#75 – Politicians pooh-pooh the P-O factor at their peril.

Politicians and political scientists have been puzzling over the P-O factor in politics for many years. Many see the P-O voter as self destructive. P-O voters are certainly alienated. They defy logic. They re-elected George W. Bush as President of the United States in 2004 when all sensible voters knew the man was a liar, a fool and incompetent.

Many are now realizing that it is the P-O factor that is boosting the chances of Rob Ford to become the next mayor of Toronto. It is the P-O factor that enables a person such as Rob Ford to survive in politics. The man is walking excess. If he has a heart, you would need a very large weighted meat cleaver to find it. He does not talk, he blusters. He does not reason, he goes postal. He has little to say but says it anyway. He suits the P-O voter to a ‘T.’

What few realize is that the P-O voter can also do good. They just do it for the wrong reasons. They could vote for Barack Obama as President of the United States, for example, as a way of giving the finger to their fellow P-O voters. Go figure!

In Canada, we watched the historical journey of Pierre Trudeau through the late 60s to the early 80s in a chaotic love-hate relationship with voters. He was the right person, in the right place, to be elected for the wrong reasons. He had won his first election before the votes were cast with the bottle throwing incident at the St. Jean Baptiste parade in Montreal. When party strategy guru Keith Davey was once—facetiously—accused of being among the bottle throwers, he laughed and said he wished he had thought of it. The incident brought an anti-francophone vote to Mr. Trudeau that embarrassed him. After one of the most stunning one-sided victories in Canadian history, the P-O voters reduced his Liberals to a minority government four years later.

It is the populist politician who preys most effectively on the P-O voter. Populists can be of any political stripe. They are the type of politician who can hear the P-O voter and understand the plaint. They simply reflect back the noise that they hear. If the politician is one who does not bother to listen, they just feed the system with the standard mantra of the P-O. This can include ‘we are over taxed,’ ‘our streets are not safe’ and ‘there are too many civil servants.’ After all, there are darn few of us who really want to pay taxes, so saying that any amount is too much strikes an easy chord. The same voter wants to hire more police and build more prisons and damn the expense. And who among us has not wanted to fire a bureaucratic civil servant?

It is not that the P-O voter is stupid. They are just a people who want to get even. They want the opportunity to vent their spleen. It has been suggested that there should be shouting rooms at each polling place on election day. These are soundproof rooms that you can go into and rant and scream and shout until you have it all out of your system. Then you can go and vote sensibly. Would it work? It’s doubtful.

– 30 –

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Comments are closed.