Gregor Robertson's "angry old men" remark makes sense in light of Vision Vancouver narrative
One of the most telling moments in this year's civic-election race came at the Vision Vancouver annual general meeting last month.
In a prepared speech, Mayor Gregor Robertson castigated the opposition NPA as a party for "angry old men".
The Vancouver Courier's Allen Garr, a self-described old white man who's occasionally angry, characterized the mayor's comment as a "racist, sexist and ageist assault".
I would argue that it's part of a well-crafted Vision Vancouver marketing plan designed to create a divide between itself and its primary opponent, even though the two parties agree on many issues.
Yesterday, I wrote a column about how Vision Vancouver is creating a narrative that the NPA represents a throwback.
I mentioned how NPA president Peter Armstrong is a central character in Vision's spin campaigm.
The governing party is trying to scare progressive Vancouverites that a Shaughnessy takeover is in the works—and that Vancouver will take a step backward into the past with the NPA.
Some people misinterpreted my column as an attack on Armstrong because I wrote that he's rich and he looks rich. That's not the point. It's that Armstrong's appearance, ethnicity, age, and wealth fit into Vision's overall storyline.
Vision leaders are smart enough to realize that in an increasingly diverse Vancouver, there are far fewer angry old white men as a percentage of the population as there were in the NPA's heyday from the late 1930s to the 1990s.
By raising the spectre of angry old men returning to power under the NPA, Robertson has sent a message to a majority of Vancouverites that the opposition party isn't like them. It suggests the NPA is backward-looking, not forward-looking.
Of course, the "angry old man" comment will elicit a backlash in the Vancouver Courier, which reaches an older demographic. But imagine how Robertson's message is playing out in the editorial offices of Sing Tao, Ming Pao, the Indo-Canadian Voice, and all those Philippine and Korean newspapers? Some are probably smirking a little bit over Robertson's chutzpah.
It doesn't help the NPA that its caucus is entirely white and that Vision's caucus, on the other hand, has far more diversity.
The NPA's board of directors appears to be dominated by Armstrong and Rob Macdonald, a wealthy, older, white, and sometimes angry rich guy. So why wouldn't Vision want to try to drive that point home about angry old men?
Vision's slogan is "Keep Vancouver Moving Forward". Forward, as I've pointed out before, was also the slogan of the Obama campaign in 2012.
Obama was decisively reelected with the help of nonwhite voters, who responded favourably to shrewd political marketing aimed at Americans of Hispanic, Asian, and African descent.
Meanwhile, the NPA has added a slogan on its website: "Your Vancouver. You Deserve a Voice."
It's designed to highlight Vision's often high-handed approach to governing, in which Robertson's party makes decisions before seeking true input from the public.
There's some mileage to be made in this sales pitch, given how neighbourhood groups have launched various court actions in response to decisions by the Vision-controlled council and park board.
But the NPA could have gone further to defuse Vision's messaging by choosing a mayoral candidate who was not white, not old, not angry, and not male. Given the likelihood that the party is going to anoint former Vancouver Sun managing editor Kirk LaPointe at the top of its ticket, the NPA board has probably missed an opportunity to destroy Vision's framing before the campaign officially began.
Between now and election day, lots of money will be spent by both parties to drive their respective marketing messages home.
In the meantime, the other parties—including TEAM, COPE, the Greens, the Cedar Party, and Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver—won't have nearly as much money to devote to splashy, slogan-filled marketing campaigns.
The danger of big money is that it turns elections into two-party races.
If Vancouver had a ward system like most other cities in Canada, this wouldn't be such a problem because independent candidates would have a chance to get known within their neighbourhoods.
In citywide contests, that's not possible.
Of course, a ward system is the last thing that the oligarchs and their preferred parties want.
That's why you'll never hear a peep about this from Vision Vancouver or the NPA during the 2014 election campaign.