“Our organization cannot lose the grassroots donation battle to our opposition if we hope to win the war in 2016.”—Ron Renaud, PC Chief Financial Officer
Win the war in 2016???
The “war” metaphor
Before we get sucked into the “war” metaphor let’s pause and consider what George Orwell taught us—thought can corrupt language and language can corrupt thought.* Orwell warns that the invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases (battle, war) anaesthetizes one’s brain, but it can be prevented if one remains vigilant.
He suggests we start with the dictionary. What does “war” mean? Ah yes, here it is. The Oxford dictionary defines “war” as “a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country”.
Armed conflict between different groups within a country…? What bright light at PC party headquarters imagined, even for a nanosecond, that the best way to squeeze a few donation dollars out of the party faithful was to characterize the 2016 election as an act of insurrection?
But having raised the spectre of sedition, let’s follow it to its logical conclusion.
The PCs can’t mount a war without targeting an enemy. Who would that be?
Mr Renaud refers to losing the battle to “our opposition”. Assuming he’s targeting the 50% of eligible voters actually bothered to vote in the last election, the “enemy” would be the 34% of voters who voted for the Wildrose or the 56% of voters who voted against the PCs by voting for the Wildrose, the Liberals, the NDP, the Alberta Party or the Evergreens.
Applying the war metaphor, the message is clear. If you’re not with us, you’re with the enemy. Given the PCs tendency to reward their friends and punish their enemies, this is a powerful warning indeed.
The battle for the grassroots
The PCs have a funding problem. Their deep-pocket corporate donors are wobbling. Corporate Alberta is worried about Ms Redford’s willingness to take on debt, and it (like the Auditor General) is not convinced that Mr Horner’s new budget model is anything more than smoke and mirrors.
So Corporate Alberta is doing what it always does in times of uncertainty. It’s hedging its bets by contributing to the Wildrose party.
This gives the Wildrose an advantage because it already has solid grassroots support (over 75% of Wildrose contributions come from individual donors) and is well ahead in the fund raising race.
No wonder the PC party is resorting to the war metaphor…a scared dog is an aggressive dog.
Will the PCs succeed in capturing the grassroots?
The grassroots is a broad based group with diverse interests…whether the PCs manage to persuade them to fund a steady stream of donations will depend on convincing them of two things: (1) their mantra: “promise made, promise kept” is true and (2) the devil you know is better than the devil incarnate (the Wildrose).
Which brings us back to George Orwell.
Orwell says: Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase…into the dustbin where it belongs.*
The fact that the PC party’s CFO resorted to the war metaphor so early in the game signals the desperation of a flagging party trying to hold on to power at all costs.
Albertans need to listen to the political rhetoric, identify misleading “political language” and jeer loudly so that it and the PC party are relegated to the dustbin where they belong.
I’ll start: Here’s a giant raspberry to Mr Renaud and the PCs for sending a message of fear and discord to the party faithful.
This is Alberta for heaven’s sake, not America on the brink of the Civil War!
*Politics and the English Language, Horizon, April 1946.