The West Side Washing Machine
Frances: I hope you kids see what a silly waste of resources this was.
Audrey: He worked really hard, Grandma.
Art: So do washing machines.
This scene passed my mind when I read Sean Shaw’s reported post-election analysis of the result of his campaign.
Shaw, who was also defeated by Heidt in 2009, said he was surprised by the defeat. “For me, it’s disappointing that we could put that level of effort in (and lose). Quite frankly, we outworked our opponent completely. In the end, it came down to name recognition,” Shaw said.
Shaw’s defeat surprised some people, including Shaw, but not yours truly.
Leave aside for a moment Shaw’s assertion that he “outworked” his “opponent completely”, because he has no idea how hard Davies and his team worked.
I suspect the bigger problem was Shaw himself.
Allow me to anecdote. I’m a part of our local community association in Hampton Village, and a few months ago both Davies and Shaw were invited to meet the association members and say a few words at one of our meetings. Here’s my paraphrased recollection of Davies’ speech:
Glad to be here. I was born in the neighborhood, my wife is from the west side, her parents still live here. I plan on being here to raise my girl. I was inspired by two councillors from the west side — Maurice Neault, who passed away, and Myles Heidt, who is retiring — and I hope to carry on their work in serving the people of the west side[, etc.]. I’m sorry, but now I have to go. I’m part of a group that raises money and we have a meeting tonight that I’m late for, but I hope to see you around.
Or something like that.
And here’s my paraphrased recollection of Shaw’s pitch:
Hi. I’m not from Saskatoon but I moved here a few years ago to work and decided to stay. Recently, my wife and I were looking for a house and, because I didn’t know all about the west-side stigma, we moved there. We just moved to Hampton Village and looked at a few houses. In fact [and he turned to me], we looked at a house right beside yours, Rob. We ended up buying a different house because that one was too small, didn’t have a lot of windows. Anyways, we’re here now, and we really like the neighborhood …
Again, I can’t recall this exactly, but that’s the impression I got, and I knew then that Shaw would be in quite a tougher ride than he knew.
Davies had no previous experience as a political candidate. He knew that he would have to reinforce his west side roots, as there is a stigma about living in this part of town, and that both long-time residents and newly arrived families would be sensitive to that. So that was his strong suit and, frankly, he played it well.
Shaw, on the other hand, is a little more experienced. He campaigned for himself in 2009 and, from what I remember, worked his butt off then. You’d think that, given his experience on the doorstep, he’s have his campaign pitch down pretty much pat.
But just look at his response. When he wasn’t creeping me and a few others out by indicating he knew where I lived (and, by extension, insulting me by implying my own house, which is almost exactly the same as my neighbors’, would be inadequate for his own needs), he seemed almost apologetic about living in the west side. We all chose to live over here because he thought that it was the best choice available. I’m sure more than a few of us wish we could afford to live in one of the mansions on Saskatchewan Drive or, at least, if we had the option of living in one of the more popular spots in town, like Stonebridge. But we made our choice, and we don’t need to be reminded that there is a stigma about our part of town.
If I were him, I’d crunch the whole “why I live here” bit to simply”I live in Hampton Village”, and then I’d work on discussing local issues or revealing positions I stand behind. He knew Davies didn’t have much of a policy platform other than take care of the roads and make sure services run smoothly. He could have done a lot of damage distinguishing himself using that tack.
In other words, Shaw didn’t get it. He thought the election was all about him, and that if he checked the right boxes — being informed on issues, knocking on all the doors — that would be good enough. But elections aren’t about the candidate; they’re about the electorate. Yes, the more you meet people, the better off you generally are. But if what I saw was any indication of what he said on the doorstep, then there’s no wonder why he lost. Who wants to listen to a guy be self-deprecating about their shared community?
When a politician gets on my doorstep, I want them to listen to my concerns or, at the very least, I want to know where that politician stands on the issues I care about. That’s what matters.
Davies got it, Shaw didn’t, and that’s why Shaw will have to tap-tap-tap away on his blog for the next four years trying to figure out how to oust a sitting councillor.
And that’s perfectly fine by me.