Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sometimes a Cigar is just a Cigar and Sometimes Stockwell Day is Just an Idiot

So I mentioned that a came across a book written about Stockwell Day, and his incompetence; A Requiem For a Lightweight, by Trevor W. Harrison in 2001, after Day's fall from grace.

Some excerpts are cached online, and you can even read all of chapter one here.

But the book gives us a lot of insight into this former Alliance leader, and begs the question, how in the heck did he ever get to the position he has? Since when has a high school education and a life of radical evangelism, qualified a person to hold key cabinet positions in both provincial and federal governments?

It boggles the mind.

I found an excerpt here:

Requiem for a Lightweight
Parkland Institute
by Trevor Harrison
Winter 2001

As Canadians melted in the summer heat wave, Stockwell Day was undergoing his own political meltdown. One year ago, the newly minted leader and the Alliance party were flying high in the polls, garnering enough support to shake the Liberals into an early election call.

Today, support for the party hovers below double digits, and Day’s capacity to lead - as opposed to simply having the title of 'leader' - is at an end. What explains the remarkable events of the last year that have so reversed Day’s (and Alliance’s) fortunes?

Let’s put aside the Alliance party's policies, as unsaleable as some of them are, as well as the foibles of some of its prominent members. And let’s not dwell on the party’s political culture, an admixture of populist self-delusion and top-down reality, or the Reform legacy left by Preston Manning.

Instead, let us turn our attention to Day’s own role in his debacle, and that of others who fooled themselves into thinking he was their Great Right Hope.

There will be those, including Day himself, who will long contend he was the victim of a conspiracy - left-wing, right-wing, or otherwise. Indeed, beliefs in such a conspiracy will likely grow over the years. The urge to reject simple answers in favour of complex ones is normal. It is part of the human capacity for invention.

As Freud said, however, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes the simple explanation for events Is also the correct one. Yes, much of the media disliked Day. But not all. Day and Alliance received an easy ride in his home province of Alberta (actually Day was born in Barrie Ontario, grew up in Montreal and later moved to British Columbia. He only went to Bentley Alberta because it was a haven for the radical right) - indeed, was a product of that media - while the National Post early on fit him for the national mantle.

Yes, the 2000 Liberal campaign was nasty. But Day’s chief difficulties did not emanate from outside the party.

And yes, many former Manning supporters leaked damaging information and have worked hard for Day’s resignation. But this merely describes Day’s internal opponents - a kind of bookkeeping - and doesn’t describe the nature of their opposition.

The fact remains: one year ago Stockwell Day was a deeply flawed and untested politician. There was little evidence to suggest he possessed the qualities necessary to lead a successful political party. From wetsuit to lawsuit and other events since, this truth is all too apparent.

If there is a story "behind the story" of Stockwell Day’s rise and fall, it lies in those who knew all along their champion’s limitations, and yet still promoted him. In a radio interview the day after Deborah Grey resigned from Alliance ‘s caucus,
Cliff Fryers (Alliance national council member and Manning’s former Chief of Staff) claimed Day had “sold the party a bill of goods.” With due respect to Fryers, a lawyer by trade, one is reminded of the axiom,"buyer beware."

Gerry Gagnon, an executive member of Grey’s constituency, better accepted the responsibility that goes with making bad decisions when he said: "We have tried to take shortcuts to power which included trying to find a good-looking leader and included borrowing money, thinking we could get into power through television commercials. I don’t think those shortcuts work. We are seeing the proof of that right now.”

To anyone who took time to see, Stockwell Day was never more than what he appeared. Always his own greatest promoter, Day's greatest “fraud” - that he was capable of being a national leader - was primarily perpetrated on himself. He rose and fell to rhythms of his own making.

What excuse, however, have Ralph Klein, Mike Harris, Rod Love, and Jason Kenney? How could so many Reform and Alliance MPs, including some of the later dissidents, not to mention the media, have missed the obvious? How did so many “grassroots” Alliance members, especially those who had followed Day’s career in Alberta, fool themselves into believing he ever had the “right stuff” to be a political leader?

The answer is they knew, but chose not to know. They saw, but chose not to see. And for their blindness, they lost their party.

Our story ends there. For Stockwell Day there will be no big payday, no title shot. A politician of modest background, he rose steadily to soaring heights, then crashed. Little more need be said. His future lies now in playing in smaller venues to gradually diminishing crowds. Like soldiers and boxers, politicians sometimes just fade away.

This article is adapted from the Harrison’s forthcoming book, Requiem for a Lightweight: Stockwell Day and Image Politics.

What Mr, Harrison couldn't have known is that Day may never have gotten to be Prime Minister, but Stephen Harper needed his religious right connections enough that he gave him key cabinet posts. My local flyer if and when there is another election, will be "If you vote for Brian Abrams you may get stuck with Stockwell Day .... and Jason Kenney, and Pierre Polievre , and .......

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