We’ve reached that point in the election cycle where the mainstream media peppers us with political endorsements telling us who, in their learned opinion, we should vote for on Oct 19.
Once again the mainstream media does not disappoint.
The Globe and Mail, the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald threw their weight behind the Conservative party.
The Journal and the Herald made the usual arguments: these are uncertain economic times, the Harper’s Conservatives have a solid economic record and only Harper can be trusted to deliver the sensible leadership necessary for Canada’s economic good. Sure, the man’s not perfect, but who is?
The Globe on the other hand, jumped the shark.
“Jump the shark” is a term arising from a Happy Days episode where the writers, utterly bereft of ideas made Fonzie decked out in a leather jacket and water skis, jump over a shark.
The phrase entered the vernacular to signify that point in time when something of quality descends into idiocy.
The Globe endorsement
David Walmsley, writing on behalf of the Globe’s editorial board, jumped the shark with magnificent finesse. He endorsed the conservatives of yesteryear under the leadership of tomorrow.
Here’s Walmsley’s argument:
- Election 2015 was driven by a desire for change
- The key election issue should have been the economy but turned into a referendum on Harper
- Even though the Liberals and the NDP ran on the rhetoric of change they had so much respect for the Conservatives’ economic policy that they adopted it with some tweaks (*cough*)
- Harper’s secrecy, narrow vision on crime, lack of respect for science and the courts distracted voters from the Conservative’s accomplishments
- Harper created a “rotten” government culture
- Harper is dragging the Conservative party back to its Reform roots
- The Conservative party was great once and could be again if Harper wasn’t its leader
- So re-elect the Conservatives in the hopes that Harper will resign and the old conservative party will rise again
Leaving aside the obvious question—why would Harper resign if Canadians returned the Conservatives to power, and if by some miracle he did, why would his replacement be any better—there’s still the niggling technicality that a voter can’t put an “X” next to their local Conservative candidate’s name with the proviso “but only if Harper resigns”.
Walmsley gets feedback
For some unfathomable reason Walmsley decided to conduct a Q and A session on Facebook after he posted his endorsement on line.
It was brutal.
He was swamped with over 500 questions in less than an hour. Virtually all of them were variations on the have-you-lost-your-mind theme.
Readers disputed the premise that the election should have been about the economy and that Harper had done a good job with it. They challenged the idea that the rotten culture in government and corruption in the prime minister’s office was solely Harper’s doing, pointing to the corrosive influence of ministers like Jason Kenney, Chris Alexander, Pierre Poilievre and Julian Fantino and loyalists like Nigel Wright. They reminded Walmsley of the laundry list of Harper’s failures including his negative impact on Canada’s international reputation, his lack of action on climate change and his refusal to deal with missing and murdered First Nations women.
They said it was impossible to divorce Harper from the Conservatives—it wasn’t called the Harper Government for nothing.
They noted the absurdity of an endorsement asking voters to vote for the “not Harper” Conservative party when it’s not on the ballot.
Some kind souls asked whether Walmsley had hurt his head. Others wondered whether he was smoking crack.
Walmsley tried to respond but was soon swamped by the tsunami of questions and faded off Facebook altogether.
The politics of an endorsement
When asked why the Globe published this flaky endorsement, Walmsley replied “We have a role in society and that means taking a position that is a close to our values as possible.”
But who exactly are “we”?
Certainly not the majority of the journalists who contribute to the Globe. Even Margaret Wendt, the Globe’s most right leaning journalist, suggests it’s time to ditch Harper and the Conservatives, hinting that it’s Justin Trudeau’s turn.
Are “we” the Globe’s owners? Walmsley acknowledged that he sent the endorsement to the owners but staunchly denied that the Thomson family made him write this illogical bit of nonsense. This makes things worse. Walmsley may have been forgiven for caving to the owners and endorsing Harper’s Conservatives, but he won’t be forgiven for the intellectual flame out that caused him to endorse the non-existent Harper-less Conservatives.
Does it matter?
Editorial boards have the luxury of time and access. They interview the candidates, research party platforms and (presumably) are better placed to develop informed opinions than the rest of us, hence the eagerly awaited and generally unsurprising endorsement…but does it really make a difference?
Gail Collin, editorial page editor for the New York Times says any editor who thinks their editorial will change public opinion is “deluded”.
Diana Owen, a political scientist, says this lack of influence is partly caused by the public having little faith in the media in the first place.
Walmsley’s endorsement confirms that Collin and Owen are right. When the Globe endorsed the old Progressive Conservative party under the as-yet-to-be-named leader it utterly destroyed its credibility.
Given that goofy endorsements are par for the course, Ms Soapbox would like to offer an endorsement of her own. I endorse the British monarchy but not Queen Elizabeth. Oh and while I’m at it I’d also like to endorse the Seven Dwarfs but not Snow White.