Now that I’ve been back home for more than a few hours I figure it is time to offer up thoughts on the Alberta election. This blog gets slow when I travel or when I’m in the middle of special broadcasts like Monday but perhaps that’s a good thing. Time can give perspective.
Alberta’s PCs, and lets not call them conservatives because they are not, won handily on Monday. Sure it may be their lowest share of the vote since 1967 but Alison Redford sees this as a full and complete endorsement of her progressive policies.
But I have to say that I agree with my colleague Lorne Gunter – the loss that Wildrose experienced is not a cue for Danielle Smith and Wildrose to take a left hand turn into REDford land.
“But if they want the people to join them in opposing a politically correct viewpoint, Wildrose has to take the time to explain its stance again and again – instead of choosing to go with the flow at the first sign of pressure.”
Gunter explains why Smith may have made those shocking comments about ditching key policies right after the election loss and maybe Lorne is on to something – read it yourself and see – but I do agree with his overall point, this loss is not a repudiation of Wildrose.
In the previous election Wildrose picked-up about 7% of the popular vote, this time 34%. By any measure that is a huge increase. Sure, Smith and her party thought they would win – even the Pcs speaking to our people in Calgary thought Wildrose would win – but going from 7% to 34% of the vote is nothing to scoff at. People voted for Wildrose for a reason and I’d bet part of it had to do with policy.
Still on the issue of Wildrose not cutting and running as soon as times get tough, commenter and guest blogger EBD over at Small Dead Animals makes some good points and a local observation.
“If Danielle Smith thinks that such twee, left-leaning urbanite media are the spokespeople for her swelling constituency she’s making a serious mistake. I was talking to some of my neighbours yesterday (I live in a traditionally very conservative, rural area), all of whom voted PC. Small sample, obviously, and anecdotal, but in each case their choice had absolutely *nothing* — nada, zip – to do with global warming, or conscience rights, or scary, homophobic Christians, or anything else the media’s post-mortem, which Smith seems to have taken to heart, has focused on. Instead, they were simply unsure about Wildrose – not unsure in the active sense of being distrustful for any particular reason, they just didn’t know a single thing about the local candidate.”
So why exactly did Wildrose lose?
There are plenty of thoughts, plenty of possibilities but no single answer.
Was it the so-called “bimbo eruptions?”
Perhaps partly. When candidates say something stupid, or in a clumsy way, or it gets distorted by the media and then repeated time and time again it can have an effect. The media did focus on a couple of Wildrose candidates in the last week of the election – while ignoring similar views or statements from PC candidates – and that coverage saturated Alberta right down to non-political coverage. DJs ranting on the radio between songs can plant that nagging seed of doubt.
As EBD said, some people had that nagging seed of doubt planted in their heads not by the media or their faux issues but by the fact that Wildrose was unknown and untested in many ways. Not being sure someone is ready to govern can scare voters off.
The folks over at Campaign Life Coalition think socially conservative voters stayed home. They say that when Smith responded to Allan Hunsperger’s comments by declaring herself “pro-choice and pro-gay marriage” it turned off many of the social conservatives that had been supporting her.
“In order to lead a small-c conservative movement to victory, you need the social conservative branch of that movement to show up at the ballot box (even if you don’t agree with them). By alienating ‘values voters’, demoralizing them, and causing them to stay home on Election Day, it’s very difficult to win.”
This could be part of what happened but I don’t think this theory can be counted on to fully explain what happened either. Any voter that didn’t know Smith’s positions on those issues – especially if they are key vote deciding issues – wasn’t paying attention. Smith has been clear on her stand for a long time.
Still, say we granted the values voters that stayed home a full 5% of the popular vote, and I don’t think it would be that high. Even if they all showed up and voted for Wildrose, they would not have won.
Then of course there is strategic voting.
There are obviously ridings where the Liberal vote collapsed and the PC vote grew. I have no doubt that strategic voting by left-wing voters helped Redford form her progressive coalition that she will now govern with. But again, I don’t think it was enough to account for a 10 point win.
Instead I’ll just claim a little bit of all of this. Last minute jitters, fear mongering, strategic voting, values voters feeling shunned – and let’s not forget to acknowledge a good ground game on behalf of the PCs – all of this played a part in an election that pundits like myself should never forget. I gotta tell you, chewing on crow is tough.