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U.S Presidential Election 2016 - Lessons From Canada
Candidates for the 8 November 2016 U.S. presidential election, should take a break from campaigning and revisit circumstances that made Justin Trudeau the Prime Minister of Canada, after the 19 October 2015 election.
Granted, these are two different countries, but election winds are the same. They do not always go the way predicted by political experts, the media, pollsters and wishes of partisan public relations men and women.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s election in 2009, is another example of election winds taking an unexpected direction. It also threw out all books about race, old boys’ network, campaigning, and fundraising for a train ticket to the White House.
For starters, the U.S. election has something in common with the 2015 Canadian election. Justin Trudeau and Hilary Clinton inherited politics. Trudeau is the son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, a man who was prime minister in 1968 and 1980.
Hilary Clinton wants to be the next president and she already knows White House corridors and gardens because her husband Bill Clinton was the president from 1993-2001.
Although it is not quantified, some voters voted for the Liberal Party because of Trudeau’s father. Others didn’t for the same reason. So both Trudeau and Clinton have name recognition in their corner.
The first lesson U.S. presidential candidates can learn from the Canadian election is that don’t dog the opposition because it will haunt you forever should they win the election. In fact, it will be fodder for jokes in parliament or Congress till kingdom come.
Candidates running for political office are usually surrounded by so-called experts or handlers who tell them how to do things in order to win.
Political parties print flyers that are distributed in residential areas and campaign trails. They also buy time on television and radio to influence voters.
Political experts or handlers usually give candidates two choices:
Attack the other party. Call it incompetent, corrupt or failed to deliver in the past. Anything negative.
Tell voters what you can do, experience or skills. Also promises. Highlight what you can do if you win the election.
Negative ads or name-calling seems to be popular on both sides of the border. The Conservative Party, which was in power just before the election, decided on military style advertising with online and broadcast ads that said Justin Trudeau was not ready to be prime minister.
Flyers distributed all over the country also had the message. The strategy boomeranged because the man the Conservative Party claimed was not ready is now running Canada after the Liberal Party won 39.5% of the popular vote. The campaign strategy therefore boomeranged.
The risk of constantly attacking the opposition is two-fold. The Conservative Party gave Trudeau free advertising because his photo was on their ads. Who knows? Maybe there were some voters who did not like negative ads and voted for the guy who was ‘not ready.’
Another reminder for U.S. presidential candidates is that issues are still important, especially in large countries like Canada and the U.S., where regional interests determine how people vote.
Take the issue of marijuana for example. During the campaign, some political parties and certain sections of the public found it funny that the Liberal Party promised to legalise and regulate it, if it wins the election.
It is no laughing matter for British Columbia, which produces most of the marijuana grown in Canada. The New Democratic Party (NDP) has always been in favour of decriminalising it, and candidates had to answer questions about the difference between decriminalization and legalization.
How you voted is a secret, so no post-election analysis will give us a true picture of how Canadians voted but we can take a wild guess.
Justin Trudeau knew where the issues of potential voters and took some risks, especially in foreign policy. They paid off but some people voted on how he looks and his age.
Youth, his lifestyle and the Obama factor worked in his favour. The photo shoot is extremely important in an age where YouTube is a factor in deciding who becomes president or prime minister.
The United States has a president that is a fitness fanatic, plays basketball, is a social media citizen and looks good in front of the camera.
Some Canadians felt that Justin Trudeau is also good photo shoot material for their country.