Saturday, August 19, 2006

Why is Rae so weak in the world of blogging?

Up until at least the end of June, Bob Rae was the strongest candidate financially. By some counts, he has the greatest number of ex officio supporters. In terms of the party establishment, Rae is certainly one of the frontrunners. He also has the greatest political profile, having been elected to office eight times. So why, with all those things in his favour, is Rae so weak in the blogosphere?

By Cerberus' count, Dion, Ignatieff, and Kennedy all have about fives times the number of blogger endorsement than does Rae. Even Brison--who, despite my own preferences otherwise, lags behind Rae by a long shot--has more bloggers supporting him than Rae.

Is it because Rae's campaign is completely divorced from the grassroots? Is it because Rae's campaign has a relatively weak youth wing? Is it because the Rae campaign doesn't care about blogs and hasn't tactically tried to stimulate interest? It's probably a combination of the all of the above, but in any event, it seems to send a dangerous signal about the Rae campaign.

If you were to ignore Rae completely, the endorsements of bloggers would very closely mirror actual support. Ignatieff, Dion, and Kennedy are the front runners. Brison and Dryden are on the radar, but just barely. Martha Hall Findlay, despite all the odds against her, is still making a good effort. And Joe Volpe, despite his networks, is probably a dud. But then you introduce Rae, and the whole thing goes out of whack.

To me, that signals that Rae's campaign is overrated for all of the above reasons. He doesn't have youth appeal. He doesn't have grassroots appeal. Among typical Liberal Ontario especially, he has "anti-appeal."

But more fundamentally than all of those, I just can't see people getting excited about Rae. I find Ignatieff's understanding, charisma, and character very exciting, and I respect him deeply for his intellectual honesty. I find Dion's experiences inspiring, and I respect much of his platform. Although I personally disagree with them, many people find Kennedy's leftist views to be a rallying point within the party. Dryden, one gets the sense, truly cares about education and childcare, issues around which he has rallied, and that is quite refreshing. And what's not to get excited about when it comes to Brison.

But Rae? Meh. He's a dull and, in the eyes of many Canadians, opportuntistic politician who, athough he might have done a fantastic job as a statesman, isn't terribly inspiring. If Rae wants to have a hope of gaining any grassroots support at all, he has to start being a politician that Canadians can rally around.

When he won his first nomination to run for the NDP in the late 70s, he did it much less through grassroots support than through his rather extensive network of friends and associates. He can't run his leadership campaign that way. If I'm wrong and he ultimately wins, then let's hope he doesn't try to run an election that way.


Blogger Skip said...

"But Rae? Meh. He's a dull and, in the eyes of many Canadians, opportuntistic politician who, athough he might have done a fantastic job as a statesman, isn't terribly inspiring."

Anonymous Liberal: I guess you haven't heard Rae speak, especially when he delivers a fiery, partisan speech. I guess you also haven't heard him debate a politician across, one-on-one. Because if you had, you would realize that none of the other Liberal candidates, nor the NDP or Conservative leaders, can hold a candle to him in any of these regards.

Moreover... opportunistic? Let's examine the facts. If Bob Rae is opportunistic, then... Ignatieff is what? I mean, he only came back to Canada because he had a shot at becoming PM. I mean, Kennedy gave up on his constituents because he thought he had a shot at the top job. And the list goes on... the point is - what politician is *not* opportunistic? It's a part of the business. Anyone who doesn't know that must work under a rock - or at least completely removed from the world of politics.

"If Rae wants to have a hope of gaining any grassroots support at all, he has to start being a politician that Canadians can rally around." Hahahaha. Are you kidding? Have you been following him around the country in the last say, two months? Have you noticed that 90% of his speeches are aimed at explaining why the LIBERALS are a BETTER CHOICE than Harper's Conservatives? I'm just wondering, because if anything, he is one of the very few (if not the only) Liberal leadership candidates who is pursuing a strategy which involves actually showcasing the reasons why he should be Prime Minister of a Liberal government.

As far as the title and subject of your post... "Why is Rae so weak in the world of blogging?" Well, have you thought it might be because his staffers and supporters are hard at work on the campaign, rather than idly chit-chatting about this or that tidbit of gossip? I thought you might want to add that onto your list of reasons explaining why Rae is so weak in the blogosphere. pffff.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Anonymous Liberal said...


I have indeed had the chance to hear him speak. I've also had the chance to hear him debate. And I've found him to have quite a bit of rhetoric, and I commend him for that. I disagree with the notion that none of the other candidates can hold a candle to him, but I will grant that he's a rather strong orator and debater.

But I still don't know what he's passionate about. I don't know what his campaign is about. I certainly don't feel that Rae has a cause in the same way that many of the other candidates do. He bashes Harper, but he doesn't stand up for environmentalism, the left, social justice, or whatnot. I don't know what the theme of the campaign is, so what is my attraction to him? How can the grassroots rally around someone who doesn't give them something to rally around? (and saying "Harper is bad" is not enough...anyone can do that, and it's not good enough as a rallying point).

Re: opportunism, Ignatieff came back to Canada, having been back to Canada many times each year while out of the country, having taught in Canada numerous times, having been a Liberal for a long time in his youth, having participated at conventions, and more.

Mr. Rae, having been elected eight times as an NDPer, has recently decided to join the Liberals. He might say that it's because he didn't like the NDP as a "party of protest", but that doesn't quite explain why he ran under their banner eight times. His commitment to Liberal causes prior to joining the party is precisely zero. Now maybe that's ok, but it explains why he has no grassroots support, and why he's so weak in the blogosphere.

"And the list goes on... the point is - what politician is *not* opportunistic?It's a part of the business. Anyone who doesn't know that must work under a rock - or at least completely removed from the world of politics."

That is precisely the cynical view of politics that damages democracies. Of course there's lots of politicians who do that, but they should be condemned, not excused by saying "that's the name of the game."

Besides, I still don't think it's unfair to say that Rae's grassroots support is weak. His ex officio support comes mostly from the Liberal establishment, not sitting MPs. His average donation is the highest. And his membership signups were relatively weak everywhere.

And if his supporters are too busy at work on the campaign to support him in the world of blogging, that's pretty impressive. How are they supporting him, if not publicly and openly in the most democratic and deliberative forum available to Canadians? Why have no supporters spontaneously emerged that are willing to do this, when such supporters have emerged for all of the other major candidates?

7:39 AM  
Blogger Skip said...

I'll bite.

1) If you don't know what Bob's campaign is about, you need to open your eyes and your ears. He was the first candidate to deliver an economic platform, and he was the first candidate to deliver a foreign policy platform. Moreover, he (as we both agree) has been actively berating Harper's lack of leadership on a plethora of issues.

You talk about a rallying point as if it should be ONE singular idea or issue. That's bullshit, and is totally simplistic. It actually sounds a lot like Harper's juvenile five-point-plan idea. The wide range of issues facing Canada and the Liberal Party are difficult to encompass in one simple sentence, which you obviously want from Bob.

I will re-iterate. Bob has spoken quite clearly about his plans for the economy and for the direction he wants Canada's foreign policy to take. If you don't want to look them up yourself (both speeches are on his website) I can explain them to you succinctly if you so ask.

2) Okay, so let me get this straight: Ignatieff is not opportunistic (even though he basically came to Canada because he thought he could be PM); but Bob, who has poured his blood and sweat and life into this country for the better part of his life, is opportunistic? Let me break it down to you like this. Bob began with Iggy at the convention that elected Trudeau. I do agree with the rest of history though, Bob used to be a member of the federal NDP. He, as finance critic, brought forward a motion which toppled the Conservative government of Joe Clark. He was also leader of the provincial NDP, and as leader toppled one Conservative government, and supported a Liberal government (until Mr. Peterson got greedy and called an election two years into his mandate).

I would say that the recurrent theme here has been that he is against conservatism. So if he joined federal politics again, it was most certainly to ensure that Harper and the Conservatives did not get a majority, with his take being that he was the best person to make sure that didn't happen. This was also coupled with the fact that he had a VERY PUBLIC break with the NDP after he lost the election in 1995 in Ontario, and also in 2000 (over *gasp* his perception of the NDP's intolerance toward Israel).

Just to go back to Bob's commitment to (L)iberal causes being zero. I guess we are referring to big L and not small l liberal stuff... which is fine I guess. So do you want to take Bob, Belinda, Ujal, and Brison out back and shoot them now, or later? Heaven forbid that they ever change their ideas and perceptions about which party is best for them!

Meh... I'll continue this later. I'm at work and I think my boss is getting suspicious that I'm typing, but I'm supposed to be doing research... :D

12:55 PM  
Blogger Anonymous Liberal said...


I agree with a lot of what you said. I would not deny that Rae is extremely intelligent, and that he was among the first candidates to issue certain policy platforms. I think he's (for the most part) exceptionally adept at policy formation. I don't think we disagree about any of that.

But I was never contesting any of that. What constitutes good policy and what constitutes a rallying point are very different things. It's very hard to get most Canadians to rally around a well-developed and highly intellectual policy. But that doesn't mean that you ought not have such a policy.

They key in my mind is to have both. I think Rae has strong policy, but I don't think he has something that Canadians can rally around.

Am I talking about something like the Conservatives' five points? I sure am. The Conservatives have been wildly successful in employing that strategy; they've reaped huge political awards, largely because they made clear promises which many people believe they've followed. I personally disagree with the promises in the first place, but they have followed them. It also gave them something concrete to pledge prior to the election.

Do I think candidates should pick a few issues they're really committed to? Yes. Dion is exceptionally strong on the environment, and it's one of his core issues...not to the exclusion of everything else, but it truly serves as a core issue.

To my mind, Rae lacks such an issue, which one can call "his" issue.

"So do you want to take Bob, Belinda, Ujal, and Brison out back and shoot them now, or later?"

I don't want to shoot any of them. I welcome them all to the Liberal Party. I don't think they should run for leader immediately after joining. If Rae were to run for leadership in three or four years, then sure. I'd like him to prove his Liberal credentials first, instead of joining the party when the race had already begun.

I have more on this, but I'll post later. Needless to say, my initial comment was not meant to be a full-fledged criticism of Rae, but a note about his ability to attract support from the grassroots.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Skip said...


If you were wondering what Rae's issue was, it can be summed up in four words: The future of Canada.

I guess that's not as focused as five piddly points that the brainy Conservatives came up with, but it is only four words... maybe Canadians will rally around four words. I could be wrong. They might just prefer five points...

10:17 AM  
Blogger openflows said...

Check out this video I made about Bob Rae. I asked him a question about the Internet and politics and he answered honestly.

8:45 PM  

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