Monday, February 27, 2012

Robocall Scandal Likely Won't Hurt the Tories (Yet)

I suspect Prime Minister Harper’s enemies and detractors see the Robcall scandal as the silver bullet that will pierce his government’s Teflon armour.

But will it? I doubt it.

And yes I know all the sordid details about the crank calls, the voter suppression tactics and the damage to our democratic process. I have also heard all the heated reaction.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae says these Robocalls contributed to the defeat of Liberal candidates in at least 27 ridings; columnist Michael Den Tandt says the scandal means “the legitimacy of the Tory majority is in question.” Some are even calling it the equivalent of Watergate.

Sounds pretty serious.

So why do I say this won’t hurt the Tories?

Well, you need to consider three important issues, one is logical, one legal, and one political.

Consider the logic. How can Rae or anyone else possibly say the Robocalls contributed to the defeat of Liberal candidates? Where’s the proof? Seems to me the only way to test Rae’s hypothesis is to go back to May 2, 2011 and run the election again without the Robocalls and see how the results change.

But as far as I know no one has access to a time machine.

What about the legal aspect? Well I don’t want to sound like a bleeding heart or anything, but under our system people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. As of yet we have no real evidence as to who was behind those Robocalls. So the rush to judge Harper or his party or some 23 year old kid is premature.

Yet surely just the perception of a Tory scandal will seriously undermine the government’s popular support, right?


And this leads me to the politics of scandals.

The fact is most voters believe all politicians are basically a shady lot. So most scandals don’t really shock them. Indeed, when given a choice between a competent crook or an honest fool, they will pick the crook almost every time because, heck, at least he’s smart.

And voters want smart leaders, leaders for instance, who can manage the economy.

This is why the Tories were not hurt by the “in and out” Elections Canada scandal or by the Bev Oda “Not” scandal or by the Speaker of the House “in contempt” scandal.

But what about the “Adscam scandal”? Didn’t that kill the Liberals?

I’d say no. I’d say what really hurt the Liberals wasn’t the scandal, but former Prime Minister Paul Martin’s over the top reaction to it.  That plus Martin and later Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff were basically incompetent politicians.

I suspect that had the crafty and tough Jean Chretien hung around a little longer, the Liberal Party would be in much better shape today.

Now none of this is to say the Robocall scandal will leave the Tories completely unscathed. In fact, it has likely tarnished their brand.

And these scandals could also have a cumulative effect. That is one day voters will remember all this stuff when and if they are looking for reasons not to like Harper.

But right now they are just not looking for reasons.


One thing I never imagined was the Liberals would actually help the Tories off the hook regarding the Robocall scandal.

But that's what's happening.

The Liberals now admit a staff member in their research bureau was responsible for publishing "Vikileaks" which dished out "Dirty Tricks" style attacks on Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

This now gives the Tories a chance to go from defence to offence and will reinforce the notion that all politicians are the same.


Candace said...

The fact that Conservative supporters also reported receiving false EC calls doesn't hurt, either.

As a CPC supporter, I can tell you that I regularly tune out the PPG and their faux scandals, as there seems to be a new 'flavour of the week' scandal pretty much weekly.

I've contacted the MP whose campaign I've been a volunteer on and received a solid explanation of HIS expenditures re robocalls and I'm good. The PPG can go tilt at another windmill already.

Graham Sproule said...

I'm absolutely shocked at how you can so easily dismiss criminal activity. This is something written from a secluded ivory tower and not the real world. First prorogation was nothing more than an annoyance, and now using illegal activity to change an election is no big deal? How insane are some people?

Dennis said...

The robocalls could not possibly have changed the outcome of the election; you'd need more than a "few" or "several" people getting these calls to make that much of a difference. If someone had engaged in this activity on a sufficient scale to tip the electoral scales, we'd have heard widespread complaints about this during the election, not months afterward.