Politically speaking, Canadians very rarely get statesmen or -women anymore, because we are routinely reminded never to vote for anything other than the highest probability of success.
Recently, for example, former Alberta Wildrose Party leader, Danielle Smith, commenting on the new United Conservative Party and its challenge to the governing NDP, said:
“If this race turns on abortion, gay rights, assisted death, marijuana regulation, it is not going to be successful.”
Scare tactics as usual. As predictable as dusk, Smith’s depiction of political “success” is predicated on the necessary dismissal of all moral arguments, or socially conservative principles. To her (and others), they are losing issues.
Given the general moral climate, of course, this could be perceptive advice. Yet, what does this insight also say, if not that the pursuit of power is more important than addressing a nation’s moral climate?
Interestingly, all this libertarian “pragmatism” talk takes place among politicians who (if one really cornered them) would likely admit that a thoroughly immoral people would be nearly impossible to govern.
Nevertheless, given the trending climate, should any member of the electorate be surprised when we get unprincipled pragmatism (politics as usual), and not principled behaviour from our representatives? Smith, and many others like her, keep telling us that traditional moral principles and political success are mutually exclusive, and we keep believing them.
Then, wonder of wonders, we are somehow shocked to find that our politicians don’t stand for anything. They cross the floor without telling us; they pursue power to the detriment of their own commitments. For a time, we may express some outrage, but we still listen to their counsel and (long after they’re gone, apparently) think it to be wise.
Voters need to wake up to something different. For starters, we should insist upon principle above everything else. When potentially uncomfortable truth becomes more important than mere win-ability, we will have started to think differently. When we begin to look for leaders who can tell us the uncomfortable truth without suffering the wrath of our offence, then, perhaps, the whole system will begin to breathe again.
In the meantime, let us closely watch the Canadian Conservative leadership race this weekend. Particularly, we should watch the strength of the “So-Con” contingent: Brad Trost, Pierre Lemieux, and Andrew Scheer. If conservatives in this country are beginning to wise up, then this contingent will be stronger than what the mocking progressivist critics believe.
Watch this closely, because socially conservative issues are a quick distinguishing factor between the right and the faux-right in Canada. If those who voted actually want some dimension in political life (dare we say some real “choice”), they will have to begin to support those politicians whose moral principles are significant enough to guide them, personally, and significant enough be articulated publicly.
It is the tree that grows in spite of the predominant winds that is the most defiant of all. It may look even gnarled, but it is tough by necessity.
If we want leadership these days, we don’t dare vote for copper wire, but for surgical steel. We vote for people who are dogged enough and defiant enough to resist the cultural temptations that are politically risk-less to adopt.
In truth, very little bravery is required in repeating liberal talking-points these days. It’s positively fashionable to smoke weed, repeat a “diversity” mantra, or to affirm a woman’s right to choose-to-kill. Typical Canadians are, for the most part, non-interventionist: lax and laissez-faire.
Likewise, it takes next to no political courage to tax and spend. It is simply governance as usual. And, as for our own increasingly hedonistic and self-indulgent culture, fawning government can easily buy us off— provide us with the modern equivalents of “bread and circuses”.
This is “feeling the feels”, folks. Our leaders can smile their supportive smiles, and say anything wrapped up in nothing, and we’ll let them get away with it if they’re deemed nice enough.
But to announce something unpleasant, something prophetic, something controversial that actually might offend part of the culture— especially when it’s truth— this is the “losing thing”, the far-too-risky thing.
Paradoxically, however, leadership is formed in a crucible just like this. It is precisely those who would risk offence that actually possess character— who become leaders, not mere ciphers. It is precisely because certain values are politically unpopular, that they who advocate for them have a superior training ground for character.
Or, as G.K. Chesterton once noticed:
“To be in the weakest camp is to be in the strongest school.”
Watch the So-Cons carefully…