step with the times, Danielle Smith decided to back them in the face of growing outrage. This is the Tories’ modus operandi—the Wildrose was supposed to represent a “change.”
- FRACTURES. After so many decades shut out of government, the centre-left parties appear to be destined to fight for table scraps amongst themselves. By refusing to reach out and cooperate, even temporarily to gain an electoral voice, the progressive voices have relegated themselves to the understudy role–permanently.
As soon as the election hangover wears off, Albertans may begin to clear their heads and wonder what they’ve done. Electing a PC government again was a decision many made “under the influence” of some pretty scary ideas—conscience rights, limited access to abortion, threats to gay rights and racial stereotyping. These are all worthy of serious concern, don’t get me wrong, but are the PC’s the party you can trust on these issues? Only time will tell.