Opposition leader Adrian Dix reaffirmed this week that the New Democratic Party campaign will be high-road all the way.
Positive. Respectful of opponents. Something of which the party will be proud.
His personal appearances and the central campaign will follow that theme. It will be interesting to see if they can hold the whole team to that standard for the duration.
It’s a sound approach to take for a number of reasons. The main one is that there’s no need for the NDP to launch negative attacks at this point. They’re comfortably ahead of a party that’s botched its third term and is struggling to complete it. They could just stay safely out of the way and still stand a good chance of replacing the B.C. Liberals in May.
The other reason is a sensitive one that is obliquely related to something that got some well-deserved play this week. It’s what female premiers put up with in the way of commentary from the public.
With five women premiers across Canada, blogger and free-enterprise online consultant Diamond Isinger put together a “Madam Premier” website. It highlights how some people react to women in positions of authority.
It’s the vilest filth you can imagine, much of it unprintable. Ignorant people used to mutter this stuff under their breath. Now they post it online. It represents a small percentage of society (the bottom percentile, in terms of intelligence).
But seeing it all in one place makes you shake your head in amazement at what high-profile women endure in the way of casual commentary. As far as B.C. is concerned, there are lots of people with perfectly valid reasons to dislike Premier Christy Clark. But there is a small percentage of people who seem to despise her simply because she’s a woman. Madam Premier shows it’s the same elsewhere.
Deep down, most men in politics are aware that disturbing niche exists. So the corollary to that syndrome is that most decent men in politics tend to tread a bit lightly when it comes to publicly attacking female colleagues.
For gender-conscious people, a down-and-dirty attack on Clark would not go well for the NDP, and Dix knows it. Particularly after the NDP forced its own female leader out.
When former premier Gordon Campbell debated Dix’s predecessor, Carole James, in 2009, he got flustered at one point and said: “This is a big job and it’s hard to get a handle on it.”
The immediate, visceral read by a large share of the audience was that he was being patronizing and condescending to a woman. Campbell was much better off in the 2005 campaign, when he scarcely mentioned James or the NDP at all.
So while Clark supporters run ads attacking Dix’s integrity based on the memo he faked as chief of staff to then-premier Glen Clark 14 years ago, Dix will turtle down and not respond in kind.
This week, he touched on bigger reasons to avoid negative attacks. People are already disengaged from politics in record numbers. Not even half voted last time. Negativity just puts more of them off.
The counter-theory is that they work and do swing the vote. But if Dix is right, negativity is working on a steadily shrinking voting base.
“We need to bring people back to the political process and you don’t do that by tearing people down,” he said.
He said the main opponent isn’t Clark or any of the other leaders. “The main challenge is bringing people back to the political process.”
Dix said he’s known Clark for 17 years, as they both worked in politics and at the legislature in various roles. “I don’t know her well …. Premier Clark is a committed person. It’s important to treat her and other leaders in a respectful way and I’ll continue to do that, no matter how many nasty, negative ads they run.”
He also touched on last year’s U.S. presidential campaign, where two “outstanding candidates” spent billions over the year trashing each other.
“We have to resist that here.”
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