I HAVE EATEN tuna sandwiches that were around longer than Anthony Scaramucci. Two weeks ago, none of us had heard of the guy. Then he got hired by Trump, was ditched by his wife, became a father and got dumped by Trump, all within the span of your summer vacation.
The Mooch might have soared and crashed faster than a North Korean missile, but he still managed to become a household name even here, 4,700 kilometres from Washington.
On the other hand, ask them to identify the four candidates for the federal NDP leadership, or the new head of the Conservative Party….
“I’m a political science student — I should know this,” replied a young woman on Johnson Street.
An older man on Douglas, a self-professed political junkie, just shrugged when asked.
Ditto for a couple of people in Munro’s Books.
In all, I approached a dozen people in downtown Victoria — taking pains to pick out those who appeared likely to be intelligent and engaged in the world around them (or at least unarmed) — and not one was able to answer the question.
All I got for my ambushing efforts were blank stares (as well as an unfortunate restraining order, but let’s not dwell on that).
Nobody could identify even one of the four New Democrats, while a younger fellow outside a Fisgard Street coffee shop was the only one able to name Andrew Scheer as the man elected to replace Stephen Harper in May.
A woman in a nearby shop did recall the Conservatives choosing an affable young fellow who was supposed to be able to take on Justin Trudeau, but she seemed dubious about his chances. Trudeau is on the cover of the Rolling Stone. The new guy might as well be on a milk carton.
It wasn’t until I ran into Victoria city councillor Jeremy Loveday in Fan Tan Alley that I hit the jackpot.
After I told him what I was doing, he rhymed off the names like a kid going through the Canucks roster: “Andrew Scheer is the Conservative leader. The New Democrats are Niki Ashton, Guy Caron, Jagmeet Singh and Charlie Angus.”
Good for Loveday, but maybe that just highlighted the gap between those who live inside and outside the political realm.
This is relevant now because the New Democrats’ leadership road show was in town. It was the sixth such debate since March in the drawn-out NDP campaign that concludes in October (who planned this, the people who did the Johnson Street Bridge?) and still the candidates need name tags.
“Intended to generate excitement, expand membership and broaden public interest in the federal NDP, the 2017 leadership race seems more like a private function,” says Michael Prince, Lansdowne professor of social policy at UVic.
In other words, it’s not a leadership race, it’s the witness protection program, just like the Conservative campaign that preceded it. People declare their candidacy, then disappear forever. If you want to hide from the mob, try leading a Canadian opposition party.
Prince sees reasons for the disconnect: “It is due partly to the summer season, partly to B.C. provincial election fatigue, partly to the non-stop selfie campaign of Justin Trudeau and partly to the non-stop gong show in the White House.”
Right, can’t ignore that last one. Why should people feel sheepish about ignoring Canadian politics when the U.S. brand is so much more entertaining? It’s like feeling duty-bound to watch The Littlest Hobo when Breaking Bad is on the other channel.
Canadians only pay attention to politicians when they A) inspire or B) frighten/amuse them. The biggest names in politics this year — Trump, Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong-un, Marine Le Pen — fall in the latter category. People who only tuned into the Conservative race when Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary cannonballed into the pool turned away after they stopped making waves.
In that respect, the New Democrats can take comfort. Theirs may not be household names, but at least nobody is called Mooch.
© Copyright Times Colonist
Jack Knox is a born-and-raised Kamloops lad who once worked at the Kamloops Daily News. He is now a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. He won the Jack Webster Foundation’s City Mike Award for Commentator of the Year in 2015.