Opinion

Please Advise! How Did Kenney the Scandal King Do It?

Turns out, Alberta’s premier-elect had a trump card: blind loyalists.

By Steve Burgess 17 Apr 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Jason Kenney is the new premier-elect of Alberta. He won the provincial election despite an RCMP investigation into potential criminal behaviour during his UCP leadership campaign. Doesn’t that kind of thing matter to voters anymore?

Signed,

Kenney Get Away With It?


Dear KGA,

Alas, the dark day has arrived. The people of British Columbia must prepare to gather fuel in the forests and burn whatever furniture we can raid from Greenpeace headquarters. Premier Jason Kenney will be turning off the taps. Wise British Columbians have been busy reading Cormac McCarthy novels as research. Now our only hope is that Kenney’s mood will improve now that he has won the prize. Perhaps then he will show mercy.

But why, you ask, did Kenney not suffer greater political fallout from the widely reported allegations of his electoral shenanigans? Recent political trends suggest that such things no longer pack the punch they once did. Yesterday’s political bombshell is today’s exploding soap bubble.

It’s been widely noted that political boundaries seem to have hardened, and loyalty has become the paramount value. Dr. Steve has come to think of political factions as medieval nation-states. The kings and queens of England were determined by bloodlines and occasionally bloodshed. But once the king or queen was in place, the issue was pretty much settled. Those around the monarch could hope to guide their leader toward common goals and against common enemies. But only rarely would things come to such a pass that a monarch was removed as a result of general dissatisfaction. Usually, people just had to drink the monarch’s health, scrape the mud off another turnip, and make the best of it.

This seems true of most political groups now. If every party is a little nation-state facing common enemies, you ride into battle with the leader you have. Should that chieftain prove to be unethical, a crook, or an imbecile, well, wuddyagonnado? Join the enemy? No. You shrug off any and all reports of strange goings-on down at the casino, the massage parlour or the Russian Embassy and soldier on. You’ve got a war to fight.

In the recent Israeli election campaign Benjamin Netanyahu narrowly avoided having to campaign in handcuffs, yet still won. But politics is an intense pursuit in Israel. Its citizens can point to any number of state and non-state entities for whom the destruction of their nation is official policy. Dr. Steve takes no position on whether Netanyahu’s belligerence and open contempt for Arab Israelis is the best way to safeguard the country’s future. But if you sincerely believe Netanyahu is all that stands between you and annihilation at the hands of Iran and Hamas, are you really going to vote against him because investigations have produced evidence of bribery and breach of trust or, for that matter, drowning bags of kittens for sport? Far more likely you will interpret the lawful process of investigation in the same way that Trump supporters viewed the Mueller report — as treasonous.

Ah, Trump. It always comes back to that blue-ribbon pumpkin in the Oval Office. Recent polls have emphasized that he is not very popular at the moment. But in historical terms, Trump is not particularly unpopular either. Two-and-a-half years into his clown-car presidency, his favourable ratings have been hanging around the low 40s. That’s roughly four-in-10 American voters expressing satisfaction with the most reliable source of buffoonery ever to occupy the centre stage of global politics.

Dr. Steve cannot be the only one who watched the horrifying reports of fire at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday and thought, in succession, “Can the great structure be saved?” and “Will President Trump somehow succeed in making this horrible event the occasion for another display of his own boundless idiocy?” Et voila, c’est ici:

One of the most convenient aspects of the Trump regime is that its critics are never forced to dig. There’s always something recent. If the Trump White House were to install one of those industrial safety-type calendars, except to track stupidity — “It’s been X days since the last bit of fatuous, dumb-ass bloviating” — they would have to calibrate it in minutes. And it would rarely climb past 20.

But his troops support him. His approval ratings remain stubbornly stable. Trump is their guy. It matters not whether he’s a dim-witted bonobo — he’s their dim-witted bonobo, and there are libtards to fight. Forward, march.

Seen in that light, allegations of skullduggery against Jason Kenney were never likely to alienate his supporters. Likewise, allegations of sleaziness against Justin Trudeau in the SNC-Lavalin case are unlikely to have a durable effect on his poll ratings, at least among diehard Liberals and the “never-Scheer” voters. (Although the Liberals do have the disadvantage that comes with aiming for the middle ground — support that is wide, but not blindly committed. Trudeau’s missteps may cost him more dearly than politicians like Kenney or Trump.)

Fierce partisanship that ignores any consideration of morality, legality, or aptitude is a stance usually associated with the political right. But be honest — if Donald Trump was running for president against whoever accidentally set fire to Notre Dame Cathedral, who would you support?

As Dr. Steve sees it, anybody can be careless with a Gauloise.  [Tyee]

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