Claypool: Why The Red Tory Theory Of Politics Always Fails

Written By Wyatt Claypool, Posted on July 12, 2023

It shouldn’t have to be said after the disastrous Red Tory-engineered Conservative election campaigns in 2019 and 2021 that the Red Tory theory of how politics works is simply wrong. Regardless of the fact I shouldn’t have to do this, it seems like I, an admitted political amateur, may need to explain the basic logic as to why Red Tory campaigns are not compelling to Canadian voters. 

Fred Delory, the Conservative’s national campaign director in 2021, in an interview with the Hill Times, where the question was posed whether “Is Poilievre’s leadership all hat and no cattle?” which Delory effectively answers through what seems to me to be poorly-informed assumptions.

The idea being asserted is that despite the Conservative Party being far ahead of the Liberals in fundraising, and holding a moderate lead in polling, the past five by-elections somehow demonstrate Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has a problem expanding his voter base. 

Delory claimed in the interview:

Opposition parties are supposed to be adding to the vote total, not subtracting…We’re trending in the wrong direction. Right now, everything we’re seeing nationally and what we should be feeling is a surge to the Conservatives. Our leader has been everywhere. He’s doing a great job getting out and the party, national polls, how it’s doing well. But sadly, when people get into the voter box, they’re not voting for us.

This is an entirely silly criticism as all five byelections that have taken place since Poilievre became the CPC leader in October 2022 have all been safe ridings for the party that previously held them. This means the Conservatives seemingly underperforming in Winnipeg-South, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, and Mississauga—Lakeshore is far more reflective of the fact the Conservatives aren’t willing to throw good money after a race where there is little chance to win. 

Even in Oxford byelection, where the Conservatives margin of victory fell from around 27 percent to just 4.5 percent, the result is far more reflective of local Conservative nomination issues than any indication Poilievre is not appealing to more centre voters. 

Just look at all of Pierre Poilievre’s recent visits to typically Liberal strongholds like Newfoundland and Labrador where he is able to pack community halls with supporters, something Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole could likely never do. 

In spite of the obvious success Poilievre has brought to the Conservative brand, Delorey and another unnamed senior Conservative are doggedly pessimistic.

Delorey at one point speculated that:

We’re potentially missing the target on who we’re trying to get out to vote for us, our leader’s negatives are very high, and he needs to find a way to tackle that…He was very, very good at mobilizing certain segments of the population to support [him] for the leadership, and maybe he can get them out to vote in an election. But is there a turn-off from other voters? Are we losing voters on the other side of it? That’s a big concern.

The Hill Times also interviewed Dan Arnold, a former Liberal campaign strategist, who claimed that Poilievre was catering to the “far-right” and that will hurt him in a general election:

Arnold said:

Every time Pierre Poilievre puts out a shareable video that is catering to the fringe far-right extreme, there’s a risk for him that his words will get put back in his mouth in the next election campaign.

I would challenge Arnold to find a Poilievre quote that would actually drive voters away from voting for the Conservative Party. If his quotes are bad, shouldn’t the constant negative coverage of Poilievre by the harpies in legacy media have sunk the Conservative polling numbers by now?

Personally, I think most Canadians are very tired of the constant whining by members of the legacy media and left-wing politicians whenever a Conservative says something with the faintest bit of edge to it. 

To go back to a Red Tory, on his way out of Parliament, former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole heavily implied Poilievre was engaging in “performance politics” and alienating Canadians by playing to social media algorithms.

The idea O’Toole and those Red Tories and Liberals (but I repeat myself) who agree with him actually think Poilievre is popular online correlates with the idea he is being “divisive” or “polarizing” and hurts the Conservatives’ electoral chances is hilarious.

It gives great insight into the minds of the Red Tories that they actually see putting out popular messaging and taking more assertive stances on fiscal issues and social issues to be poor campaign strategy.

The base of Red Tory campaigning is avoiding polarization at all costs. They believe, evident in the 2019 and 2021 Conservative campaigns, that the Conservative Party should conduct extensive surveys and focus groups, amalgamate all that data, and then use it to generate “the average voter” and try to appeal to that person.

It all seems so sophisticated and scientific, but the problem is “the average voter” does not exist. When you average the views and priorities of thousands of Canadians together you will create a fundamentally unpassionate and apathetic individual.

Because what people are passionate about tends to clash with what others are passionate about, “the average voter” convinced Conservative campaigns to avoid all social issues, offer very limited tax relief, and took bland stances on opposing corruption and being in favour of “good government” which pretty much anyone could agree to. The problem is the same things over 90 percent of Canadians agree on also tend to be issues that don’t galvanize people to support the Conservative Party.

The issues that do galvanize Canadians to support the Conservative Party are inherently polarizing, same with the issues the Liberals, NDP, Greens, and Bloc take on. 

Voters support parties that share their passionate views on the issues.

When O’Toole backed off his promise to scrap the carbon tax, repeal the gun ban, oppose the Liberals’ radicalism on social issues, etc, Canadians saw little benefit to voting for the Conservatives, other than to get rid of Justin Trudeau, which proved to be too shallow of a reason to drive a Conservative victory. The only time O’Toole projected passion was when he declared “We’re not your dad’s Conservative Party” after listing all of the ways he was as liberals as Justin Trudeau.

Despite what supposedly-conservative commentators like Andrew Coyne say, nobody cares Erin O’Toole released a 50-page platform during the 2020 leadership race. Voters like that Poilievre passionately advocates for a smaller government vision for the country and cuts out all the Red Tory hedging of his predecessor.

O’Toole projected a bland managerial personality and vision, and unsurprisingly voters didn’t show up for him. I guess his policy proposals weren’t long or detailed enough…

Voters do not care how wonkish and detailed a campaign’s policy is. If the policy is not compelling and doesn’t craft a grant vision for the country, they won’t show up to vote for it. 

Some may try and point to Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s overwhelming victory in the 2022 provincial election, and claim his middle-ground approach to politics is successful. This ignores that his Liberal and NDP opposition were so disorganized and unpopular, Ford’s PC government didn’t win the election as much as his opposition failed to show up looking presentable. 

Simply put, passion wins elections, not focus group-tested corporate messaging. Will the Red Tories strategists learn this? Probably not, but they wouldn’t continue to be Red Tories if they learned from their mistakes. 

Wyatt Claypool

Wyatt is a student at Mount Royal University, where he is the president of its Campus Conservative club. In his writing, he focuses on covering provincial and federal politics, firearms regulation, and the energy sector. Wyatt has also previously written for The Post Millennial.

One response to “Claypool: Why The Red Tory Theory Of Politics Always Fails”

  1. Unknown knowns says:

    Completely right.

    Nobody likes red tories even red tories (liberals) hate red tories.
    They are just useful pawns. The losing court jester that makes a pretense at democracy.

    Just like before Harper that liberal stranglehold was created by weak red tories and the assent of the Reform party.

    If you are going to vote conservative why vote for Trudeau 2.0?