Why the Conservative ethnic outreach strategy fell apart: Cardozo

Andrew Cardozo on the reasons the Conservative ethnic outreach strategy failed:

It was that they assumed the ethnic voters were too stupid to hear the Liberal promise and could be easily scared by hot button words.

After years of visiting thousands of parades, temples, gurdwaras and the occasional mosque, and chasing around with foreign leaders like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Filipino President Benign Aquino and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the 416, the 905, the 604—all those “heavily ethnic” ridings went Liberal.  How could they?

The first pillar of the Conservative ethnic policy was in part that they identified the more conservative elements within each of the communities, no matter how large or small, and in doing so not only expanded their base, but deepened the conservativism of the party.  They were able to attract the many traditional-minded Christians from various countries in addition to conservative elements of others from China, India and all the non-Christian religious groups.

The second pillar of the strategy was to play home-country politics.  All governments have done this, but the Conservatives took it to new heights—an extent to which it was becoming distasteful.  There will always be leaders in each community who will bask in the glow of a visiting head of state, but at a different level, members of the community are saying,  “No, Mr. Modi is not my Prime Minister, it’s you damn it.”

So on both these approaches, the Conservatives were smart enough to understand that they were not going to get the whole community but they could get the support of the more conservative segments of each community.  The sad part of it though was that they had no compunction about racing into a community and aggressively addressing issues on which there were divisions.  Unlike any other political party, they inserted their wedge politics that they use in the wider society, and have left those communities divided like never before. For example, you got a handful of demonstrators from the Jewish Defence League outside a fundraiser for a Jewish Liberal candidate in Toronto.

The third pillar of the strategy has been to play communities off each other, by resurrecting divisions from the old countries.  Taking a principled stand is what they said it was about.  They actively reached out to minority Christian communities from the South Indian and Middle East regions—people who left those countries to escape Islamic fundamentalism only to find that fundamentalism growing here, be they homegrown terrorist or the niqab and hijab.

But here is where the Liberals and New Democrats need to look deeply.  Just because the Conservatives were appearing to be overly bombastic, the other parties should not race to the complete opposite position.  There remains a need to counter radicalism within Canada and we do need to work towards gender equality in all communities.  While some women might cover by their own choice, others are certainly forced to.  So finding that balance should not be eschewed just because of the Conservative’s ugly approach.

In the end the Conservative approach was to focus on the conservative minded segments, cater to home-country politics, divide communities and scare them.  They will have earned the more hard-core conservative supporters for life, but by and large the strategy fell apart and even backfired, as they lost the vast majority in these communities to the Liberals’ positive campaign of hope and inclusiveness.

Source: Why the Conservative ethnic outreach strategy fell apart | hilltimes.com