[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,
Who will win the Alberta provincial election on Monday?
You are putting Dr. Steve in an awkward position. As a high priest of political prophecy, it is of course Dr. Steve’s job to know such things. Dr. Steve’s power of prognostication is what keeps food on the table and fuel in the Learjet. His crystal ball is the magic fountain that funds his lavish lifestyle.
But as to the Alberta election, Dr. Steve has no freaking idea. He understands nothing, lost in a haze as thick as the Calgary atmosphere. These days Dr. Steve is like a hippologist who has just met a talking horse. Nothing is certain and everything seems possible.
UCP Leader Danielle Smith and Rachel Notley of the NDP are, polls have it, neck-and-neck. Notley's platform includes maintaining public health care and creating a new university. Smith's recent headlines have involved past comments comparing vaccine promotion to Nazi ideology, saying she would not wear a poppy on Remembrance Day in protest of public health measures and abusing her authority as premier to go to bat for a hate preacher who blames natural disasters on homosexuality.
This is on top of her earlier promotion of hydroxychloroquine, suggestion that Alberta might be able to ignore federal laws, apparent belief that she had the power to grant pardons and expressed opinion that anything short of stage four cancer is your own damn fault. Smith vs. Notley is not so much about competing visions for Alberta as it is competing concepts of reality.
Yet there they are, neck-and-neck, too close to call. How? Why? Is it too late for Dr. Steve to learn shoe repair? Plumbing is an honourable trade, and people rarely ask whether globalists are plotting to take away your God-given right to flush.
Wait — Donald Trump did indeed do that. Among his favourite speech topics has been the decline of toilet power, with Obama getting the blame and presumably George Soros too. And this is why Dr. Steve is considering a career change. There's a new world order and he has lost his trusty compass.
Back in the day there were Newtonian laws of politics. A pundit could trace a line between gaffe and effect. For each and every display of imbecility, shameless corruption, criminal charges, sexual assault verdicts or gushing expresssion of support for a Russian warmonger, an equal and opposite poll deficit. No more.
Trump, it seems, was an asteroid. Those dinosaurs known to political paleontologists as accountability, ethics, character and fact-based reasoning have perished in the desolate aftermath. Danielle Smith appears to be a political mammal emerging into this new reality, in which nothing is disqualifying.
Or perhaps Dr. Steve is merely nostalgic for an era that never was. Once upon a time American political observers spoke of “yellow-dog Democrats,” voters who would vote for a jaundiced canine if the Dems put one on the ballot. This was back in the day when southern Democrats were considered the party of the lost Confederate cause. Everything from cattle rustling to cannibalism could be winked at as long as the candidate knew who was supposed to sit at the back of the bus. Yellow dogs and dog whistles have long been a part of politics this side of the ocean.
Which is not to say Smith fits that particular profile. Rather her base seems to be that part of the electorate that would gladly stick steel needles into their eyes if Hillary Clinton said it was a bad idea. Smith does not seem to care about your race or creed as long as you believe mainstream doctors are the new Gestapo and that an X-ray of our current prime minister would reveal hooves and a tail. In fact Smith gets some points for saying the UCP candidate who recently compared trans kids in school to a scoop of shit in cookie dough wouldn’t be allowed in the party’s caucus if elected (which she will be). In so doing Smith cleared a moral bar set so low she should be careful not to trip over sleeping badgers, but credit where due. Someday she might even find it in her heart to forgive the Trudeau government for giving hospital beds to irresponsible cancer patients.
All this and the race is still tight. Nonetheless Dr. Steve will do his duty and make confident predictions, such as the gender of the next Alberta premier and the absence of pro hockey in the province for the remainder of this month. Next week he may decide to hang out his shingle in a saner and more predictable line of work. Cat shampooing, perhaps.