The media won't have Christy Clark to kick around for very much longer
The latestpoll from Angus Reid Public Opinion suggests that Premier Christy Clark's political career will come to an end next May, if not sooner.
The numbers are dreadful for the B.C. Liberals, even beyond the NDP's lead of 17 percent among the 804 voters surveyed.
• Clark's disapproval rating is 62 percent.
• Only 15 percent of decided female voters support the B.C. Liberals, compared to 53 percent who support the NDP and 21 percent who say they'll vote Conservative.
• NDP Leader Adrian Dix was deemed best suited to deal with crime, health care, the economy, the environment, education, and federal-provincial relations.
• In the past three months, the perception of Clark worsened among 47 percent of respondents, whereas only 11 percent said their impression of her improved. Dix, on the other hand, improved among 23 percent of voters and worsened only among 17 percent.
Angus Reid Public Opinion gave Clark a momentum rating of -36, whereas Dix's momentum rating clocked in at +6.
If this is anything like a plus-minus rating in hockey, the B.C. Liberals would be trying to trade their captain.
Clark's propensity for gimmickry hurt her
So why has Clark fallen so flat on her face since becoming premier early last year?
We can point to numerous instances where she appeared to misread the public mood.
Clark's eagerness to embrace the Vancouver Canucks—showing up on TV in hockey jerseys—at the start of her premiership came across as a little crass and silly, particularly to some higher-income, well-educated voters whom she needed to retain.
Dix, on the other hand, said at his first news conference as NDP leader that even though he liked the Canucks, the media wouldn't see him parading around in hockey uniforms.
It was a small thing, but it set the tone making Dix appear to be the candidate of substance, whereas Clark looked like a politician more interested in gimmickry.
This continued after the Stanley Cup riot, when Clark got the bright idea of televising the trials of the kids involved. This notion was ridiculed by many lawyers, and Clark's justice minister, Shirley Bond, had to backtrack.
Clark's slogan "Families First" also reeked of gimmickry. This was especially so when the NDP Opposition contrasted the phrase with how Community Living B.C. was treating families with mentally disabled children.
The latest gimmick occurred when Clark appeared on the evangelical Christian TV show 100 Huntley Street. After all these years in the public eye, voters learned that Clark is a bit of a Bible thumper—making it look like she's just pandering to the Christian Right.
The B.C. Liberal government's advertising campaign to sell the harmonized sales tax also smacked of manipulation. The little stick men and the condescending tone of the messages got pretty irritating after a while.
And Clark's refusal for most of the school year to make any compromises with teachers—even though their constitutional rights had been trampled on—came across as mean-spirited and unreasonable.
Campbell's shadow hurt her
But perhaps the greatest problem facing Clark is that she failed to recognize how much the public despised her predecessor, Gordon Campbell.
Clark continued supporting the harmonized sales tax, which Campbell rammed through with zero consultation, devastating small restaurateurs across the province.
And Clark refused to give any indication that she or the B.C. Liberals were sorry for Campbell's greatest sins, including the highest child-poverty rate in the country, the sale of B.C. Rail after promising to keep it, and his constant kowtowing to the corporate sector.
In retrospect, Clark would have had more success had she vehemently demonstrated that she disapproved of how Campbell ran the province. But she didn't disapprove of Campbell's approach—that was obvious to anyone who listened to her radio talk show before she re-entered the political fray.
It's extremely challenging for provincial politicians who take over parties after their predecessor's rule has created widespread opposition.
Most of them fail. Woodrow Lloyd couldn't keep his party in power in Saskatchewan after Tommy Douglas left office. Rita Johnston's Social Credit was annihalated after Bill Vander Zalm departed. Ujjal Dosanjh couldn't save the B.C. NDP after Glen Clark was forced out.
There are exceptions to this trend. Ralph Klein managed to keep his Progressive Conservatives in control of Alberta—but only after running against the previous Progressive Conservative government headed by Don Getty.
Christy Clark, on the other hand, never left the public with any impression that she was prepared to do things much differently than Campbell. And that's why we're likely to see more political epitaphs in the months to come.
Shades of Nixon?
After Richard Nixon lost his campaign for governor of California in 1962, he lambasted the media for being against him.
"Just think how much you're going to be missing," the candidate told reporters. "You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore because gentleman, this is my last press conference."
Clark recently indicated at a B.C. Liberal party barbecue that she's also pretty fed up with the media coverage she's received.
Somehow, Nixon managed a Lazarus-like recovery, eventually winning the presidency in 1968. However, it's hard to imagine Clark ever pulling something like this off, given her standing in the latest Angus Reid opinion poll.
Richard Nixon lets loose on the media.