In the first week of the Unnecessary Election of 2015, the big story has been the polling numbers. The media, desperate to find something to report on in the early going, has fixated on the numbers which show the Rachel Notley Party with shockingly high numbers. The stats are so out of whack, even the pollsters are advising to take them with a grain of salt.
Pollsters have taken a beating lately due to a long string of wildly wrong results pretty much everywhere. That is in part due to the down-and-dirty method of polling, which is cheap and not very accurate compared to old school, talk-to-a-human-being kind of polling. The polls you’re reading about these days are free, and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
But clearly, something is afoot: the NDP is showing very well. And this may not be all good news for the Dippers. Let me explain.
First, I’ve got to hand it to the NDP. They’ve got a strategy, and it’s working, so far.
Obviously, the strategy is to play up Rachel Notley. Check out the website of the Rachel Notley Party (formerly known as the New Democratic Party); it starts with a video of Rachel, followed by a clip of rabid supporters chanting ‘Rachel, Rachel’, then there’s a sign up request the headline ‘I want to build a better Alberta with Rachel’, then there’s a profile of Rachel, then a picture of Rachel with some dude behind a sign that says ‘Rally with Rachel’. There are at least a half-dozen mentions of Rachel Notley, with only three small NDP logos. Almost all of the press release headlines have Rachel Notley in the lead. Clearly, the NDP is building a cult of leadership around Notley, which seems politically savvy, if a little anti-NDP. It helps that the media is absolutely in love with Rachel, providing the party with millions of dollars of unearned media.
So far, so good. The public seems to be responding to her, and the Dippers hope they will ride this horse all the way to official opposition status. But good poll numbers are not always good news.
As the polling numbers show support, it will draw more and more scrutiny to the party. And with increased scrutiny, curious voters will eventually want to know what the NDP stands for. Right now, however, you won’t find out on their website. As of April 11th, you won’t find one word on actual NDP policy. I’m sure in time they will release a complete policy document, but now they seem to be a Seinfeld party: the party about nothing. Eventually, the NDP will have to issue a full policy document for the interested public to study. It will have to be a carefully crafted document, with just enough red left-wing meat to keep the party’s lefties happy, without alienating the average voter. So far, we know they would raise corporate taxes, but so would the Liberals and anyone with a brain. The RNP is playing it very smart this year, and I’m sure when they come out with a policy doc, it will be as wishy-washy as possible.
A bigger problem is the ‘S’ word.
The New Democrats are a socialist party. That’s not a slur or an untruth, but a simple fact. I’m surprised that Jim Prentice has so far opted to call the RNP/NDP “far left”, which is silly. You’d think he’d be calling the RNP the socialist party at every opportunity. Socialism is anathema to Albertans, and just the way the Liberals had to wear the liberal label, the NDP will have to wear the socialist label. It’s just a matter of time, too, before the PCs link the NDP to federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and his previous references to “dirty oil”.
Life is good for the NDP right now. But if the polls, rightly or wrongly, continue to show the NDP staying strong, their strategy will be put to the test as the heat is turned up … way up.