Clark fails to fake authenticity
by Warren Kinsella
INLAW, B.C. — Here in British Columbia’s Slocan Valley, a 10-hour drive east of Vancouver, a useful lesson in political authenticity.
At Sissies diner on the main drag — where dusty pickups fill the lot, the Doors and Bob Seger are playing inside and the food is pretty amazing — nobody seems to be fretting about the ultimate fate of B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark.
“She’s as good as gone,” says one former Liberal voter. Ask why, she doesn’t hesitate. “She’s a phony.”
Authenticity is the most prized commodity in politics, even in Winlaw, where cellphones don’t work and no one seems to care so much. Clark — who was always a card-carrying federal Liberal, and even worked for a cabinet minister in Jean Chretien’s government — has tried for months to persuade everyone she isn’t at all what she used to be.
Now, Clark didn’t issue a press release claiming to be a born-again conservative, but she may as well have. In the months following her leadership win, Clark laboured energetically to look and sound like a hard-right conservative.
She hired one of Stephen Harper’s friends — a fellow who helped co-author Harper’s now-infamous Alberta “firewall” polemic — to be her top adviser. She hired another Harper loyalist to be her media guru. She brought in pollsters and politicos who had toiled under Harper for years to destroy the “Liberal” brand.
Clark attended right-wing gatherings hosted by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. She made certain to be photographed at hockey games with Harper. To ensure nobody missed the point — and only an idiot would — she even sipped Tim Hortons while chumming with the federal Conservative leader.
It was about as subtle as a hand grenade in a bowl of porridge, and inevitably had the same result. Clark and her inner circle, who apparently regarded B.C. voters as dummies, didn’t fool anyone. She has plummeted in successive polls, and analysts are now predicting her majority Liberals are going to be wiped off the political map.
Clark didn’t convince voters she was a conservative. She didn’t convince them she wasn’t a liberal anymore, either. She did, however, convince them she was utterly and wholly fake. That she was inauthentic.
In politics, authenticity isn’t just something. It’s everything. Your policies can be controversial. Your organization and your fundraising can be ineffective. Your image can be unappealing. But if voters sense you are truthful — that you are being yourself and not a phony — you will win.
Michael Ignatieff, who rolled up his sleeves and tried to adopt a rural dialect, was taught this lesson. Mitt Romney, frantically trying remake himself in the image of Barry Goldwater, is next.
Here in B.C., people are like people everywhere else. They don’t much care where you come from, or who your daddy was. But if you’re a phony — if you’re a fake, and try to pass yourself off as something you aren’t — God help you.
Christy Clark’s mistake wasn’t that she was too liberal for the conservatives who dominate the B.C. Liberal coalition.
Her mistake wasn’t even that she worked for Liberals in faraway Ottawa. Her mistake was that she tried to fool her employers.
And, in this case, that would be the people of Winlaw.