Thursday, September 02, 2021

History of Political Consultants: nobody knows anything


These days, it's generally accepted that cabinets are -- and should be -- no more than the PM's implementation team, and caucuses needed only when a House vote looms. The Leader is everything.  But consultants to the Leader have godlike powers in Canadian politics. Even when they lead Paul Martin to electoral disaster in 2006 or Stephen Harper there in 2015, they generally turn up selling the same services in party leadership races, in provincial or urban politics, or as private sector pollsters, pundits, and advisors. It's a good gig. 

You would think no organization would have access to more or better professional strategists, consultants, opinion analysts, and such than the Liberal Party of Canada. One has to assume the election call this summer was strategized to death. 

And then the election was called. And it turned out all this expensive expertise knows ... nothing, more or less. Not that this election is over, but if the consultants had known the day before the election was called what they know now, they might have had second thoughts.

Which does make you wonder: If the old arbiters of decisions like elections -- i.e., cabinet ministers and caucus members -- still held influence, would they have known any better?  Would actual working politicians have picked up better than the opinion researchers and strategists that Justin Trudeau is not as loved out in the country as the PMO calculated he was? 

They could not do much worse, so far at least. 

If the campaign continues on its current trend, a lot of MPs and cabinet ministers will find themselves out of a job, a fitting reward, maybe, for their passivity and non-involvement. Consultants, on the other hand, have a vested interest in always recommending the election call, and there's not much risk to them.  For them, the more elections the better -- it's where the strategists, consultants, and pollsters really make money. And if their guy loses, well, a lost election generally leads to a party leadership race, starting a new cycle and even more work for them.

 
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