With the growing evidence that Albertans — like many other people around the world — are turning away from the old style of politics, an interesting and important question arises? What situation will 3 party leaders (Alberta provincial parties) be in the day after the leadership is determined — after the dance is over?
Will the party’s leadership campaign be essentially a personality contest, with the implied promise that once the “alpha male (or female)” is known every other contender will submit, and allow the winner to determine the direction and pace of the party, and what should happen to the old, and infirm? Will many essentially non-partisan people who will have bought membership cards in the course of the campaign stay connected, especially if they bought a membership to support a candidate who didn’t win? Will the new leader want to — be able to — bridge divides?
Whether it is a personality contest or not, the new leader may see the need to change or promote the culture of the party, to correspond to the emerging sentiment among Albertans, for a new way of doing democracy. Will the new leader have to remake the party’s organization, replacing or re-assigning key people? Will incumbents accept the changes, or provide passive or active resistance? What about all the people on the fundraising team, the policy team, the team that vets appointees to positions? If there is a culture of entitlement within the party, how difficult will it be for the new leader to overcome that culture?
Every incumbent M.L.A. Is immersed in an adversarial culture — a culture of dialectic. Can the new leader persuade incumbent M.L.A.s to adopt a new outlook about democracy, and new political practices? You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen often. Some M.L.A.s will be able to change, and the change will be genuine. Many will resist change, or they will retire as quickly as they can.
Every party has an inertia of momentum that is either accelerating (new energy and enthusiasm – and the accompanying reputation) or decelerating (tiredness and entropy – and the accompanying reputation). Which leader will find an inertia of momentum s/he will feel really comfortable riding, and which leaders will find an inertia of momentum that is uncomfortable and needs to be changed? For the leader, the problem is that the inertia — either accelerating or decelerating — is bigger than one man or woman. And, obviously, it is incredibly difficult to make a U-turn with decelerating energy.
What grace period will the public give each leader?
In all three parties, the campaigns, and the outcomes will be interesting. The fact is, for each leader, the much bigger and more challenging tasks begin the day after the leadership is confirmed – after the dance is over.
Everyone knows that I am putting my money on the Alberta Party campaign — energy and imagination (candidates) meets energy and imagination (members), meets energy and imagination (the citizens of Alberta) all moving in the same direction. That said, I wish all candidates, in all parties, the best.