Sunday, October 19, 2014

Greg Clark–Politicians and the Importance of Optics

There is an optical illusion about every person we meet. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician's objective. Election and power are. - Cal Thomas

I was speaking to someone the other day about politics in the 21st century and we were reminiscing fondly of a time when politicians steered clear of obvious conflicts of interest, perceived biases and the like.  While we often believed they were dirty or up to no good, we gave them the benefit of the doubt until someone marched forward with proof to the contrary and the politician faded into obscurity.

In the 21st century, politicians seem to take a different tact, not only not caring about how they are perceived but almost daring the electorate to say anything about specific thorny issues or in some cases, actively shouting down those who dare raise the spectre that something might be amiss. Examples such as Hillary Clinton’s involvement with Benghazi come to mind.

A little over a week ago, I mused about Greg Clark, head of the Alberta Party, where I wondered if his message of being different than other candidates was authentic or just old spin from a new politician.  That post can be found here - Greg Clark–A Refreshing Change Or Just Another Politician?

In that post, I explained how I was intrigued and disappointed in how his words and his actions did not appear to be in congruence and I couldn’t figure out whether he represented a refreshing change that is desperately needed in the political arena everywhere or if he was just another politician telling us what we wanted to hear so he could get elected.

Like many politicians, I found myself sitting on the fence, wondering if I could classify Mr. Clark as an authentic, refreshing change or more of the same and then I noticed this poll.

Alberta Party poll

The poll shows Mr. Clark in a dead heat with the PC and Wildrose candidates, something I was intrigued by.

And then I noticed this little piece of information.

The poll was conducted by a small company in Calgary called BBOLD Public Relations.  That fact in itself doesn’t mean much until one examines things a little more closely and realizes that that organization once had an employee in common with the Greg Clark campaign.

That person is Stephen Carter, now a senior member of the Clark campaign and former President of BBOLD as noted on his LinkedIn profile.

Stephen Carter LinkedIn

When I tweeted about how intriguing and disappointing the optics of this presented, especially in absence of a truly independent, unbiased poll, some members of his campaign team responded asking me if I was making a judgement on his character.

I didn’t say it.

They did.

Mr. Carter himself responded with this tweet:

Stephen Carter tweet - .@HarryTucker @GregClark4AB Not sure what you are implying? Or why?

The response is disturbing because with it, I can’t tell if he isn’t smart enough to know the difference that proper optics makes or if he believes that I’m not smart enough to see through the lousy optics that this presents.

As we all know, statistics can be bent to anyone’s will.  They are often most (or only) believable when produced by people who have nothing to gain by what the data suggests or implies.  As a long time math guy on Wall St., I know only too well how to use data to manipulate public opinion.

And given this, it suggests to me that once again, politicians would rather brazen their way through lousy optics than avoid them in the first place.

The Bottom Line

When I made an observation about the optics of this poll, I wasn’t suggesting or implying anything about the character, morals or ethics of Mr. Clark as some people in his campaign suggested I might be.

However, when you don’t know someone personally, the only way you can attempt to understand who they are and what they represent is by the optics that they present to you as they attempt to define the interpretation of themselves that they would like you to have.

This should therefore serve as a warning that we need to be careful about the company that we keep.  Sometimes while we may be of strong character, the character we project is actually that of those who project it on our behalf.

And I think his campaign has a ways to go if his campaign dares to suggest that he represents a new wave of truth, honesty and transparency because from where I sit, he is starting to look a lot like the rest of the field – something we don’t need.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood.


PS Someone on Twitter shared this with me.

Twitter response - Consider these optics: 1.BBold is a PR firm, not pollster. 2. BBold founded by Carter. 3. He has often push polled in past

It raises many questions.

I leave it to you to find the answers.

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.