One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician's objective. Election and power are. - Cal Thomas
Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant. - Charles de Gaulle
On Wednesday night past, I took a moment to pop over to the candidates debate in the riding of Calgary Elbow for the upcoming Alberta by-election. Whether I am a sucker for punishment or I still seek hope that caring, competent, public-serving politicians can still be found remains to be determined but there was something that intrigued me in what I witnessed.
Susan Wright, representing the Liberal Party was well spoken and served her Party well at the event. It wouldn’t surprise me if she does very well in the upcoming by-election.
Stephanie McLean, representing the NDP, trotted out the typical agenda-less bashing (some of it personal), referring to the government as “corrupt” and a “regime” (with clear use of the word in the derogatory sense) and even going as far as suggesting that her PC Party opponent had entered politics for personal gain.
Gordon Dirks of the PC Party left me shaking my head as to how he could claim that “yes, the PC Party has screwed up many times in the past but now that Jim Prentice and I are in town, we are going to fix everything pronto”. Miracles happen but when one has much of the same team … well …. you know.
John Fletcher of the Wildrose Party left me wondering how one could stumble through a supposed strategy that suggested that he would slash budgets wildly while investing more than any other party. Mr. Dirk’s description of this as a “fiscal fairyland” made me laugh.
Yup …. three of the four candidates offered much of the same old garbage that is always trotted out in debates.
And then there was Greg Clark of the Alberta Party. He answered questions without political rhetoric, techno-jargon, clichés and the like. When it came to answering the question about where the money would come from for future projects, he was the only one who actually stated where it would come from instead of using the typical voodoo, magic, mass hypnosis or rips in the space-time continuum that are often trotted out in such debates.
I gasped when he was so open and honest about what was needed (and he was right). Could it be that there was actually someone in the political arena who was willing to say what might be unpopular but which was actually needed in the Province of Alberta and could do so intelligently, strategically, competently and eloquently?
Could this be the refreshing change that is needed in Alberta politics (and politics in general), presenting a strong blend of public focus and business acumen to lead the Province moving forward?
Just as I thought that Clark did not (refreshingly) represent politics as usual, I saw this on his Facebook feed.
In a single statement, he shifted from promoting a strong agenda to resorting to the land of personal bashing that is so typical of candidates who have nothing else to leverage, promote or fall back on.
Could it be that in the land of democracy, a political candidate was attempting to tell another what he should do and that that person should be considered less of a person just because he didn’t want to do that which was being demanded by another?
If this happened in a school yard, we would call this bullying.
So much for role models.
As someone who has many gay friends whom I love, support and respect, I also wouldn’t appreciate it if someone said “wear this in support of them otherwise you don’t like them”. I have a right to choose who or what I publicly support when I wish to. If I don’t wear such a pin or sticker, it does not mean I don’t support or like them.
In fact, I’m not aware of a direct correlation between not wanting to wear something in support of a cause and proof that I do not support or I am actively against such a cause. To suggest otherwise is a weak-minded supposition on someone’s part …. or is politically useful.
And besides, this is a democracy after all.
So on the one side, Clark seems to represent a refreshing change that is needed while on the other, he falls back to the same old divisive, negative politics that has been part of the US landscape for years and which is now becoming more and more common in the Canadian political arena.
Could it be that Clark is being strongly influenced by the juvenile, self-serving thoughts and musings of Stephen Carter, his campaign strategist?
I hope not. When someone of immense potential taints their offering with the same old negative campaign stuff that others without hope fall back on, it reminds me of splitting an atom.
Do it well and one can produce positive energy forever.
Do it poorly and one produces this:
Unfortunately, explosions this large tend to take out the innocent as well as the guilty, the ignorant and the stupid.
Mr. Clark’s sharp, intelligent responses the other night offer hope that politicians can still be of the people and for the people and to be able to do so intelligently and strategically.
Meanwhile his Facebook post suggests that he has an alter-ego that does not serve all the people so eloquently or intelligently.
I wonder which side, the refreshing side or the same-old same-old side, will come to bear should he get elected.
The Bottom Line
It is not easy to offer one’s self for public service and I commend anyone who has the courage to step up and do so.
However, that being said, once one has stepped forward, the kudos and attaboys should quickly fall second to the important questions of “what needs to be done”, “why are we doing it”, “how are we going to get it done” and “how do we know”.
Because if we can’t do this proactively, strategically and intelligently, then we end up with more of the same old same old, with more valuable time passing by without solutions being offered, with potentially more problems being created and with the electorate becoming more disenfranchised with the political arena.
Many politicians throw many things at the side of the barn to see what will stick and to see if what sticks will resonate with the electorate.
Hopefully what Mr. Clark offers is a refreshing change in the political arena and he is not in fact throwing something else commonly found on the farm.
I think we need the type of refreshing change that Mr. Clark has the potential to represent.
What do you think?
In service and servanthood,
This musing continues here …. Greg Clark–Politicians and the Importance of Optics.
PS This blog is not an endorsement of any candidate present at the debate. However, it is important that we apply an appropriate level of discernment to what political candidates offer otherwise we end up with a variant of this:
If we don’t apply an appropriate level of discernment in candidate selection, we can’t blame them for the results they produce because just as our finger of accusation points at them, our other three fingers are actually pointing back at ourselves.
Addendum – Stephen Carter responds – October 11, 2014
In fairness to people named in my blog, I always share responses that they make.
Stephen Carter shared this:
Personally, if I were responding to this blog post, I would have taken the moment to say something like “we believe that the attributes that you noted about Greg will propel him to victory in the upcoming by-election”. Such a response would have been strategically and politically astute.
However, such a flippant response deserved a flippant reply and therefore I couldn’t resist this little note.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. During a discussion on Twitter a couple of weeks ago regarding the number of student spaces available in Alberta, I asked a serious question regarding how the Alberta Party would pay for their promises regarding education.
My question produced this exchange with Stephen Carter:
Two points come to mind here:
- We should always seize every opportunity to promote or advance our agendas when provided with said opportunity and not cripple our efforts or the efforts of others.
- For Greg Clark – we are the company that we keep. For a politician, making a poor choice can be very expensive, even if the resource detracting from his efforts is “free” as Mr. Carter claims to be.
Addendum – Alberta Party Comes Up Empty – October 29, 2014
The Alberta Party came up empty in all 4 by-elections in Alberta. Oftentimes bravado is better directed towards more strategically positive thoughts, words and actions.
I wonder how honest the Alberta Party will be in its post mortems or if it will get distracted by the “second place is a win” mantra that many people embrace.
Unfortunately, in politics, there is only first place. Discussion of trends, changing momentum and such is often irrational, unjustified, wishful thinking on the part of those who didn’t finish first.