Saturday, June 29, 2013

Politics and the Fortuitousness of Calamity

Many have conjectured that Hurricane Sandy was the best thing that could have happened for President Obama’s re-election bid.  Some claim that his committed support to help the hurricane victims just as the national election in the US was rolling around tipped many on-the-fence voters over to the Democrat side.

People forget that this is what Presidents should do – show support in the time of need.

And if it serves a political need without making it look overly obvious, I’m sure some political pundits would say “Life does have its bonuses”.

The one thing that I appreciated about the President at the time was that he didn’t make his support a Democrat versus Republican thing.

It was the right thing to do as an American and as a human being.

I’m not so certain I see the same level of magnanimity in the actions of Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party.

The town of High River is in the middle of challenges, heroics, difficulties, frustrations and the complexities of rebuilding.

The official website for High River has been an excellent source of information for the residents as they rise again and move past the disaster that knocked them down momentarily.

The official disaster recovery website for the Alberta Government is also an excellent source of information, providing both its own information as well as links to other sources of information such as the High River site.

And yet I find it intriguing that Ms. Smith is promoting a different site as shown by a tweet she issued yesterday.


When one clicks on (at least at the time this blog was written), one is redirected to Ms. Smith’s political page.


Now it’s true that when one scrolls down, one can see some of the same information that is available on other official sites.

However, the first thing one notes when going to the page Ms. Smith promotes is that it is heavily branded as a Wildrose site whereas the other official sites are politics-neutral.

Also, one’s eye is immediately drawn to the menu on the left.


Now one could assume that the links are for donating to the victims, volunteering to help out people in need during the flood, etc.

However, the donate link takes you here, requesting donations to the Wildrose Constituency Association:


And the volunteer link invites you to volunteer for the Wildrose Party for party events.

I guess people could click on the “reserve a sign” link, to reserve a lawn sign for the next election, but that implies that people have a lawn in High River to stick a sign on or that such things matter at a time when some people face a total loss, including irreplaceable items of family importance.

Ms. Smith is also suggesting on her Facebook page  that people should check out her coverage on Instagram  ….


so I popped over there.


The scrolling images at the top of her Instagram page included some for High River and two criticizing the government and Alberta Health Services as shown above.

Perhaps a new, fresh Instagram account would have been more appropriate that wasn’t bashing the government trying to help the people in need (note the comment on the Facebook page from a Facebook user concerned about Ms. Smith promoting a political and personal agenda and “Danielle Days”).

There’s a dirty little secret buried in this technique

It is a known psychological phenomenon that when one exposes people to specific information when those people are under duress, they are more susceptible to the information they are receiving and can be convinced to be in resonance with said information when they may not have been before.

Variants of this phenomenon, including capture–bonding psychological mechanisms, Stockholm Syndrome, military basic training and other concepts  illustrate the power of this type of technique.

Is the Wildrose Party intentionally using one of these techniques or a variant of them?

I guess it depends on how much credit one wishes to give them.

Maybe they just don’t know the difference.

Neither choice is very complimentary.

What’s sauce for the goose ….

Some Wildrose Party supporters have cried foul when their leader’s actions have been criticized in the last week.  Some have claimed that when she has taken actions that appear politically motivated and other people have pointed this out, that the people pointing it out should be criticized for making this a political event.

I don’t buy that at all.

It’s like saying that when a bully picks on a victim, the victim stands up to the bully and the bully runs around exclaiming that now they being picked on as a result.

Challenges doesn’t change people’s character – it reveals it

Events such as what is happening in Alberta and in especially hard hit areas like High River demonstrate the type of character that our society’s leaders are made of.

When I see grandstanding against groups like the RCMP when they were doing the best they could at the moment, when I see promotion of “the political colors”, etc., I see the creation of divisiveness and the promotion of self over service to others.

And I don’t think that is what anyone needs right now.

For people who claim that for me to say this is in fact creating divisiveness, I refer them back to my bully analogy.

I think that regardless of what a person tells us about their potential as a leader and what their ability / capability to lead is, the truth of the matter is that their actions speak so loudly that we often can’t hear what they say.

I think such actions clearly demonstrate whether a leader actually serves their constituents or pretends to with the intention of self-promotion / self-realization.

I also think these actions and not the words we are spoon fed during election campaigns are what we should use as the basis for choosing the leaders of our society.

And finally, I think that when people fall for empty words instead of making choices based on the actions of others, it  may also be a poor reflection on the people who follow their “leader” blindly.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – Canada Day - 2013

My final observation on Ms, Smith, leaving her to her self-promotion in the midst of the suffering of so many.  People can and should make their own informed decisions regarding the leadership potential of Ms. Smith.

Checking her tweets this morning produces this fascinating mix of tweets.


From top to bottom:

- a bashing of Alberta Health Services for doing their job of ensuring that proper food handling practices are in place (a violation of which could create a MUCH bigger problem in an already bad situation)

- a celebration of Canada Day to show she is patriotic

- a bashing of the RCMP for doing their job of confiscating firearms left abandoned and unsecured (and complaining to the Prime Minister about it)

- a tweet telling people that the website contains today’s important announcements (along with a promotion of the Wildrose Party and an opportunity to donate financially to the Wildrose Party).

While she would never admit it publicly, the disaster in Alberta will serve Ms. Smith nicely when the legislature reopens for its next sitting.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if the gains for her constituents in High River will be as personally satisfying or useful for them as the gains will be for Ms. Smith personally and professionally.

And when people don’t see the connection between a politician’s personal opportunity development on the backs of one’s constituents, it proves the old adage that voters get the representation that they deserve.

Today, we Canadians celebrate our freedoms and our democracy.  Actions such as hers, anti-police, anti-government (including when she suggested to striking corrections officers earlier this year to defy a government back-to-work order) and other such actions look like democracy to some but in some nations appear as an attempt to promote a different form of government.

But I’ll leave that to the conspiracy folks.

Happy Canada Day – better days are ahead for the great people of Alberta!

Addendum – July 4, 2013

I am delighted to see that Ms. Smith’s recent social media posts are now focused on recovery and rebuilding for the great people in High River and less on self promotion.  Whether she changed her messages for political reasons or she and / or her staff realized that earlier messages were inappropriate, the focus has returned to helping the people of High River build a stronger future.  Either way, my concerns as well as the concerns expressed by others probably had some influence, a demonstration that exercising one’s voice in a democracy still works.

Addendum – July 28, 2013

The flooding may be the best thing that ever happened to Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party.  While the party would deny that they are taking advantage of the situation on the backs of citizens who got wiped out, any political strategist would call them foolhardy for not taking advantage of the situation.

In a time of fiscal challenge in Alberta, Ms. Smith is walking the difficult walk of insisting that the government not spend money it doesn’t have while insisting that citizens demand the right to be relocated by the government.

Hypocrite or hero?

Astute or asinine?

Politically savvy or stupid?

We will only know upon historical reflection.

And the history books are written by the victors.

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