TV dominates politics because it is the prime-time news and political ads that stream into our homes which grab our attention. Radio, newspaper, and even outdoor signs combined don't have the same total effect that a well-orchestrated TV ad message can have on a campaign.
The Internet, now with video ads, has had to a degree, a similar effect, but people are generally annoyed with Internet advertising and tend to look away. We generally do not "go on the Internet" together as a couple or family. The Internet is a personal medium experience.
Not TV, it's there when we commit to watching it. That's all there is on the screen for the whole family to see. We've learned to expect it for 60 years. And TV shows and advertising is about emotion and so is politics. You know the sappy ads that pull at your heart strings and cause you to choke up? Well, for many, they do, and it's mighty powerful.
So how a leader performs in a TV debate can be a campaign game-changer. It is a glimpse of how the ongoing legislative question period and debate would go, but more importantly, how the leader is perceived emotionally by the view, breaking it down to a simple question: How does the leader make you feel?
You could have a leader with a 180 IQ and Mensa member who has done all the advanced statistics and understanding on how to build a perfect society, but if they have the emotional and social capability of an inanimate object, you're not buying it. You're not in, because you don't have that emotional connection--a bond and common understanding where you can trust the leader to know that he or she represents you.
Emotion trumps ideology in most circumstances. Oh sure, voters have their political views and beliefs and they will attach those views to a tree if the tree had the same view, but this is where emotion is added to ideology and it's even more powerful. I know people who have a certain strong ideology but will vote for the individual that, while they don't necessarily fit with their view. They just simply believe the person is the best representative for the job and who will actually lead.
One of my favourite quotes is from the movie "The American President" starring Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, and Michael J. Fox.
Remind you of a certain former premier?
And so here we are today, in probably Alberta's most important party leadership debate in my lifetime.
As such, Albertans are searching for leadership--a leader who won't stab them in the back and who is offering reasonably-sounding solutions. The details and effectiveness of those solutions are up for continued debate, but if the leader can present even a coherent sentence that makes sense, doesn't turn them off, and it's coupled with some emotion, that voter can be swayed.
What the majority of voters are looking for in this one is any reason whatsoever to not for the Prentice PCs. Any little mistake or flip flop is amplified for Prentice and in tracking this election, I would say it isn't going particularly well. Prentice has the uphill climb to overcome this hurdle because voters on both sides are fed up. They don't like the recent provincial budget, as much as it's being sold as an honest one. It's riddled with tax hikes on average Albertans--tax hikes, which conservatives can't stand, but it doesn't raise corporate taxes, which progressives can't stand.
Prentice called the election, violating the election-timing law that was put in place, and knowing all the other parties funds were depleted, especially the Wildrose, some essentially leaderless. And those things alone also
The progressives that were once on the Alison Redford's train and the traditional liberals have left the PC station and have flocked to Rachel Notley and her well-run NDP campaign. They are not finding Prentice to be "that guy" they can trust.
And Conservatives in general are abandoning the PCs ... again. Even a chunk of the traditional PC base has dipped them well below 30% in the polls and that's worth noting, especially trailing third overall.
But with that, conservatives and economic libertarians are going to watch with great intention to see if Wildrose leader Brian Jean can be everything trustworthy-wise Danielle Smith was not. Any emotional glimpse that he actually can put a coherent sentence together without making any bonehead comments and he can be elevated. Problem is, the Wildrose didn't field enough candidates province-wide.
With less than two weeks to go to Cinco de Mayo, the time has come for the PCs to pull another one out of their ass with a last ditch effort to put fear into their base to come home instead of running away. The meeting with the old school campaign bankrollers to fund a TV ad blitz has probably already happened and as the other parties can't afford such a campaign, you will see every desperate attempt to woo voters back to the PCs and instill emotional fear into those who are on the fence with ads featuring Prentice selling you on it.
With that, coupled with tonight's leadership debate, the emotions that are stirred by the leaders will determine whether it's the end of the PCs 44 year dynasty or if they survive another day, and that is significant for Albertans to watch.
Why? Because it's good TV.