Will There Be A Backlash In Alberta Politics?
Alberta has seen two big election surprises this year. First Naheed Nenshi is elected Mayor of Calgary and then Alison Redford wins the election as leader of the Alberta PC party, which automatically made her the provinces premier. Neither of these candidates were favored going in to the election. So, what happened? How did these two long shots both capture unexpected wins?
One of the things these two candidates had in common was that Stephen Carter was their strategic advisor. The tactics he employed were brilliant. For years pundants have been talking about social media playing a larger part in politics. The belief was that if you could engage voters through social media you could energize a segment of voters who had never before become involved in the process. The thought was that the reason these voters had not been involved to date was that conventional politics didn’t resonate with either their needs or their interests. So they tuned out. The challenge was how do you get them to listen to your messages. Many analysts have credited the Obama campaign with employing tactics that successfully engaged this group of voters. In Alberta however this social networking engagement theory was just that, a theory. We had never seen it actually make a measurable difference in a campaign. That all changed with the Nenshi win in Calgary.
Although the Redford campaign employed the same effective use of social media they also employed another successful tactic that no one saw coming. They believed they couldn’t win the party election within the conventional party members so they aimed their campaign messages at non-party members. They engaged people who had never been members of the PC party and probably never will be again. The campaign message was so good these people actually joined a party they would not normally support just to get Redford elected as the party leader and thereby the provincial Premier.
What was the same in both of these campaigns is that engaging voters who were not being addressed by any of the other candidates won the elections. In both cases the strategy worked brilliantly.
What isn’t known is what the final result of this strategy may be. I am sure a large group of people woke up in Calgary the morning after the election and asked; “We elected who?” Similarly many members of the PC party of Alberta are asking themselves the same question.
So we know how these campaigns were successful in getting their candidates elected. The challenge now becomes how do they hold power. The single biggest voting block in all areas is still the Baby Boomers. These Boomers are not the social media generation and in the case of the Alberta PC party are the group who to a large extend just stayed home rather than voting in this recent leadership campaign. But if these Boomers aren’t happy with the results there could be a backlash the size of a tsunami. You can engage whatever groups you want but these boomers still make up a huge majority if they decide to take action.