The Empire Strikes Back
The moral of the story is likely that dynasties do not crumble overnight. The decline of Rome lasted hundreds of years. The Oilers won a cup after dealing Gretzky. The Empire was good for two more movies, even after the Death Star blew up. …
The situation in this election is eerily similar to the 2004 federal campaign, when 2012 Wildrose campaign manager Tom Flanagan — then working for the federal Conservatives – tried to lead an upstart right wing band of misfits to victory against the natural governing party. In both instances, the incumbent dynasties had knifed successful leaders, and had unrealistic expectations for their new leaders. Just as anonymous PC strategists lamented about winning “too many seats” in February, in 2004 Liberal strategists mused about 200 seats for Paul Martin (which in fairness, Martin got – it just took him two elections to do it).
In both instances, the incumbent badly mismanaged a scandal (Adscam for Paul, the “no meet committee” for Redford), and threw caution to the wind by calling an election in the midst of it. In both instances, Flanagan’s great right hope rose in the polls, pulled into the lead, won the debate…and then blew it in the bottom of the 9th. Both times voters stared change in the face, and decided they weren’t ready for it – yet.
We all know how things turned out federally, and therein lies the cautionary tale for all the players in Alberta. The Wildrose Party now has a base of 35% of the Alberta electorate. They have an impressive, albeit inexperienced, leader in Danielle Smith who now has four years to refine her skills and weed out the thornier candidates from her party’s ranks. If Stephen Harper could make the federal Conservatives look “non-scary”, then surely the photogenic and charismatic Smith can pull off the same trick in Alberta.
I’ll say now that I saw those tendencies, too, but where I differed is that I thought that Wildrose had a large enough lead that they’d win a narrow majority anyway.
We’ll see how it goes. Smith looks like a more charismatic version of Harper, but Harper has a ruthless streak that every successful leader needs. His 2004-05 experience made the current PM ruthlessly pragmatic. Maybe Smith has that streak, maybe not. In any event, the next four years will be interesting.
Update: Checking myself — how much of this is hindsight analysis?
No, I wrote it:
About threshold arguments — you can see that Warren Kinsella’s blog is full of them re Danielle Smith, this week.
Will they work? In the long run, no — they didn’t work for Paul Martin, ultimately, against Stephen Harper. But they may work for Redford’s party the way they did for Martin’s — they can stave off defeat for one more election, in a campaign that looked lost a week before E-day.
Okay, I can show that I did see it.