Deconstructing Mayor Gregor Robertson's visit to the Biltmore
As far as media stunts go, give the mayor of Vancouver an A. Showing up to perform as a DJ at the Biltmore on Saturday (December 17) made Gregor Robertson appear cool enough to woo the votes of some of the most cynical hipsters in town.
As a musician, Robertson can claim some street cred, having put in a cameo on the tuba on Sunshine Coast songwriter Slim Milkie's debut album.
But let's not kid ourselves. By making an appearance at the Biltmore, the mayor was riffing on an old trick employed by politicians across the ideological spectrum.
One of the highest-profile examples came when Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to humanize himself (if that's possible) in 2009 by playing some Beatles music with Yo Yo Ma at the National Arts Centre.
Steven Harper gets down with Yo Yo Ma.
That prompted an amusing response from Bob Rae, who converted "Let It Be" into "Stephen Harper: He Prorogues". Rae played the tune before becoming leader of the federal Liberals.
Bob Rae can also tickle the keyboards.
Meanwhile back in 2005, former NDP leader Jack Layton entertained the crowd at the annual press gallery dinner with an amusing rendition of "Party For Sale or Rent". It helped endear him to the national reporters.
Jack Layton shows his funny side.
Here at home, the mayor's spin doctors, led by chief of staff Mike Magee, have created a formidable political machine by portraying Robertson as the antipolitician. By doing a mashup rather than playing an old Beatles standard, Robertson came across as fresher and younger than those federal leaders.
But his clever backroom operators should also keep in mind that nowadays, voters are demanding more authenticity from elected officials. This creates the possibility of a backlash if Robertson's younger constituents ever get the feeling that they're being manipulated for the benefit of his political career.
This hasn't occurred yet. But that doesn't mean it won't happen in the future.
Gregor Robertson makes music at the Biltmore.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.