The only thing worse than a political strategist spouting theories on how to beat the competition is a blogger discussing a political strategist’s theories on how to beat the competition. But Ms Soapbox is going to do it anyway because the events of the last few weeks made her cranky and she needs a good laugh.
Last week I attended a webinar hosted by the Manning School of Practical Politics, an offshoot of the Manning Foundation for Democratic Education, founded by Preston Manning, the father of the Reform Party and the man responsible for saddling us with Stephen Harper.
David Rosen, a Washington based strategist, believes that political psychology is as powerful as Big Data when it comes to winning elections. In his opinion, data engineers do nothing more than confirm what political psychologists discovered decades ago.
What they discovered was this: there are six political personalities and the politician who understands his opponent’s political personality can use this insight to attack his opponent and capture swing voters who apparently are more influenced by politicians’ personalities than decided voters.
Rosen says no politician fits neatly into one personality type, most display a primary and secondary personality type.
With that caveat in mind let’s run Mr Prentice through Rosen’s analytical model and see what we come up with.
Narcissist: Charming, likable, entitled, an accomplished liar, good at projecting empathy even though he lacks its. Sees others as objects to be used, discarded, scapegoated. Thrives in political and executive roles.
Obsessive/compulsive: He‘s detail oriented, serious and formal. He likes complexity and abstraction. He can be counted on to do the right thing.
Paranoid: He’s fearful, suspicious, secretive, defensive and edgy. He rejects evidence that disproves his views and harbours doubts about the loyalty of others. He holds grudges and thrives in a climate of fear. Paging Mr Harper…?
Machiavellian: Strategic, sets agendas, accomplishes goals, but is emotionally detached because he cares about power, not people. Exploits the interests and personality flaws of others.
Authoritarian: He’s concerned about rank and status. A rule oriented “kiss up and kick down” kind of guy.
Totalitarian: Fanatical, charismatic, governs through fear, awe and gullibility.
And the survey says…
When Mr Prentice ran for the leadership of the Tory party he downplayed his experience as a federal cabinet minister and a highly paid bank executive in favour of the small town boy from South Porcupine, Ontario.
Thrives in political and executive roles.
He promised Albertans the world—ethical, transparent, fiscally responsible government, billions of dollars for schools, hospitals and roads and no new taxes.
Is charming, likeable, projects empathy.
The minute Mr Prentice was sworn into power everything changed. He benched The Old Guard (Hancock, Horner, Horne and Callas) who steadfastly supported his leadership bid. Others, like Ken Hughes also vanished. (You remember Mr Hughes, a dear friend of Mr Prentice, who dropped out of the leadership race and offered his seat to Mr Prentice in the by-election).
Uses people and discards them when they’re no longer necessary.
In no time Mr Prentice lit the fuse on his secret plan to “reunify” the conservatives and enticed 11 Wildrose MLAs back into the fold.
Exploits the interests and personality flaws of others (Danielle Smith’s ambition and lack of loyalty made her an easy target). Emotionally detached, welcomed the Wildrose MLAs with open arms—the abuse they’d hurled at the Tories over the years was forgiven.
Instead of unveiling innovative solutions to the $7 billion hole in the budget, Mr Prentice prefers to frighten Albertans with Armageddon-like warnings about the drop in oil prices (“we’ve never seen anything like it”) to soften them up for an austerity budget that would make the Greeks weep.
Will exploit the fears of the people to justify a spring election notwithstanding his own law that sets the next election in the spring of 2016. The fact that the opposition parties are unprepared is a bonus.
Hmm, would Mr Rosen characterize Mr Prentice as a Machiavellian narcissist?
What to do
Political personalities look very much like non-political personalities. The only problem is that political personalities have tremendous control over our lives whereas non-political personalities can be divorced, grounded or ignored.
So what are we to do?
Rosen has a plan of attack for this personality type.
Interestingly he starts by saying a politician should never attack his opponents’ personality, but rather focus on his record, his behavior or the behavior of the nutbars he associates with to create the feeling that there’s something wrong with this guy.
At this point it’s difficult to focus on Mr Prentice’s record because he doesn’t have one, having achieved absolutely nothing in his first term in office. Scaring people half to death doesn’t count.
Also it’s unlikely that the people Mr Prentice threw under the bus would be willing to speak up—at least not while Mr Prentice is on a roll.
However, Mr Prentice’s actions provide numerous examples of less than laudatory behavior. He undermined his support of transparency by engineering the defection of the Official Opposition leader and her cohorts, a covert version of his “United Alternative” proposal to unite the federal Tories and the Canadian Alliance.
He demonstrates a lack of empathy by approving the rebuild of the Kananaskis Golf Course ($18 million) while stopping work on the long overdue Calgary Cancer Centre.
His social policy is in tatters as a result of his bill to make it practically impossible for children to create gay-straight alliances in some schools.
There is much in Mr Prentice’s behavior to create the feeling that he is a politician focused on the pursuit of power at the expense of everything else.
And as much as Ms Soapbox would enjoy a little chuckle at the end of a bizarre week in Alberta politics, this is no laughing matter.