Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why Ignatieff Isn't Popular

There might be a reason why Michael Ignatieff has had a difficult time connecting with voters, and that's because perhaps he's nothing like them. It would be in the best interests of the Liberal Leader and his party if he started acting more like an ordinary guy than just another professor.

Polls have shown that since Ignatieff has become Liberal Leader, even when his party was up in the polls, he has significantly lagged behind Stephen harper and Jack Layton. A possible reason for his low approval rating is that people want a Leader who will represent ordinary Canadians, and Ignatieff is having a hard time showing that he's one of them.

Yesterday outside the House of Commons the Liberal Leader didn't help his predicament and instead strengthened his appearance of an elitist. In speaking about Gilles Duceppe comparing himself to a French resistance fighter, Michael Ignatieff said, in a dry sarcastic tone, it made him want to sing the French national anthem.

In a media scrum speaking about the upcoming Liberal conference, Ignatieff said,

"So we go into the meeting in Montreal with tremendous preparation, I'm looking forward to it enormously. And I came back and there was Mr. Duceppe comparing himself to a French resistance hero, it made me want to sing the Marseillaise, there you go."
Now some Canadians may be familiar with La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France, but it is not hard to imagine that most are not. And it is of course not just the peculiarity of the anthem, it's the very impression of the statement, it sounding as if it was some inside joke among professors. In watching Ignatieff making his comment (Video below) it cannot be helped but to picture him uttering the same line in some mahogany filled university, with a pipe in one hand, a glass of wine in the other, minutes away from a polo game with the boys from Manchester.

Some may criticize this post, suggesting I'm being disloyal to the Liberal Party, I would argue to the contrary. Recognizing flaws is the first step to overcoming them, ignoring them is the first step to creating more.

The reality for Michael Ignatieff is that he is too intelligent. People don't want the best of the best representing them, because those all too perfect beings are too far away to relate to the average person, to know their concerns and their problems. Ordinary Canadians want a representative that is the best, but only the best among them, not some elitist from some distant intellectual plane. Canadians want a leader that is smart but that shares their values, Ignatieff in continuing to intellectually separate himself from ordinary Canadians also separates himself from their values.

The solution for Michael Ignatieff to become more popular, is quite simple, he needs to become more ordinary. I would seriously suggest that Michael Ignatieff spend more time with ordinary Canadians, seeing how they speak, how they work, and how they live.


JF said...


Are we living in the world of Harrison Bergeron or something? Where "ordinariness" is somehow the preferred state of humanity. I don't want Joe Average to be Prime Minister I want Joe Exceptional to be Prime Minister.

I think the worst thing Iggy could do is try to pretend that he's just some Joe Six-pack rather then the incredably intelligent man that he is. I'd much rather vote for someone who comes off as too academic then someone who comes off as too phony.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

JF, I want a bright individual too, but I don't want one that can't connect to people. There's no reason why we can't have an intellectual and an ordinary guy as a leader. Barack Obama is extremely bright but he often speaks in an easy manner. Ignatieff on the other hand often appears to speak to other professors than to Canadians.

Again I'll repeat, you can be exceptionally bright and able to speak in an ordinary manner, Ignatieff just needs to practice on the latter.

Charles said...

Hello Scott
I think it has less to do with his lack of ordinary demeanor and more to do with a certain haughtiness in his manner. Harper is also very detached and in his manner but Ignatieff seems slightly snide and negative even when he is saying something positive whereas Harper (though he is bad), often seems somewhat neutral. Furthermore, I think it is a mistake to think Ignatieff is this immense genius just because he taught a prestigious American universities. We too readily forget about the important role of empathy in human intelligence. And on this scale I think both Harper and Ignatieff score rather low, at least in people's perception. I think this is what made Obama so successful in his campaign, he seems intelligent but also empathetic to others.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Charles I think you touched on a point I ignored. I was using perhaps words that were too broad but I agree he does seem emotionally disconnected. Though I think you're right on that point I think I'm right on mine, and that it is a combination of both.

I do however disagree on the point that Ignatieff is not extremely intelligent. Having had multiple opportunities to speak to him and hearing others as well, I can say safely he is very smart.

Though I think we both have points, I think the main attack by the Conservative Party that Ignatieff is an elitist is tapping a commonly held sentiment. And that I believe is a consequence of comments that Ignatieff has made similar to the one in the video above.

Frunger said...

"Are we living in the world of Harrison Bergeron or something?"

Had to laugh when I read this.

You may not mind Iggy's smug, elitist manner, but you're also in a pretty narrow group of people who know who the heck Harrison Bergeron is.

I had to google it, an I'm a reasonably well read, educated guy. Vonnoget (sp) is one strange bird.

CanadianSense said...

Trudeau didn't play the populist. He didn't hide his education or erudition. When a reporter asked if he had struggled with his conscience before invoking the War Measures Act, he launched into a disquisition about democracy and the rule of law, including a reference to the clash between Creon and Antigone in Sophocles' play. He did not mention Tim Hortons. Even once.- Dave Gardner

CanadianSense said...


There is the link why he is roadkill.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

CanadianSense, I've read various books on Trudeau and various newspapers from his time as Prime Minister I never saw any reference that his intellect ever posed a problem. However with Ignatieff because he lacks connection to ordinary Canadians his education, especially his stint at Harvard gives him an unprecedented elitist appearance.

ij said...

I bet most of the ordinary Hockey-playing crowd at Tim Hortons knows what "The Star Spangled Banner" refers to, so what on earth is wrong with mentioning La Marsaillaise when talking about France? I would argue that if anybody deserves criticism here, it should be those who were never taught what it is, or rather those never teaching them - the anthem of one of Canada's founding peoples after all - rather than Ignatieff for mentioning it.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

LJ perhaps you hold ordinary Canadians higher than I do, but I believe actually there is a poll somewhere that shows a good percentage of Americans don't even know their own national anthem, as there are two anthems that are commonly played, let alone Canadians knowing the American anthem.

But even so, granting your argument, knowing your neighbour's anthem does not necessitate knowing France's. I don't think I'm dumb but I didn't know what Ignatieff was speaking about and judging by the journalists interviewing him, neither did they.

CanadianSense said...


was not a regular, our media did not play gotcha with him.

Leaders don't apologize for yellow journalism.

They adapt. Our media stinks in reporting the issues that matter.

Anyong said...

If Iggnative is supposedly as intelligent as everyone seems to think he is, why is he acting the way he is? Maybe he has too high an opinion of himself. He certainly is not full of wonderful ideas and solutions and that is a "fact". He happens to be a King in waiting. I rather put up with the devil I know rather than a devil I have to get to know all over again.

RuralSandi said...

Funny, when in opposition, Trudeau and Chretien polled very badly. So did Harper - down to 10% in 2004.

CanadianSense said...

Who did they beat?

Joe Clark, Kim Campbell, Stockwell Day, Paul Martin

Charisma challenged?

Ont-Quebec dynamics put lib in power and NDP vote collapsed to give Lib majority.

We don't have the same pattern for the Liberals.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

The reality for Michael Ignatieff is that he is too intelligent.

So basically you're saying that Ignatieff needs to dumb it down for Canadians.

Do you want popcorn and beer with that?

ij said...

Last word (?) re. La Marseillaise: Shame on your teachers! I was educated in the country at which the most bloodthirsty of its words were directed in relatively recent memory ("Qu'un sang impur, May an impure blood. Abreuve nos sillons ! Water our furrows!" - as translated by Wikipedia), but I had to memorize the lyrics as part of my French classes in High School. The tune is stirring, one of the best!

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Joanne could you please tell me where I said he needed to dumb it down? Nerds are too intelligent do they need to dumb it down to be popular?

CuriosityCat said...

You suggest that Ignatieff dumb himself down so that he becomes more popular with voters? I disagree. If anything, he should remove the filters between his real personality and persona and what voters now see, and show himself.Speak about things he believes in, with passion and erudition. Let people see what moves him, let them see the workings of this intelligent man's mind.

And, of course, come out with some decent policies which people can see as an alternative to the drab Harper trinkets-policies.

And then we will see his favourability ratings go up.