Forward-looking B.C. NDP borrows from Vision Vancouver, which leaned on Obama for inspiration

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      Sometimes, it's hard not to feel sorry for the B.C. NDP.

      Even with a caucus brimming with good-hearted and intelligent MLAs, the party repeatedly falls short in B.C. elections, and sometimes by a very small margin.

      Part of the reason is that it often fights campaigns looking in the rear-view mirror of history.

      In 2013, the B.C. NDP leader, Adrian Dix, thought he could defeat the B.C. Liberals by taking the high road like U.S. president Barack Obama did in 2008.

      Dix ended up being savaged by a hateful B.C. Liberal campaign, which borrowed heavily from the latest Republican tactics. Nasty attack ads made Dix look like a gangster. It didn't help that his opponent, Christy Clark, properly sensed anxiety about the economy and hammered this issue at every campaign stop.

      In 2009, Dix's predecessor, Carole James, missed the public mood for more action on the environment. As she was calling for axing the carbon tax, urban voters were increasingly concerned about greenhouse gas emissions.

      In 2005, as former top Gordon Campbell adviser Martyn Brown has pointed out, James was more focused on balancing the books than boosting investments in public infrastructure. The B.C. NDP was caught up in a Milton Friedman-Friedrich Hayek time warp.

      James was undoubtedly driven to this position because she wanted to avoid the wrath of fiscally conservative editorial writers and columnists. And according to Brown, her fiscal conservatism just might have cost her party the election.

      The B.C. NDP is also dogged by the federal party's "loser" image, which was reinforced by the dreadful 2015 election campaign.

      The leader, Tom Mulcair, went out with scripted speeches, teleprompters, and a phalanx of burly security staff, copying Stephen Harper's successful tactics in the previous three elections. Mulcair's chief opponent for the progressive vote, Justin Trudeau, was wading into crowds and taking selfies.

      Who can forget Trudeau's opening-day campaign images from the Vancouver Pride parade?

      Justin Trudeau made new friends at Vancouver's 2015 Pride parade.

      It was really a case of a 1990s-era NDP bubble campaign running up against a 21st-century social-media Liberal juggernaut. No wonder the New Democrats were slaughtered. 

      In military parlance, this is called fighting the last war. The term arose after France tried defending itself against the Nazis with the Maginot Line, which was well-suited for the First World War. But it was useless in the Second World War as Panzer tanks charged through Belgium on their way to Paris.

      This weekend, the B.C. NDP is holding a conference in Kamloops to try to modernize its approach before next May's election campaign.

      It will include an appearance by U.S. journalist Sasha Issenberg, author of The Victory Lab, which has influenced a generation of political fixers to embrace data mining and psychological techniques to increase turnout for their preferred candidates.

      As you can see below, there's also a big focus on social media.

      It seems to be working. The hashtag #BCNDPforward is trending on Twitter in Vancouver and selfies of the leader, John Horgan, are making the rounds on social media.

      You've got to give B.C. NDP members credit: they're an earnest bunch and they never stop trying.

      But there's a part of me that wonders if in the efforts to modernize, the party could conceivably make the error of looking in the rear-view mirror once again.

      Selfies with the leader were so timely in 2015, but will they seem tired and stale by 2017? The jury is still out on that one.

      Even the hashtag, #BCNDPForward, copies Vision Vancouver's "Forward" campaign slogan in 2014.

      Vision Vancouver ripped it off from the Obama campaign in 2012. It's not the freshest political message in a rapidly changing world.

      At the same time, it's hard to argue with success. "Forward" is a proven winner. And it did inspire one of the more joyful videos of the 2012 presidential campaign, Crystal Lucas-Perry's "Take Us Forward", which helped Obama consolidate support with Hispanic voters and other minorities.

      Crystal Lucas-Perry recorded "Take Us Forward" months before the 2012 election.

      If you liked that one, check out another pro-Obama video below. It's simply called "Forward", and it features Herbie Hancock, Ne Yo, Johnny Rzeznick, Delta Rae, and Natasha Bendingfield.

      "Forward" was posted on YouTube less than three weeks before the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

      Perhaps if NDP Leader John Horgan mixes in some catchy forward-looking music and modern filmmaking techniques, he just might replicate the success of NDP Leader Rachel Notley in Alberta.

      Her party's videos, including the one below, helped rebrand the Alberta NDP in the eyes of younger voters.

      The music is pure Alberta but the quick editing also gave some zip to the NDP campaign.