Wouldn’t it be nice if it was the case that the candidate of our choice was motivated by a “need to serve,” “a need to do something for us” or just a plain, Google like slogan, “not to do any evil.” I suppose that’s just me. Most people, I suspect, don’t care for much more than “what will this person do for me.” I the absence of anything more substantive it, of course, helps if the candidate has a refreshingly superficial physicality about their person. Looks tend to create the excuse for not doing the hard research into an aspirant’s actual qualifications to deliver on promises. Research is hard work and most of us would rather devote our time to other, less tiresome, pursuits. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was the case that the candidate of our choice was motivated by a “need to serve,” “a need to do something for us” or just a plain, Google like slogan, “not to do any evil.” I suppose that’s just me. Most people, I suspect, don’t care for much more than “what will this person do for me.” I the absence of anything more substantive it, of course, helps if the candidate has a refreshingly superficial physicality about their person. Looks tend to create the excuse for not doing the hard research into an aspirant’s actual qualifications to deliver on promises. Research is hard work and most of us would rather devote our time to other, less tiresome, pursuits.
Rand Paul wants to run America in 2016 and he will not shrink from any hypocrisy, no matter how obvious, because he is tired of being just a plain old senator and common variety ophthalmologist. He wants to run things because it might be lots of fun. Is he qualified to run America? Yes, much more so than, say, Sarah Palin, or Alfred E. Newman, but less than George W. Bush, and we know what happened during his sinecure. That he might switch positions from libertarian to moral watchdog as easily as he switched from stolid anti-vaxxer to committed vaxxer, is a testimony to how he sees these political races as being between pure hypocrites and clever pure hypocrites.
Canada, I wish I could firmly affirm, is different. Meritorious, uber qualified, altruistic are not, alas, adjectives which best describe that country’s wannabe leaders. Let me be clear: we are all, even saintly me, driven by self-interest. Politicians are not alone to be saddled with this evolutionary baggage. But, is it too much to ask that they also be qualified for the positions they seek, so as to limit any damage they might do? This doesn’t, of course, ensure that a qualified leader will not harm their constituents. Herbert Hoover, Boris Yeltsin and others come to mind. But qualifications, even if they offer no guarantees, do confer some small advantage over ignorance, particularly if a politician is serious about minimizing harm.
The choices in Canada may be a little better than those of its immediate southern neighbour but they are still lamentable. Of the three main candidates for Prime Minister in the next election, there are two who are, at the very least, qualified to run a government. Whether we agree with their politics is another matter. That is fair game. Whether they will follow through on their promises made to entice voters is also beside the point. We’d like them to do so, but we’d also like to think they are qualified to do so if the unlikely happens.
Stephen Harper, the incumbent, while quite ruthless in his politics and openly disdainful of democracy, as evidenced in the way he tried to undermine the Supreme Court and the Chief Electoral officer, is at least moderately qualified to lead. He has experience, and education, even if no national vision, as his politics are principle free. He brooks no opposing views, exercising an iron control over independent thought in his party. He will do and say anything to further the interests of his party and, by extension, his own, such as knowingly repeat untruths, as he keeps on doing when he claims the official opposition wants to impose a carbon tax , a claim that has multiple times been debunked. But, in the end, while I would never vote for him, I can at least point to him with but only moderate embarrassment, as my leader.
Tom Mulcair is also qualified but mistrusted because of the deeply left dogmatism among many members of his party. People might like Tom, even if they have to wink at his mercurial personality, given to angry outbursts. They just don’t think he can control the strong-willed left extremists that still call his party home. This is too bad, as Mulcair seems to have his driven self-interest layered with some decent principles. Fighting against income inequality, for transparency and social safety nets and ensuring an independent (of America) foreign policy are all strong suits for governing a western democracy. His cozying up to the sovereignists to score electoral points in Quebec, where most of his party’s seats are held, is definitely a red light indicator that self-interest has laced his principles with at least some intrigue. But he is experienced, educated and ultra articulate and, so, qualified to run a country.
Finally there’s Justin Trudeau. Would I be embarrassed to point to him as my leader? Absolutely. It is unknown to me whether he is striving to become Prime Minister out of pure self-interest or has just been manipulated by even more cynical members of his party who believe his name alone will help the Liberals regain their status as Canada’s natural ruling party. He is, from any standpoint, wholly unqualified to lead a country (other than, perhaps, a small, depopulated, desert island). He has little education, is an intellectual dwarf, has no relevant experience and gives speeches that sound like auditions for drama roles in upcoming productions or, at best, high school essay contests. This, on top of a complete inability to think on his feet. He attracts to his cause those whose only goal, it seems, is to have positions of power and influence. Melanie Joly and Eve Adams come to mind. The former, a high powered marketer, ran for mayor of Montreal in the 2013 elections and, in spite of her insistence that she was in municipal politics for the long haul, very soon after her defeat she left for other pursuits. She clearly thought it would be fun to run a major metropolis because I can’t imagine that she was driven by all the wonderful things she could accomplish for her constituents. Now she thinks it would be fun to represent a bunch of people in the federal parliament and her friend Justin is just the chap to help her out here. And there’s Eve, another grasping candidate personally welcomed by Justin to join his crusade to redeem Liberal fortunes and, I suppose, his own. Eve, a committed conservative, forever faithfully towing the Harper government partly line, suddenly finding herself abandoned by the Conservatives, overnight became a zealous Liberal. And so it goes.
If all this wasn’t so bloody predictable, if not outright hilarious, it would be depressing. Is it a sign of decay that we, like the Romans and Greeks, have so many unqualified people battering down the doors to leadership? That there are the unscrupulous trying to curry favour so as to advance personal, driven self-interest, is not in itself an omen of decline. Self-interest and not altruism, is the norm. It is where evolution has taken all of the planet’s species, not only humans. What is worrisome is that there seem to be so many more of them, fearlessly displaying utter disdain for the damage their unsuitability for high office might cause. We have always had to make the choice, in electoral contests, among the least of all evils, but those evils, in our times, seem to be fast approaching a nadir. Or, is it only me?