“Tweaking” my Message to Get Elected
One of the first things I’ve learned since entering the race to become the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island is that virtually everyone expects me to “tweak” my message to suit the audience I’m speaking with at a given time. “It’s not lying” I’m told, “It’s just the way you have to ‘tell the truth’ if you want to get elected!”
A Couple of examples:
1(A) – I’ve been told that if I’m talking to farmers currently growing genetically-modified crops on large acreages with massive machines using extensive amounts of chemicals, I should carefully avoid saying anything about the urgent need to stop growing our food with poisons and move as quickly as possible to adopt organic farming methods. I should, rather, focus on the need for our provincial government to address other aspects of the “land” issue – especially how there’s far too much of it being taken out of agricultural production as sales to non-resident purchasers increase; or how the Lands Protection Act has to be tightened up to give local farmers first option on land; or how there needs to be new policies and programs (e.g., possibly a “Land Banking” system) that will allow more Islanders to afford to get into farming, etc.
1(B) – On the other hand, I’ve been told that when I’m talking with organic farmers, I should focus on the need to provide more supports and programs for chemical-free farming; talk boldly about how chemical-based farming has run its course, is polluting our environment, compromising our health, and can’t be allowed to continue much longer; how the provincial government can do more to develop “niche markets” for organic farm products around the world, change farm laws and regulations to prohibit intensive nutrient extraction and put more organic matter back into the soil (e.g., possibly removing “soybeans” from the list of “grains” currently being allowed in the mandatory 3-year crop rotation for potatoes), etc.
2 (A) – If I’m talking with people who are “pro-choice,” I should downplay my pro-life beliefs and speak only about how (as a provincial politician) I won’t be able to legally “restrict” access to abortion – even though I might like to – because only the federal government has the jurisdictional power to prohibit or limit access to abortion.
2(B) – On the other hand, if I’m speaking to people who are “pro-life,” I should explain that although it is the case that provincial politicians – even “pro-life” provincial politicians – have no legal power to restrict or prohibit abortions, they do have jurisdiction over health service provision, and the power to decide not to pay for abortions under the provincial Health Services Plan, or implement other kinds of programs and/or supports to give women with unwanted pregnancies more choice and capacity to carry their pregnancies to term rather than have abortions.
The so-called political art of “tweaking” one’s message to get elected is solidly embedded within our political culture. And it’is widely assumed and expected that every person running for office does such tweaking on a daily basis, and would – in fact – be strategically “stunned” if they didn’t tailor their message to suit the particular audience they are engaging at a given time, in a given place, on a given day throughout the entire duration of the campaign.
It’s not that most would-be politicians flat-out lie by telling people what they know they need to say – because they know what people want to hear – in order to have any real chance of getting elected, while at the same time secretly having no intention to honour those promises if elected – like, for example, what Premier Wade MacLauchlan told an auditorium full of people when he was asked if he supported “an elected english school board” before the last general election (See his response “here”.)
No, It’s more about deliberately “avoiding” saying what you know your audience doesn’t want to hear and is likely not to support, and focussing exclusively on saying what you know they want to hear and will support. Little wonder Islanders are so distrustful of what they hear from fellow Islanders seeking public office!
Well, you can call it politically “stunned” if you want, but I won’t be doing that kind of selective wordsmithing in my campaign. I plan to be as clear and complete as I can possibly be when outlining my policy positions on all issues. I intend to present a comprehensive position on each policy issue I’ll be making part of my “platform,” on a daily (or at least semi-daily) basis, beginning tomorrow (Monday, December 10, 2018).
I’ve noticed that a deliberate campaign of misinformation – and slander – has already emerged on Social Media attempting to discredit me by misrepresenting my beliefs and views on certain issues, such as abortion. They’re making false claims about what I said, did, or wrote in an obvious attempt to lessen my chances of becoming the leader of the PC Party by further spreading that misinformation. That’s unfortunate, but it’s impossible to be chasing down and correcting such misrepresentation, so if you come across such claims, ask for sources “Where did Kevin write or say that?” or better still, ask me directly whether I hold those views. I’m a big supporter of honest and civil public dialogue and debate.
Yesterday (December 8, 2018) an article I published in the Guardian back on January 19, 2017 titled “Keep Gender Ideology out of Island Schools,” was read 911 times (hard to escape the significance of that number!) and although many who shared and/or commented on it on Facebook defended my position and supported what I wrote in that article, many others said really nasty things that were completely untrue about what I wrote and believe on the issue. Some launched hateful and even malicious attacks against me, calling me a ‘vile human’ ‘trans-hater’ etc.
Telling the truth about what I believe on social and political issues as precisely as possible – as well as being clear on what my policy ideas and intentions will be as a politician – will obviously result in me both “winning” and “losing” supporters. I understand and accept that fact, and to be honest, I’m not exactly sure whether the majority of those voting in the upcoming PC Convention will reject or support what I put forth on a number of issues.
Nevertheless, I’m not going to engage in the game of “tweaking” my message to suit my audience in an attempt to diminish the amount of support I lose from what I say or don’t say; or increase the amount of support I gain from what I say or don’t say.
Hopefully by taking the high road and speaking plainly and honestly, my approach will encourage civil public discourse on important social issues. In the end, before they vote for a new leader, members of the Progressive Conservative party will hopefully know exactly and fully what I believe and stand for on all the key issues, as well as what I intend to do about those issues if I’m ever elected and able to effect and affect public policy. Regardless of the outcome of the Leadership Convention, I will at least have kept intact the core value and first plank of my campaign platform and slogan: Integrity.