Timmy Hudak explains himself:
He recalls growing up in a family of teachers, and expresses admiration for those who perform “minor miracles in the classroom.” He wants to make civil servants excited to come to work each day. He talks about the “enormous potential” of people on social assistance, and government doing more “to help our most vulnerable citizens.”
Sorry. Give me a moment. Getting a little emotional here. Those poor bored bureaucrats. Your heart just bleeds a little reading that.
So it seems that Friend Timmy wants to make work exciting for Ontario's civil servants. Hmm. Not sure if the PC leader has noticed but most bureaucrats are not the excitable type. If you're goal is adventure and constant change then issuing driver's licenses isn't a likely career preference. Unless you're someone who gets a special thrill filling out forms. If you are such a person, please seek help.
Speaking of those who need help, we return again to Tim Hudak, the Ken Doll of Ontario politics. Having spent the 2011 election delivering a technically flawless, though intellectually bankrupt campaign, the Tory leader is now trying to convince voters he's about something. Anything really. Perhaps something exciting. And what could be more exciting than making bureaucrats excited about their work? I can just see all those seats in the 905 turning a deep and solid blue.
The failure of 2011 is proof that career politicians are a threat to our democracy. Politics is certainly a profession, an unfortunate outgrowth of our overgrown government, but spend too long in the game and you cease to maintain regular contact with ordinary reality. Sane people do not talk about making the lives of public servants exciting. Government is not an amusement park. When a man, whose political career was made by his close association with Mike "the Knife" Harris, starts making weepy eyes at bureaucrats and teachers, people on the both the Left and Right get queasy.
What makes ordinary voters turn off from politics, aside from having real lives, is the incredible phoniness of the whole endeavour. Politics has always been about theatre. When addressing large groups of people one's presentation must be essentialized and focused. Normal conversation doesn't sound like a political speech, no matter how good the speech. Try showing up at a dinner party and reciting from Ronald Reagan's greatest bits of oratory and it's unlikely you'll get an invite back.
The difference between the Gipper telling Gorby to "tear down this wall" and the usual political boilerplate isn't just the occasion, though that matters, but the sincerity of what is being said. Knowing Reagan you knew he really wanted the wall torn down. He really did believe government was the problem. These were not phrases that had been focus group tested and then strung together in a semi-coherent manner before being teleprompted. Nope. Even if someone else wrote the words you knew and felt that Reagan actually believed every line.
The creepy thing about Tim Hudak is that, having been so long in politics, he doesn't sound sincere even when being sincere. The autogrin and habitual up-tilting of the head when speaking seem to ruin it. Even when talking about his family the Tory leader sounds like he's reciting a shrewdly memorized series of talking points. Timmy isn't alone. Dalton McGuinty gives out that same creepy vibe matched with his epic levels of mendacity.
Not all pols are like this. There are few more seasoned political operators than Bob Rae. There is a sense that even when engaged in the usual phony outrage of Question Period that, somewhere deep down, there is a relatively sane and intelligent human being who is just doing his job. At some point the lights go off and he swears about his co-workers and bitches about the weather. The Prime Minister, by contrast, seems to emit a perpetual vibe of plodding ruthlessness. You can easily imagine him at dinner talking in that flat voice with the occasional shrug of the shoulder and oddly funny joke.
Now some of you are wondering what any of this has to do with politics. Isn't politics about ideas and policies? It would be if the electorate was composed of policy wonks and intellectuals. There is perhaps 15% of the population that has the capacity and the will to follow a serious public policy debate. This isn't a Right or Left thing. Reality television clobbers Steve Paikin in the ratings everytime. Ordinary people want to come home, relax and shut off their brain. An effective politician understands that. Thus the kabuki theatre of modern politics.
The vast majority of what any of us say is not through words but through body language. Most voters vote for brands with a small number who vote for people. The Duke Wellington, when throwing his weight behind a policy of free trade confessed that he did not understand the economics, he just trusted those who advocated for free trade. The Iron Duke said he believed in men not principles. Many swing voters think along the same lines.
Dalton McGuinty lulled the voters of Ontario to support him because of his inherent nebbishness. They felt they could trust a man who seemed so mediocre. After the Sturm und Drang of the Harris Years, a little bland nothingness looked like a safe bet. The Premier, even today, seems sincere in his stiff and clumsy mannerisms. Tim Hudak doesn't seem sincere. He failed to offer the voters of Ontario a vision and a choice in 2011. He also failed to offer himself. Voters need to be able to trust him as Premier. It's difficult for the voters to do that when it seems that Tim Hudak doesn't trust himself with the public.