Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Judging a candidate by their subject line

“Democracy at stake.”

That’s the subject line of a Liberal candidate, Sheila Gervais. It’s nowhere near the only email I’ve been sent me since I signed up to be a Liberal supporter. But it IS far and away the dumbest subject line to date (hence my singling her out; sorry, Sheila). Democracy isn’t at stake in this or any other developed nation. There’s no one magic version of democracy, anyway. All we have is representative democracy, and a biased version at that: PEI votes count for more than Toronto ones individually, but for far, far less when taken as a total. What people really mean when they say “democracy’s at stake” is that their VERSION of democracy is at stake (the version where only their ideas are voted in, and only their candidates win). This is the kind of alarmist crap I laugh at in American elections.

What about the rest of the candidates? Let’s read some of the other subjects they’ve sent. (I have read all these emails, but first impressions count. Your subject line is where you can make or break the whole attitude of your readership. Like first lines in a novel, you have to snag me right off in a positive way, or I’ll be biased against everything else you write, if I even bother to keep going.) So...

“Country first.”

Can’t complain about that. Patriotic. Understated. Nothing so aggressive as “love it or leave it.” A nice sentiment, even if most of us put almost anything ahead of our nation (friends, family, job, pets, car, Internet connection). Still, when sent by a person hoping to one day lead our country, I heartily approve.

“Expect the unexpected.”

This wins the Second Place Prize for Idiocy. Send me a pat, boring, illogical cliché? Please. You can’t expect the unexpected. If you could, it wouldn’t be unexpected. If this is just a plea to look forward to surprises and shake-ups, it’s equally weak. A few surprises can be pleasant, but most of us love our routine and freak out when things go 100% squirrelly. Thumbs down on this one.

“Got a plan for that?”

Not bad. I’d have been more impressed if they’d just gone with the milk commercial homage and written “Got plan?” but I suppose that could come off as unprofessional.

“Leadership Takes the High Road.”

This was the only one with unexpected capitalization, which I’ve reproduced here. It’s a small thing, but in an email subject line, it grabs you. Other than that odd choice, I had no problem with this as a concept. More accurately, though, it should have read “Leadership Should Take the High Road (But Usually Doesn’t, and Can’t Afford To When There Is Competition).”

“Your input.”

An attempt at inclusion, or a desperate man’s plea for ideas. Your perception depends on whether you’re a fan of Trudeau or not (this was one of his). Since I like him, I think he’s keeping on with his announced intent to try and bring all sorts of people together under the Liberal flag. He was also the only candidate, incidentally, who sent TWO versions of his emails: one with English/French, and the other with French/English. Nice touch. When you’re sensitive about language issues, it’s got to bother you that your language is always listed second.

“Trust. Integrity. Experience.”

High-minded and sort of boring. The oatmeal of slogans: good for you, sure, but it hasn’t got the sizzle of steak and eggs. Also, the potential subject of these three concepts doesn’t match. You offer your trust to a candidate, hopefully the one who has integrity and experience, but all three things can’t apply to the same person from the same direction. Full marks for being positive, though, nicely done.

That’s the crop. Which one would you pick?

EDIT: Marc Garneau dropped out. No picking him now.

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