Elizabeth May tweets of Redford, “She’s a smart woman in a tough business.”
I’m feeling mildly Shakespearean. Last night I tweeted that the PC Party’s new slogan should be, “Et tu, Brute?” Today I’m reminded of Marc Antony’s line: “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”
This rant is not about Alison Redford, who announced her resignation as premier last night effective this Sunday night — except to puzzle, as an aside, “Who gives four days’ notice?” Besides, we’re told, she plans to stay on as the MLA for Calgary-Elbow. This rant — to continue the Shakespearean theme — is less about Caesar and much, much more about Brutus and Cassius and the rest of the plotters.
As I write this, the PC caucus is meeting and an acting premier could be selected and frankly, I don’t care who they pick. Tweedle-dee…Tweedle-dum…it makes no difference. Within six months, that seat-warmer will have been replaced with yet another leader selected by the membership of the PC Party. Remarkably, the PC Party has been in power in Alberta for 43 years, through five premiers and only one of them — Peter Lougheed — left the job before being pushed out. Everyone else — and remember, these were serving premiers, not opposition leaders who led their parties to electoral defeat — was stabbed in the front by their own party!
(I especially note the quaint PC Party tradition of giving their doomed leader a standing ovation mere hours or days before plunging their daggers. They did it to Klein in 2006. They did it to Stelmach in 2011. They did it to Redford on the weekend. When it comes to infighting and internal dissension, Progressive Conservatives have a disturbing tendency to bury the hatchet right between the leader’s shoulder blades.)
Ralph Klein lasted fourteen years in the job before the party faithful turned on him. Ed Stelmach lasted five. Alison Redford lasted two-and-a-half.
At this rate, the only way the next PC leader makes it to Election Day before they get thrown under the PC Party bus is to call a snap election. They’ll never survive til 2016!
Healthy political parties in power, still in touch in with their values and vision and remembering that the point of being in power is to serve the people and to try and leave the world a little better than you found it, tend to stick with their leader until one of two things happens. Either the leader says, “I’m stepping down” or the party loses power in an election.
Sick political parties in power tend to turn on their leaders at — and sometimes long before — the first sign of trouble. Why? Because sick political parties in power stand for nothing other than remaining in power at any cost. They’ve lost touch with their values and vision and have forgotten that the point of being in power is to serve the people.
Hunter S. Thompson is alleged to have once said of radio (and there’s no evidence he actually did say this, but it’s still a helluva quote): “Radio is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway full of pimps and thieves where good men die like dogs. There’s also a dark side.”
He could have said that about politics, too. Our higher nature is public service. But the “tough business” to which Elizabeth May refers is full of ambitious, competitive, adversarial people. When a political system is made up of two or more parties of comparable strength, it works relatively well (although raucously) because the system provides politicians of all stripes with opponents with whom to spar. When one party has been in power with lopsided majorities for decades, the fighting is internal. It gets more frequent, and bloodier, the closer the Natural Governing Party gets to the end of its run. Case in point: the federal Liberals in the 2000s. Case in point: the Alberta PCs today.
As Shakespeare might say of the PC Party at a time like this, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in ourselves.”