Canadian politics seem to be antithetical to charismatic leadership. Occasionally a prime minister arrives on the scene and makes a lasting impression on history and the people’s imagination. This seems to be the outlier in Canadian history.
We can name a handful of charismatic leaders in our history: John A. Macdonald, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Lester B. Pearson and even Pierre Elliot Trudeau, despite all of his flaws.
Let’s be true to ourselves and admit that most of the time Canadian politics are not that exciting. And I say this as somebody who has a invested interest in keeping up with it.
I’m not saying that charisma is required to do a good job at leading the country. Sometimes it’s in the nation’s interests to appoint the frugal, even-tempered or passive leader.
But perhaps today Canada is overdue for a leader with some charisma?
The contemporary hyper-sensitive and politically correct world makes it virtually impossible that anybody with an ounce of the stuff that makes for gripping leadership would make it through the public filter. They’re either filtered out early in their attempt or entirely dissuaded from running.
There are several explanations for the lack of charisma in our politicians, but there are two that stand out as being most at fault.
The first is what I call outrage journalism.
When the mainstream media is incentivized to dig into the lives of our politicians and expose every single past mistake they’ve made, no matter how minor, it leaves room for only two kinds of individuals to come into power: the deceitful or the bland.
It’s surprising that any public figure today passes by the scrutinizing eyes of a sleuthing media unscathed. There exists a class of people in this profession who either out of pure malevolence or sadistic desire make it their livelihood to publicly shame their betters.
Unbeknownst to these bottom feeders of the media world, they’re creating a class of politicians who are very good at covering their tracks.
If you were to ask the mainstream media about their vile behaviour they would say they are doing it out of a commitment to the truth. Perhaps this claim can be defended, but only when the public is endangered by a secret or the opinions held by those exposed are so vile that no reasonable person could find them acceptable.
However, this is not the case. Most of the time the mainstream media is fabricating outrage.
It’s one thing to keep leaders accountable, and it’s another to expect them to not have any flaws.
Clearly, they are not promoting an honest transparency from our leadership but instead are creating an atmosphere where professional liars thrive.
If you want to enter the political world today in any serious capacity, you essentially have to have a spotless record. For that to take place you either have to know the political world intimately early on in life and censor everything you say or do, constantly hiding your true intentions and opinions; or you work behind the scenes to erase anything that might be used against you.
Are these the kinds of people we want to encourage into obtaining the highest office of the land? Are they even genuine human beings at all?
While at the same time those who make it through the filter without a single stain on their past have had opinions which are so politically correct and agreeable that they are virtually no use to anybody.
Or perhaps the parliamentary system is at fault.
In a sense, the House of Commons is what happens when you take the king out of the court and leave behind the bickering courtiers.
At the tail end of the old regime, ministers who attended royalty were often highly qualified yes-men who worked for their own financial and political benefit behind the scenes. In many ways, that’s who we’ve appointed to govern us.
Voting for a party instead of an individual leader tends to have the effect of molding individuals in the party’s image. They become representatives of varying interests, ultimately watering down their unique personhood into a cardboard cut out of who they once were.
Personality and politics often clash and there are viable reasons we fear the charismatic leader but maybe Canada needs to reconsider.
Perhaps the best of our future leaders will be those who are honest about their past and can turn their human flaws into advantages.