Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Where's your platform? Under your sweater?

My gut reaction last night was as follows:

  • May and Layton were both terrific, although each of them lost me for brief stretches
  • Dion was better than everybody said he'd be, but still nothing special
  • Duceppe was alternately great and kind of boring, and
  • Harper looked really pretty bad most of the time, and certainly not the way he wanted to come across at all.
The thing is, for once I had absolutely no read on whether all this was just how I and others like me had reacted--people with both my policy preferences and my rhetorical style preferences, that is--or whether people with different biases might feel the same. But then I read this. And I figured if my own impressions had that much in common with those of the most conservative Canadian blogger I read, there must be something to them.

The final word on the format: keep it. It's not perfect, but with so many people in the debate, nothing's going to be, and this was the first Canadian debate I've seen that actually looked like they were talking to each other. (Remember 2004? With the "let's pair people off and make them each debate each other completely randomly for thirty seconds before switching them up?" Yeah, ugh.)


Anonymous said...

Rex Murphy's idea sounded like to keep this format only if there were more debates of another format with more time to monologue. Not surprising he's a fan of talking solo.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Oh, god, no. Don't we get enough chances to listen to each of these people pontificate solo every day?

Anonymous said...

My reactions to the debate are pretty similar to yours, but then so are my general political preferences. I was really favourably impressed with May, who seemed to be the best at interjecting short but telling bits of substantive content (like when she pointed out that yes, we've seen a net increase in jobs, but the manufacturing jobs we've lost were better jobs than the service-sector ones we've gained)--all four of the others seemed more inclined to fall back on canned sound bites. (Layton's "real economy" catchphrase began to grate on me a bit, and I thought his allusions to Harper's sweater were rather cheap shots.) I think I still prefer the NDP's actual policies to the Greens', but I'm very glad May was included in the debates, and I wish we had proportional representation so that her party's support would actually translate into seats; she made it clear that the Green Party has a real contribution to make in Parliament.

I agree that Dion was both better than expected and kind of uninspiring. Duceppe, of course, spoke with the ease of someone who had nothing much to lose in the English debate, and, predictably, I liked him when he was going after Harper from the left, and disliked him when he was arguing that the federal government should just leave various things up to the provinces. Harper's relative calm came across to me as smugness and complacency--and now that I'm talking about affect, I should probably mention that I listened to the debate on the radio, so I have no idea how any of the candidates looked. But Harper's performance really seemed to reinforce the idea that he deserved every bit of the criticism that the four opposition leaders were throwing at him.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Harper spent the whole time smirking! I can't imagine that's appealing to anyone.

Unknown said...

I don't want to pile on personalities and appearances, because I think policy is king, but Harper's smile did noticeably unnerve me in this: the only time he ever really, really smiled, and smiled a lot, to my eye, was when talking about Afghanistan.

Who smiles when talking about Afghanistan? Regardless of what your policy preferences for our involvement there are, it's not a happy topic.

That was just creepy for me.

Anonymous said...

I liked the debate format. I say we keep it.

I liked both Layton and May's performances. I think Layton could borrow some of May's fact-based style and for the better. His zingers are great, so is some of his rhetoric, but he really hit home when he zinged somebody over facts (such as the Liberal 43%). The criticisms against Layton tend to be the based on his rhetorical style (the car salesman comments) - I think throwing in more facts and statistics would help alleviate that. And name dropping and campaign themes are fine, but I wouldn't use any of them more than once in a campaign debate.

May totally held her own and brought up proportional representation which definitely earns her some kudos right there. I think she was an excellent addition to the debate.

Dion had some good moments - he did a good job of proving that he wasn't the wimp Harper has been making him out to be (although Layton's comment still stands). Unfortunately, I think many people did struggle with his accent though.

Duceppe, in previous English debates I have been interested in him because he showed a more social progressive face. This time I found him irrelevant - none of the issues he raised were important to me, and the "more power to Quebec/the provinces" schtick raises my ire.

Harper, well, I guess his supporters will like his performance, but I just find him creepy. He said very little of substance and evaded and misdirected as much as possible.