Alienating social conservatives: The real reason Danielle Smith lost Alberta
April 25, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Alberta’s April 23 election results were disappointing for the Wildrose Party, winning only 17 seats out of 87 and returning Alison Redford’s increasingly liberal PC Party to hang onto a majority of 61 seats, down from 67. This was especially disheartening for small-c conservatives given that Wildrose was leading in the polls until the final week and a half when the race suddenly tightened. Despite the tightening, it was still expected to be a victory for Wildrose.
So what caused Smith’s dramatic meltdown of support?
If you read the mainstream media reports this morning, you’d be convinced that it was because the pro-life and pro-traditional marriage views of some Wildrose candidates turned off Alberta voters. As a Globe & Mail headline stated, “Fear of Wildrose drove some voters to Alberta PCs”.
Was fear of social conservatism the only possible explanation for the meltdown? Does this hypothesis make sense for the most ‘small-c’ conservative province in Canada? Does this theory (which by the way is not grounded in exit polling data but mere conjecture) make sense for what has been called part of “Canada’s Bible Belt”?
There is a more likely explanation for the meltdown, but one which the mainstream media is loath to acknowledge. Polling data suggests that Danielle Smith seriously alienated her natural base of social conservative and religious voters when she began to publicly reject pro-life and pro-family views in early April and ultimately announced, “I’m pro-choice and pro-gay marriage” on April 10th. It was a slap in the face to traditional values voters. Many so-cons probably decided then that since the Wildrose party would not provide a home for them, they in turn, would stay home on voting day, or even to vote for the devil they knew.
Flashpoint moments for so-cons and religious voters
To support this hypothesis, we highlight the polling numbers before and after two flashpoint moments in the campaign, which were important for ‘values voters’.
The first flashpoint was the discovery around February 23rd that the PC Ministry of Education, through amendments to the Education Act, planned to ban homeschooling families from passing on their religious and moral beliefs about homosexuality to their children, even in their own homes. Up until that point, according to a Feb 16th Forum Research Poll, the PCs were leading Wildrose 37% - 30%.
The outcry against the PC bill culminated in massive rallies in mid-March at Alberta’s legislature against the PC plan. Homeschooling families and many other religious families, including Catholics, strenuously protested the government’s unwelcome foray into family life and against religious freedom. The Wildrose supported them with candidate Rob Anderson backing two amendments to the Education bill, to protect religious freedom and parental rights. He also spoke at the March 19th protest rally in support of the thousands of parents who were there.
Guess what happened to Wildrose numbers during this period? They shot up dramatically past the PCs. By March 25th, the polling firm Think HQ, had the WR up by 3 percentage points over the PCs. Forum Research had WR up 10 points. Was this pure coincidence? This massive mobilization of concerned families and religious voters certainly played a major role in Wildrose’s ascent in the polls.
Wildrose numbers continued climbing and peaked around April 2, to a 13 percentage point lead according to Think HQ (see figure 1). The second flash point occurred April 4th when PC Leader Alison Redford began a fear mongering campaign about abortion and gay “marriage”, pointing to a conscience protection policy in the Wildrose Platform. From then on, there was a steady drop in Wildrose support which continued right through to Election Day.
To use football terminology, this is where Danielle Smith began to ‘fumble the ball’. She started to distance her party from these views, indicating that she supported the status quo on abortion, and putting out messaging that she opposed the traditional view of marriage. This strategy culminated with her proclamation April 10th that she is “pro-choice” and “pro-gay marriage”, and in the end likely demoralized a significant part of her social conservative base. Not surprisingly, after that unfortunate April 10th announcement, the Wildrose poll lead shriveled even faster through the final week and a half of the election campaign. Then, she shut the door on so-conservative hopes for the future by adding, “A Wildrose goverment will not be legislationg in areas of morality”.
The mainstream media will not admit to a correlation between Smith’s moving away from pro-life and pro-family positions, to her massive loss of support from her natural base. However, in the absence of scientific exit poll data to the contrary, it’s a valid hypothesis.
The Rob Ford lesson that Danielle Smith should have learned
Danielle Smith should have learned a lesson from Rob Ford’s campaign for Mayor of Toronto. As a candidate, Ford was similarly attacked in 2010 by his pro-homosexual opponents and the pro-homosexual media, over his belief in the traditional definition of marriage. The contempt they poured out on him was vitriolic. But unlike Smith, Ford did not react by apologizing for his principles, or by appearing to run away from them. That would have deflated his critical base of so-con support and quite possibly cost him the election.
Instead, he very calmly and simply responded “I support traditional marriage. I always have”. When the media kept badgering him, he very consistently repeated it calmly and unapologetically. In the end, Ford confounded all his critics and won the election by a large margin, defeating the openly-homosexual George Smitherman who was a media darling.
Here’s the point that Smith didn’t get. In order to lead a small-c conservative movement to victory, you need the social conservative branch of that movement to show up at the ballot box (even if you don’t agree with them). By alienating ‘values voters’, demoralizing them, and causing them to stay home on Election Day, it’s very difficult to win.
In conclusion, if Wildrose hopes to achieve victory in four years, they must learn to ignore the mainstream media, establishment political advisors, and to respect the values of all Albertans, including the millions who are pro-life and pro-family.
This Alberta post-election synopsis was produced by Campaign Life Coalition, the political arm of Canada’s pro-life and pro-family movement. To view the original article on CLC’s website, click here. CLC is a non-partisan organization involved in all levels of political elections including school board, municipal, provincial and federal, working to help elect pro-life/family candidates.