To reverse her slide, she is trying to pick apart SmartTrack, attacking Mr. Tory for his shaky financing plan and hasty planning. She is also trying to rally her own natural supporters, liberal-minded and left-leaning Torontonians who usually vote Liberal or NDP. This week she summoned the media to announce that, if elected, she would slap a "progressive" tax on high-end real estate sales. One Chow adviser says the idea is to energize the base."
While this story is about Olivia Chow and her team, you can trade in any number of candidates and their circles.
- Not doing so well? Attack an opponent and try to make them do worse.
- Rally the troops, get them to line up behind you - only you can stop forest fires, etc.
- Throw out a fight-picking policy to energize your base.
What about having a vision? What about strong policy that will be effective and communicating it to the public? Heck, what about consulting with people first and then making policy?
Politics is about winning. Winning is about getting ahead. Getting ahead is about beating the competition - only politics is a contact sport, which means a large part of politics tends to be about knocking your opponents down.
Politics is about sales. What's makes your product (you) stand out? How do you entice people to buy into it? Marketing, marketing, marketing.
Smart political advisers will always tell their candidates that step #1 in running is to identify your why - your mission, your purpose, your benchmark and touchstone. Once this why is clear, it grounds you, your team and all your interactions in a way that buffets you from the raging storm of a campaign. Without a solid why, you're liable to blow where the winds take you.
Of course, the truth is that in far too many cases, the why is a comms strategy, not a grounding principle. The real motivation - "I want to be an elected official" - isn't saleable, so something else must be developed for public consumption.
This has a significant impact on the tone and tenor of a campaign. Where a fundamental why is missing, a campaign doing really well can forget it's mission and get lost; the same holds true for a floundering one.
It all comes back to the candidate. Have they been living their core why prior to running for office? Will they keep at it regardless of whether they win or not? If the public doesn't feel that's the case, they will be harder to motivate. That's when all the chicanery comes in.
A candidate that really believes in what they stand for never wavers; if someone emerges who's better able to realize their vision than they are, they will happily pass on the torch, because it's the purpose, not the person, that matters. Should they lose, they will accept their loss with dignity and seek ways to help the winner to keep that mission alive.
This unwavering commitment to the ideal, to put mission and team before self is a critical component of leadership. It's not one we see a lot of.
There are very few people in politics who will tell you it's better to lose vote than it is to lose your moral compass. That says something about our politics.
Something voters and candidates should think about.