Thursday, February 24, 2011

Liberals and Crime

Tom Flanagan crowed after the 2006 election that there are certain issues that just favour the Conservatives. The example he gave was the economy. No matter how successful the Liberals were in balancing the books and creating jobs, Conservative research suggested that when it came to economics people trusted the Conservatives more than they did the Liberals. It does not much of leap to suggest the same is true for crime. After all, to presume that the public has a working knowledge of each party's justice policies is giving the public way too much credit; the public trades in stereotypes and they are always going to believe that Conservatives are tougher on crime. This is especially so now. The Conservatives are in power and for this reason alone what they say with regard to crime garners headlines. By contrast, past Liberal support for some those Conservative tough on crime measures has drawn almost no attention at all. Of course, even if the Liberals were able to convince Canadians did support this or that Conservative measure, the Conservatives have a fail safe. They have claimed and will continue to claim that the Liberals had ability to introduce such policies when they were in power and failed to do so. No one likes a Johnny come lately.

So if the Liberals can not lessen the lessen the popularity of Conservative tough on crime agenda by towing the Conservative line, just what can they do? Well, they can try put the subject in different light. And at first blush it appears that have tried to do just that. The Liberals have reminded the public that "US style mega- prisons" come at a cost and questioned just how Canadian such policies truly are. "Canadians know that spending billions of dollars on US-style mega-prisons to lock up young people will only produce more hardened criminals. It’s a failed American crime policy, and it just doesn’t work."

The problem with such an approach is this. In words of great voting behavior researcher Philip Converse, the vast majority of voters show a lack of “constraint”: That is, they hold incompatible beliefs. Many voters simply do not recognize that tough on crime measures necessitate the building of "mega-prisons". If asked, they will say that they support the former but disagree with the later.

The Liberals know this. Indeed, Liberal marijuana policy, for example, is premised on there being such wide cognitive dissonance. On the one hand the Liberals have long maintained that Canadians should not be saddled with a criminal record for consuming something that is, after all, less harmful than alcohol. It is this light that Chr├ętien famously joked about having a joint in one hand and the money to pay for the fine of having it in the other. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand.” On the other hand, just as they long downplayed the affects of smoking marijuana they have long stressed the importance of stiff penalties for trafficking. Both positions are wildly popular with the public, but run the two positions together and it is as if Chr├ętien said this instead. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand. Having paid my fine I would hope the cops find the person who sold it to me in put him in jail for a very long time.” If the act of consumption is not deemed overly ruinous then the whole punitive rationale for trafficking comes crashing down. Add to mix an acknowledgment on behalf of the Liberal party that marijuana can serve a medical purpose and you have a conceptual train wreck as a policy.

Liberal supporters should take two things from this. One just because it Ignatieff is decrying "mega-prisons" now does not mean the party has seen the light. When it comes to crime, the party seems to have no qualms speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Two, however popular such denunciations of "mega prisons" might be it is not likely such talk will do anything to arrest the popularity of the Conservatives tough on crime agenda.

No, the only way the Liberals are going to be able to arrest the popularity of Conservative's get tough on crime agenda is by putting a legal elephant right in the middle of the room. Promising to legalize either marijuana or prostitution would do the trick. Hot topics draw in an ordinate amount of attention generally and starve any related issues of any oxygen altogether.

The question then becomes would either policy would pay off politically. With regard to the later I just do not know. However, with regard to the former I am convinced it would be a political winner for the Liberals.

Polls consistently show that the Canadian public supports the legalization of marijuana by a wide margin. So the public is receptive to the idea already. More importantly, the arguments for legalizing marijuana are far more robust than the arguments for increasing the penalties for trafficking. Indeed, the later are often so bad as to have earned the name "reefer madness". As with SSM, the advantage of such an issue lies not with the popularity of such a proposal per say as the cost to the Conservatives of having their talking points savaged by the media for months on end. It is the process not the polls that really matter. I do not care what the issue is if your talking points been savaged by the media and informed public over a long period of time, you are going to hurt on the polls. The more prominent or controversial the issue the worse it gets.

11 comments:

CanadianSense said...

I expect the 18-24 support the legalization of marijuana.
I would imagine adults with traditional family values children would not support a move or have found the rationale compelling to adopt the Cheech and Chong philosophy.

The disconnect with the tough on crime agenda for the Liberals as you stated like the economy is the Liberals have been talking from both sides of their mouth for too long.

Does anyone believe their current strategy of stealing the NDP platform? Donolo did but they did not have Layton or a dump the Mulroney PC movement with two regional parties (Western Canada and Quebec) to split the vote.

The perfect storm won't be repeating itself. The current leadership have learned the from the mistakes of Mulroney and Chretien.

The AG gave glowing marks on the largest spending program in Canadian history: the Economic Action Plan.

Changing leaders won't help either.

The Liberals almost need a John Turner timeout to flush the deadwood and find some people that can energize the grassroots to return and donate to close the gap with the CPC.

Koby said...

ha ha. I love how you continually talk out your ass. For numbers that low you would have have to go back to the1960s and outside of maybe Japan or South Korea you simply would not find numbers anywhere near that low anywhere in the Western world.
Christ one poll even suggests that more Americans support legalization than oppose it. http://www.economist.com/node/18118857?story_id=18118857 In Canada, over the course of the last 7 years support has held steady. April 2010 53%, May 2008 53% , October 2007 51%, June 2007 55%, April 2004 53%. Opposition, meanwhile, hovers around 40%.

Anonymous said...

Liberals do not need lessons on crime.

The Rat said...

Koby, legalizing marijuana might sound like a winner and might even have the support of the majority of Canadians but is it a question that will drive people to the polls? I doubt it. I doubt most stoners would find the energy to vote (watch that Simpsons episode), but older people might just find that another compelling reason to push the walker into the booth. And just so you know, prostitution is legal in Canada. I think you mean relaxing the laws around communicating, living off the avails, and the bawdy house regulations.

Koby said...

"Liberals do not need lessons on crime."

Damn skippy they do. Ever since Martin decided not to go ahead with decriminalization the party has run around like a headless chicken when it comes to crime.

Pointing out that the Conservatives tough on crime agenda is "dumb" does not make up for years of two faced Liberal policy.

Koby said...

"And just so you know, prostitution is legal in Canada."

I know, but it is de facto illegal and that is what counts.

"Canadians but is it a question that will drive people to the polls?" I doubt it. I doubt most stoners would find the energy to vote (watch that Simpsons episode), but older people might just find that another compelling reason to push the walker into the booth."

Older voters already vote in very large numbers. There is not much evidence to suggest that more would vote. The question is would such a policy cause them to vote differently. On that note I suspect some would change how they voted. That said, seniors show far more loyalty to political parties than do other demographics. So I do not suspect you would see much of a change. On the flip side of the things. The number of young voters probably would increase and a larger % would vote Liberal.

All that being said, I will go back to what I said above. It matters just how an issue will play out. SSM, for example, was a winner for the Liberals not because it was hugely popular with likely voters. In fact more voters opposed it than supported it. However, having the Conservatives drag out dumb arguments day after day hurt the Conservatives badly. By the time SSM debate ended in the summer 2005, Harper, in full village people regalia, and Conservatives were way down in the polls. SSM was Paul Martin's one saving grace and ironically, given that the did not personally support it, his only legacy. Outside, the SSM debate the Martiin government was on the ropes.

CanadianSense said...

If you want to cite a single Poll as proof you should be prepared to campaign on it.

As for insulting posters who don't share your beliefs that it is a vote winner, I can only hope the Liberals take your advice.

Prior to SSM and the swing to the left progressive policies did the Liberals have a larger number of voters?

Non-partisan studies exist that show the people of faith have left the Liberal tent. Catholic voters have been tagged for defeat of the Liberals in their study.

Pushing tax funded abortion this summer and the progressive agenda does have consequences.

Koby said...

"If you want to cite a single Poll as proof you should be prepared to campaign on it."

Come again

I referred to 6 polls, 5 in Canada and one in the US. I said the Canadian polls were remarkably consistent and they. About the US poll I drew no conclusions.

"As for insulting posters who don't share your beliefs that it is a vote winner, I can only hope the Liberals take your advice."

Let us go over this again.

You: "I expect the 18-24 support the legalization of marijuana."

Me: "I love how you continually talk out your ass. For numbers that low you would have have to go back to the 1960s and outside of maybe Japan or South Korea you simply would not find numbers anywhere near that low anywhere in the Western world.
Christ one poll even suggests that more Americans support legalization than oppose it. http://www.economist.com/node/18118857?story_id=18118857 In Canada, over the course of the last 7 years support has held steady. April 2010 53%, May 2008 53% , October 2007 51%, June 2007 55%, April 2004 53%. Opposition, meanwhile, hovers around 40%."

Summary: You were too lazy to look up the real numbers and I called you on it.

"Non-partisan studies exist that show the people of faith have left the Liberal tent."

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is by no means non partisan and as I said before their study was a piece of crap. One look at the 1996 poll they used is enough to cast doubt on their conclusions.

Among decided voters, the 1996 poll showed the Liberals leading the Reform party 45.7% to 24.7 in Western Canada and 58.8 to 8.2 in Ontario. The poll also had the Liberals ahead of the Bloc 49.2 to 33.8 in Quebec and ahead of the PCs 60 to 21.3 in Atlantic Canada. A Year later, this is how things broke down in the 1997 election. Reform finished with 42.8% in Western Canada and 19.1% in Ontario. The Liberals meanwhile captured 27.7% of popular vote in Western Canada and 49.5% in Ontario. The Liberals captured 36.7% of the vote of the popular vote in Quebec and 34% in Atlantic Canada.

There is no basis for considering this poll. It is an obvious outlier.

Koby said...

"Pushing tax funded abortion this summer."

There are about 50 million abortions performed every year. The highest rates are in the former Eastern Bloc countries. The developing world is next followed by the developed world. As a general rule of numb, the higher the number of pregnancies the greater the abortion rate. This holds for the developing world as well as developed world as well. Access to legal abortion is not a very good predictor of the abortion rate. Abortion in Brazil, for example, is illegal, but the abortion rate there is several times higher than the abortion rate in Canada.

A recent UN report noted that "meeting the world's needs for modern birth control would reduce maternal deaths by 70 per cent, family planning would eliminate two-thirds of unintended pregnancies and three-quarters of unsafe abortions." However, until such time as women in developing countries have access to education and contraception, abortion is an issue aid agencies will have to deal with on a daily basis. Talk to any aid agency and you will get the same response. The Harper government's policy will mean worse health outcomes and will not result in any cost savings. It is far more cost effective to provide a woman with a safe legal abortion than it is helping her recover from a backstreet one.

Changing subjects, the delicious irony of the abstinence only sex education programs in the States is that not only do they contribute to teen pregnancy rates that dwarf anything found in Europe, the percentage of US teens having abortions is several times greater than the rate at which European teens are getting pregnant. For example, whereas the rate of US teenage girls getting pregnant is 79.8 and the abortion rate 27.5 per thousand, the rate at which teenage girls are getting pregnant in Holland is 8. 7 and abortion rate is 4.2. Just once I want to hear a anti abortion activist call for robust sex education programs in the States so as to cut down on the number of abortions.

CanadianSense said...

Koby,

I did not use that study. Here is the link this has been funded by Elections Canada and universities.

http://ces-eec.org/pdf/Anatomy%20of%20a%20Liberal%20Defeat.pdf

CanadianSense said...

Koby,

The maternal health policy was about the direct aid to save lives.

That meant safe water, food security and vitamins. The most basic needs.

This issue should have not been used as a stunt from the opposition benches. It backfired trust me.

You are FREE to demand we send abortionists to help them. I think we can save more lives by not repeating the mistakes of the last 40 years.

I am not interested in demanding we require they increase their abortion rates because we feel too many of them exist.

I have no problem with your points about contraception, family planning education but again after 40 years of liberal progressive projects, it may be time for a change to something that might actually work.

http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=83401