Emotions have a contradictory place in discussions of politics. They are seen as the enemy of logic and evidence-based decision making. Also, there is a growing recognition that we think with Emotion, and those feelings influence the driving force of political discourse.
This snap is particularly evident during the federal election campaign, which is generating “all the experiences” nobody wanted. There are expected emotions such as grief, anxiety and sadness that surround the COVID-19 pandemic, not to mention the fear and apprehension about the fourth wave, about children returning to school without vaccinations, and the realization that that there is no quick return. Before “time.
But this federal election also feels a little different. It is not surprising to see opposition parties (as well as a growing number of Canadians) condemning Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for calling the election in the midst of a health crisis.
However, anger over election timing is only the tip of the iceberg. This pandemic election is changing the ground in unexpected ways as well. The sentiments we give to party leaders on the basis of partisan affiliation can no longer prevail.
Take Master Motorist “Sunny Ways” Trudeau. He’s getting Tasty while struggling to stay on the message in the face of loud hecklers (and violence), which stalls his scheduled campaign. A leader once admired for his emotional intelligence—a quality that, until recently, served him well—Trudeau seems to be undone. At the English leaders’ debate last week, Trudeau expressed both his calm and compassion when challenged over his feminist credentials by Green Party leader Annie Paul, despite Canadians facing anger with compassion and projecting an image of protective masculinity. have lost.
For some politicians, it may be a shrug, or a pledge to do better; For leaders like Trudeau, it’s a blow to the body, a blow to the shirt-sleeve-rolled leader, who trades his uncanny ability to spread positivity and good cheer wherever he goes.
It’s the same “Teflon Trudeau” who worked on stage with the (now haunted) do-gooder Kilberger brothers, the “white saviors,” who spread their feel-good gospel of charity work to developing countries.
Trudeau is losing his emotional grip on the Canadian public, leading one to believe that this is an ideal opportunity for opposition parties. Third party voters in Canada tend to deliver their best election results in moments filled with discontent and isolation, providing an emotional release for disgruntled voters to signal their dissent.
But for now, the third-party boom has been, well, hilariously slow. After reviving the bloc Québécois in 2019, leader Yves-François Blanchett has waited until the last days to bring life into a campaign that should have been fueled by nationalist fervor from the start. Blanchett and the highly popular Quebec premier François Legault aren’t on the same page, which is only adding confusion to the mix.
Even more surprising has been the lack of the New Democratic Party. At a time when optimism, passion and bold policy innovations are desperately needed, the party has failed to raise the “hope over fear” rally slogan popularized by the late leader Jack Layton. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has focused on attacking Liberal hypocrisy and proposing familiar and restrained promises such as student loan relief and a national pharmacare program.
For his part, Paul has faced bitter internal conflict within his own party, much of it directed at him.
updated image of conservatives
Enter the Conservative Party. Fresh from a failed run for Andrew Scheer as leader, the party recognizes that it, too, can impress wary voters.
Indeed, the past few weeks have seen an emotional reset of the Conservative Party. Leader Erin O’Toole’s campaign has been marked by a softening – an acknowledgment that climate change is real (even if her party continues to deny it), a pro-choice stance, an angry condemnation of Trudeau protests, and of course From, the recent resolution to shut down puppy mills.
Perhaps most surprising was O’Toole’s recent take on gun control flip-flops. Drawing on guilt-on-tough rhetoric, O’Toole and his party strongly opposed Bill C-71 in 2018. The bill, introduced by the Liberal government, aims to tighten existing firearm laws by increasing background checks on gunmen. At the time, O’Toole attacked Bill C-71 for targeting “law-abiding people as opposed to law-breakers”.
This type of rhetoric – drawing heavily on harmful stereotypes about gangbangers and organized crime – has come to define the Conservative Party’s opposition to gun control legislation for the past decade. In 2018, the Conservative Party attacked Trudeau for focusing “their fire on law-abiding farmers, poachers and northern Canadians” rather than “on criminals, gangs and the flow of illegal guns across borders”.
The party’s arguments about gun control took an explicitly punitive form and, at times, strongly reflected the rhetoric and imagery mobilized by US President Donald Trump during the same time period.
Although his policy position on banning assault rifles remains unclear, O’Toole’s rhetoric has changed, particularly in its sentimental form. O’Toole calmly stated that as leader, he will ensure that the party has “an approach focused on public safety, a focus on maintaining sanctions and a review of our classification system that It removes politics from it.”
This recent emotional restoration has led some to wonder whether we are now entering the era of “Sunny Ways O’Toole.” While his new-found optimistic message may sound novel, his playbook tears a page from factions of the conservative movement who called on the party to adjust its tone and approach.
The politics of anger and resentment has consumed some of the party’s base, with some vocal strategists within the party urging conservatives to adopt compassionate policy solutions that speak to the electorate. There are strategic advantages to rejecting stubbornly attached sentiments to right-wing leaders and parties.
The election climate is full of emotion, and it shows no signs of extinction. Not only are the election results uncertain, but political sentiments associated with partisan affiliations are also changing.
This election could prove to be a repeat of 2019, in which the liberals will emerge victorious. But the emotional terrain on which Canadian federal parties are struggling is changing and could color the political landscape for the upcoming elections. “Sunny” liberals under Trudeau may need to contend with conservative clouds on the horizon.