Sunday, April 22, 2012

Identity Politics and Some Numbers

The No True Scotsman fallacy often appears in arguments about philosophy or religion.  It has some bearing on the change that is about to engulf Alberta.  The fallacy would sound something like this in a conversation about Alberta politics:

You:     No conservative would vote for the Progressive Conservative Party
Me:      Well...last election 58% of Albertans voted PC, and I think they would call themselves conservative
You:    Ah...well no true conservative would vote PC.
It seems that Alberta is on a collision course with a severe case of right wing identity politics. The biggest scandals of the Wildrose campaign, a  homophobic rant, and a weird statement about caucasian power, are clear examples of the right wing's obsession with identity and conformance. However, I'm pretty sure most Albertan's who got on the Danielle Smith bus think it's really about abstract notions of populism or change. Or even just the opportunity presented by an incompetent PC campaign, an organization seemingly in it's last days. Thus, the main question of the 2012 election seems to be, who are the real conservatives? This question wrapped in the grade school rhetoric of a family feud has overshadowed other topics.

But before we can unravel this question of who the real conservatives are, we have to consider the polling numbers.  Historically, conservative parties in Alberta get between 50% to 60% of the popular vote. In 2008 it was 58%, in 2004 57% and in 2001 61%. That range holds fairly true federally as well for Albertan voters.

In the 2012 election polling suggests that the combined conservative vote will be around 70%. The one I last saw reported 41% for Wildrose and 32% for PC, a total of 73%.  So it appears that this election has magically created an addition 10-15% more conservative voters.

It's obvious that a big chunk of Wildrose voters are coming over from the PC Party, but not enough to explain the 73% estimate.  The drop in PC support is probably more precipitous than we know and may be masked by Alberta Liberal party voters moving to the PC party out of fear and loathing.  What is actually left of the PC party will be an interesting question to look into next week.

That  leaves the original question of who are the real conservatives who will take power tomorrow? Well, the Wildrose Party will cruise to victory on a well crafted narrative that they are Alberta's true conservatives. They and their friends in the media, managed to demonize Alison Redford as a "liberal" and I saw the word socialist thrown around for good measure. So the Liberal Party and the Alberta NDP never really got into the game because Redford and the PC Party became the surrogate for everything true Alberta conservatives are supposed to hate.  They appear to have tapped into some powerful voodoo about what a true Albertan is.

I suspect that the 73% conservative vote estimate will snap back to the historical range when the votes are counted.  But that won't be enough to stop the Wildrose identity movement of true and pure conservatism from being elected.  And you know that that identity will be projected onto the national stage as what every damn Albertan bar none believes.   Gird your loins.

I can just hear it true Albertan would tolerate a human rights commission...

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