American tactics take over
Lee Atwater was a political thug who controlled the American election agenda through the 70s and 80s for Ronald Reagan and George Bush the elder.
He will always be associated with two of the most toxic developments in North American politics: the attack ad and push-polling – the most recent example of which came through our home phone recently: Toronto pollsters spinning the B.C. provincial government's throne speech, budget and election strategy.
Push-polling is a tactic aimed at planting ideas rather than harvesting them. For instance, a traditional type poll might ask, Would you consider voting for Candidate X in the upcoming election? In a push-poll the question would be, Would you consider voting for Candidate X in the upcoming election given that he is four-time bankrupt and a closet Nazi? An exaggeration certainly, but not by much.
The current crop of B.C. Liberal and special interest group attack ads also grow in the same arid soil as the push-poll.
They are the sign of a government afraid to stand on its record.
They are essentially anti-democratic in that they subordinate the rational exchange of ideas to fear, smear and character assassination.
Essentially, they expose the negativity that is at the very core of right-wing political philosophy.
Lee Atwater may have died of brain cancer in 1991, but apparently he has left behind a legacy that has been adopted by the B.C. Liberal Party.
Regardless of whether his attack ads and push-polls worked for Reagan and George HW Bush, the B.C. Liberals are to be condemned for using them in the current provincial election campaign.
They should be reminded that we live in British Columbia and not in Arkansas.