Commentator Anonymous writes this after my Six In The Morning post on the controversial NDP ad:
Oh Gormley, how I love to hate you. You too, L-P and S-P (essentially the same newspaper). Anyway, the topic at hand is kind of funny, because the point of the ad was that the Sask Party are Union-Busting Assholes. Can’t refute that! Have to attack the editing of the ad instead! Gormley and the fun people who call into his show talk about “how things work in the Real World” and how that is so much different than how things work for people who work for the government and under unions. And this line of attack seems to resonate with people for some reason. Instead of saying, “gee I wish I was in a union”, people say “I hate those unions!” Well, not all people. But enough to make me scratch my head.
Commentator Anonymous is right. I finally listened to the NDP ad and I understand how, in the context of what it’s trying to say, the premise is legitimate. But the ad itself fails.
Here’s the problem: the ad makes a leap that expects too much from listeners. The NDP is attempting to make the case that the Saskatchewan Party government’s hostility to unionized workers is inherently hostility to Saskatchewan families. It’s a good case and the NDP would be wise to press it politically.
The problem is it’s too big a stretch — the NDP’s case is not yet established with most people. Regular voters don’t have “attacks on unions = attacks on regular people with jobs” hard-wired into their brains.
So it’s pretty damn unlikely that most listeners will buy Wall’s specific, anti-union quote as a general example of family-bashing — if they did make that connection, we wouldn’t have a Sask Party government, right?
Most people just don’t see unions as synonymous with families. So to most listeners, the ad can only seem like an example of the use of an out-of-context quote for an underhanded attack on Premier Brad Wall.
That’s why the ad is a failure. But it’s not unfair. It’s just bungled.
Here’s an example of what unfair political ads actually look like, from last year’s U.S. midterm elections. The politician in question is Alan Grayson, a good, feisty Democrat, whose campaign’s flagrant abuse of out-of-context quotes in an attack ad help cost him his seat. This is different than the NDP’s mistake. Grayson’s people were slimy. The NDP just screwed up.
Although like Grayson, they’re standing by their ad. We’ll see how that works for them.