The New Politics: Politicians Who Defy Media. A Press Too Self Involved To Notice.
The Alberta election has ended, and Jason Kenney has won a decisive— if not crushing— majority for his new United Conservative Party. However you parse it, by getting over 50 percent of the votes he’s received a decisive mandate to negotiate on behalf of the economically crippled province. The bomb bay doors have swung open.
How could this happen? Wasn’t Kenney the Satan spawn of Stephen Harper? A man with the charisma of a Keurig machine? A pit bull’s pit bull? And yet…
This unflattering portrait of man who’s united a fractured conservative movement and crushed the NDP in his first go in Alberta has the pundits puzzled. They have noted that Kenney follows a pattern of no-nonsense politicians elected recently (or leading in elections). They point to Doug Ford in Ontario, president Donald Trump in the U.S. and even socialist Bernie Sanders, the leader in polling for the 2020 Democrat nomination, as other unflinching prophets of grim determination.
All of them have refused to take a backward step , they have declined to apologize. Most crucially they have refused to play by the rules imposed by the modern media agenda of social justice, celebrity spokespeople and woke protest. They don’t bother to disagree with these memes. They simply ignore them and move on. Which looks like authenticity in the public’s eyes.
Aren’t we supposed to be inspired by or leaders? Um, maybe not. Despite the infatuation with Sunny Ways Justin Trudeau and the resurrection of Flower Power 60s throwbacks in the United States, voters seem to be saying that no-frills politicians are in vogue. The savagery of social media and the slavish progressive devotion of the intersectional culture have made old-fashioned straight talkers seem… authentic.
Indeed, Kenney has all the charm of a receiving clerk at an emergency ward. He speaks to cold calculation and political savvy. There was no slick word play, no shout outs to Hollywood in his acceptance speech. Just a shopping list of conservative homilies plus a defiant cri de coeur from a wounded community that feels abandoned by its partners, especially Quebec.
His signature moment during the campaign may have come with his refusal to adopt the media narrative over bimbo eruptions from members of his party. Given multiple chances by radio host Charles Adler he declined to dismiss the candidate Mark Smith who’d ventured into the minefield of social politics. He wasn’t going to pretend gay/ straight alliances were the defining issue of the election.
In many respects Kenney’s stubborn stance echoed the tone from those other outsiders, Ford, Trump and Sanders. All have defied the status quo imposed by intersectionality politics.. They live… no, they thrive as outsiders. They are not party politicians in the sense we’ve seen them before.
The current Trudeau government’s embrace of corrosive “white supremacy” speaks to its exasperation in getting Kenney talking on their bullet points, not his.
If anything the success of these politicians is an indictment of this current media/ activist alliance. Trump drives his opponents crazy for many reasons. But his staunch refusal to play the values game with the media has left them punching at air. He won’t engage on their terms. Trump uses Twitter to go over the heads of the establishment media figures— both Democrat and Republican. The bitter salvos of David From on the right and Rachel Maddow on the left land with a dull thud in an empty field.
Likewise, the Ford brothers Rob and Doug have employed the same tactic in playing to their base. Despite the Toronto Star’s attempts to sow opposition with endless appeals to racial division and climate oblivion, Doug Ford conquered the Family Compact’s hit squads to win a majority government in Ontario.
While the self-avowed socialist Sanders comes at his politics from the left, his attitude is as unrepentant as Trump’s. His appearance this week on a FOX TV town hall appalled the Resistance pearl clutchers. But it was vintage Bernie, taking no one’s advice and engaging the enemy on his own ground. He is master of his own boat— a fact that his rivals cannot challenge.
So as we head into the fall federal election and the insanity of 2020 it may be time to recognize the dawn of a new politics. A disengaged dialectic. Politicians who ignore the media. And a press corps too self involved to even notice.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of his website Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available.