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Adrian Dix's Election Grit Came Too Little Too Late

05/16/2013 12:32 EDT | Updated 07/16/2013 05:12 EDT
CP

"The man of thought who will not act is ineffective; the man of action who will not think is dangerous." ~ Richard Nixon.

When asked by Philip Till what the leaders needed to do in the last bit of the campaign on his show recently, I said Dix needed to get on his game and get aggressive if he wanted to win. In fact, I even remarked that I would have run the NDP campaign aggressively from day one and that doesn't have to mean nasty. Look at the word's definition:

  1. Characterized by or tending toward unprovoked offensives, attacks, invasions, or the like; militantly forward or menacing
  2. Making an all-out effort to win or succeed; competitive.
  3. Vigorously energetic, especially in the use of initiative and forcefulness
  4. Boldly assertive and forward; pushy

Oddly enough, I had heard several pundits say what a great campaign the NDP have been running prior to last night, when suddenly the truthful commentary started coming out that the campaign was poorly constructed, with which I have agreed and commented on several times, including in a column for 24Hrs Vancouver.

The B.C. liberals have always had well-oiled, strategic campaigns, regardless of leadership. While no one could check Clark's mouth or actions as well as they might have liked to, in the end it didn't matter that she campaigned on outright fallacies, because the Dix camp was slowly killing themselves over in the corner being cautious and trying out a new way to do politics that clearly doesn't work. They were not able to deliver a consistant, simple message to the voters over and over again on why they should vote for them and not the Liberals.

Am I angry? Yes.

I'm a complete newbie when it comes to running a campaign. I worked with independent Ross Buchanan in the Surrey election and he was trounced, but I managed to get an unknown candidate with absolutely no name recognition some very good coverage in the major papers and radio time with very little money. And guess what? When you say the name Ross Buchanan in Surrey now, people know who he is. They know he took on the mayor on a fact-based campaign that was as aggressive as we could make it. Yes we lost, but one man who was completely unknown now has name recognition. People know what he stands for, no question about it. I would rather lose having fought a damn good fight and be proud of it than lose by sitting back and opening the door for the enemy to come in and kill off your soldiers one by one. Which is kind of what happened in this election.

Here's what I saw going wrong, for what it is worth.

There were two media interviews where Dix completely lost his composure when dealing with reporters. It was bad. If you can't deal with aggressive reporters asking questions it conveys a bad message to those watching. Doesn't matter if he doesn't have much experience with that, he should have been coached and he should have practiced because he did not know how to deal with it well.

The Kinder Morgan announcement was a killer for many - I would equate it to handing over a loaded weapon to your enemy. Didn't matter when or if he actually made the decision earlier, fact is he didn't share that with many people or the public so it came across as completely an election ploy to everyone who is not a die-hard NDP voter.

It is also an unfortunate reality that Dix did come with a lot of baggage via the memo, Moe Sihota and "the horrible 90′s". I cringed when he said "I was 35." Seriously. Thirty-five is not 19. Many people are married at 35, have kids, a mortgage etc, 35 is responsibility time, not excuse time. He should have simply stated he made a mistake and took responsibility. I would have added, "... which is a lot more than the Liberals have done for all their mistakes."

Christy Clark refused to acknowledge her inaccurate statements during her campaign, even when the media proved they were wrong! Why give them ammunition? I just don't get it.

Another thing that struck me was that in the effort to run a positive campaign, many NDP supporters were actually told to quiet down on social media. Big mistake. Huge mistake. They left themselves floundering and flailing as Bill Tieleman pointed out in his column today.

Dix backed himself into a corner with this entire positive, nice-nice, err on the side of caution theme. The Liberals provided so many moments for the NDP to gain real ground factually but again, the complacency for most of the campaign was stunning. And when Dix did begin fighting back it was just too late and it was then looking extremely hypocritical. Much like doing the ad buy of the 24hrs cover looked after mocking the Liberals for doing the same thing.

In hindsight, I suspect the NDP are kicking themselves for trying a "new way of doing politics" in such an important election. It didn't work. In fact, as one of the fathers at my son's school commented this morning, "Dix didn' seem to want to fight for us, why would I vote for that? They couldn't get it together! I want someone whose going to get tough when things get rough. Horgan would have done it. I'll take my chances."

Risky Dix? More like No-risk Dix to me. There is a good reason the heart of a campaign office "the war room," a campaign at this level is indeed a battle to be won or lost -- or in this case -- given away.

The people in B.C. who actually turned up to vote took their chances, made their choice and it's going to be an interesting four years. Christy Clark talked her way into the premier's office with an aggressive campaign that worked. Doesn't matter if our new premier didn't even win her own riding, nor that she didn't know how to fill out a ballot. It didn't even matter that very little that came out of her mouth was even true, the Liberals were able to get people to drink the Kool-aid and got their vote out. The NDP have a serious image issue to deal with and a serious strategy issue.

For me, the desire to fight for what I believe in, is instinctual, but then again The Art of War is one of my favourite books. It's been on my bedside table for over 15 years and I've read it many more times than that.

Perhaps I should lend it to the NDP.