Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lessons from 2008: Part 1: Know The Rules

As the political news goes mostly underground this time of year, I figure it's not too early to start on my 2008 recap. As was the case last year, I will do it in the form of ten things we should have learned this year. Starting with number 10.

10. Know the Rules of the Game: This one comes to us from the American primaries for the most part. Particularly, the once overwhelming favourites from New York, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. Start with Rudy. Giuliani ran perhaps the stupidest campaign in American history. Why was it so stupid? He lost without ever really competing. And not in the Fred Thompson "I can't be bothered to campaign" way of not really competing. Giuliani thought he could wait out the traditional early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Problem is, that while Iowa and New Hampshire do not send an overwhelming number of delegates to the Republican National Convention every four years, they do dictate the rest of the race. Giuliani went from front runner to invisible when he refused to engage in retail politics in the snows of Davenport and Concord. Giuliani had lost so much momentum by the time the race he had chosen as his launching pad came around, he got beaten badly in the winner take all Florida primary. Not only is Florida not a traditional early primary state, the sunshine state had been penalized by both the GOP and the Democrats for moving up their primary dates. This meant that the far more fascinating Democratic race was not in Florida at all, while the GOP competed half-heartedly for half delegates. Rudy lost because of a strategic blunder before he could lose for being an essentially liberal Republican with questionable personal issues.

Hillary lost in equally stupid fashion. While the histories of the primaries seem to focus on Iowa, New Hampshire, Super Tuesday, March 4th and Pennsylvania, Hillary lost the race outside of these key dates. Yes, she finished third in Iowa which ended any talk of a Clinton corronation, but she won New Hampshire and earned a draw on Super Tuesday. It was between Super Tuesday and March 4th that she lost the Democratic nomination. See, Hillary's advisers failed to read the rules and believed that the Democrats allocated delegates based on a winner-take-all system. Of course, Dems use PR which made her victory in California on Super Tuesday little more than symbolism. Symbolism was not enough to get Obama out of the race, and as the race continued, Obama, who was prepared for a long fight, won 11 straight contests, opening an insurmountable lead in the contest. Hillary's fire walls of Ohio and Texas merely served to postpone the inevitable as she lurched from desperate "3 am" tactics in Ohio to desperate "kitchen sink" tactics in Pennsylvania. In reality, she lost the Democratic primary in Virginia and Louisiana and Washington state and the eight other races that Obama won by huge margins. Obama understood that a big win in Idaho on Super Tuesday could overwhelm a narrower Clinton victory in New Jersey the same night. Clinton didn't understand the rules and she lost.

On this side of the border, the criticism can be levelled at the Green Party of Canada. The Greens still don't seem to get how to win seats in a First Past the Post system. Outside of some positive results in a band in Ontario stretching from the Muskokas to Lake Huron, and the Liberal gift in Nova Scotia, the Greens really didn't compete for seats in most of the country. Will they get more money from the per vote subsidy as long it survives? Sure. Will it ever translate into seats? Not without a change in philosophy. A fight everywhere philosophy makes sense for established parties, it doesn't for a fringe party looking for credibility. Oh, and who's brilliant idea were the 4am campaign rallies? If the Greens bothered to follow the rules and acted like most small parties have in Canada, they would have seats in the Canadian parliament. The potential is clearly there in rural Ontario for a breakthrough, but it may involve sacrificing a couple of fifth place Quebec candidates.

1 comment:

partisanhobo said...

The Green Party could also take a stab at running their leader in a riding that she stands a better chance of winning. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to invest so much money in raising the profile of the leader and then squandering it all on a hard-fought local election. It was a catastrophic waste of resources.

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