I was pretty jazzed all day yesterday for the first debate of the Long Campaign.
I knew better than to be excited, but still I was – like a football fan on Super Bowl Sunday, I hoped that despite all the letdowns in the past, maybe this one would be good.
But these ritualized events, which have come to be considered so pivotal to the success or failure of campaigns, are now so thoroughly scripted and focus-group-tested and rehearsed and strategized that every moment, every utterance, every careful hand gesture and dead-eyed practiced grin feels nakedly manipulative.
And so it was last night. There were a few moments of actual substance – for instance, Elizabeth May pressed Thomas Mulcair relentlessly on the NDP’s position on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, pointing out the inconsistencies in his position (he had earlier complained that the process for deciding on whether to proceed with the pipeline was fundamentally flawed, but then took the stance that the government should wait and see the results of that process before making a decision). But for the most part, the spectacle consisted of Harper, Mulcair, and Trudeau trying to define themselves along the lines their respective parties’ brain trusts think they ought to be defined, and May fighting tooth and nail to get a word in edgewise.