Fitting as her comeuppance may have seemed, I have to confess to a certain sympathy with former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith's instinctive reaction to her loss of the Progressive Conservative Party nomination in the Highwood Riding on the weekend.
Been there. Done that. Just didn't put the tantrum in writing…
If you're going to run for public office, you have to persuade yourself that you can win. If you think you're going to win, it stings like the dickens when you don't.
And, yeah, notwithstanding her past political successes, Smith was both arrogant and naïve to imagine she could win the PC nomination in Highwood without Premier Jim Prentice intervening to declare her to be the appointed candidate. She really should have known that, given the bitter sense of betrayal Wildrose voters felt at her decision in December to lead most of the Opposition caucus to the government benches, not to mention the discord the same event sowed in PC ranks.
This was a judgment -- political and ethical -- so spectacularly wrong it was worthy of Alison Redford, the former PC premier who was Smith's foil during most of her tenure as Opposition leader.
This is particularly true in a members-only party nomination vote in a province where holding a card in more than one political party is considered de rigueur among a surprising number of voters on the right, and thus many of the PC party members picking Highwood's candidate were the same Wildrosers she'd just dumped. And, as they say, Hell hath no fury like a 'Roser scorned.
Just losing a good fair fight stings enough that most of us don't have constitutions stern enough to just turn around and try it again right away. And a sense of betrayal is pretty common in such circumstances too -- like, where the heck were all my supporters when it came time to knock on doors, yadda-yadda-yadda.
So I imagine the pain was particularly harsh for Smith, who really was hung out to dry by Prentice.
Anyway, Smith made her feelings about running again, not to mention the her general state of mind, clear enough with her text-message exchange on Sunday with Global National political reporter Vassy Kapelos:
Ms. Kapelos: Hi Danielle, Vassy from Global -- sorry to bug:) Just wondering if you have a few mins to talk about yesterday's events. Thanks in advance.
Ms. Smith: No. I am leaving public life.
Ms. Kapelos: Ok, thanks. Does that mean you're ruling out any other public roles?
Ms. Smith: Piss off Vashy.
Ms. Kapelos: Pardon me?
Ms. Smith: Leave me alone.
Still, let me say this about that. In a way, Smith spoke for all of us defeated candidates, even if she did apologize to Kapelos later.
Dirty little secret: we all think pretty much the same thing, even if we don't say it aloud.
And this is a much better way to be remembered, if you ask me, than the risible sainthood now being bestowed upon Smith by the intellectual Big Kahunas of the journalistic right.
Andrew Coyne: "Ms. Smith appears in fact to have been as innocent as a lamb…"
Colby Cosh: "She conducted the job of opposition as a civilized disagreement with a group of people that had lost its ethical and ideological way…"
This is, of course, pish-posh and piffle. In reality, this was hardly the first time something like this has happened in Smith's political and journalistic career.
Well, say whatever you like. What I said on Saturday in the heat of the moment is still true even if she has been canonized by the journalistic bishops of Pope Preston, Pontifex Maximus of the Canadian neoliberal right: Smith's political career is done like dinner.
To those readers who have suggested that since there's still no Harper Conservative candidate in the Macleod riding, which happens to include Smith's historic home in High River, she could resuscitate her political career there sooner than later, I say this is highly unlikely.
Even if she were so inclined -- which she evidently is not -- someone would surely gently take her by the hand and lead her away.
The bitter truth is that, were she to be so foolish as to try this -- even in a province where voters would elect as egregious an MP as Rob Anders or Joan Crockatt -- the voters of Macleod would teach Smith the same lesson again, even without Jim Prentice there to kick the chair out from under her. The federal and provincial voters of the riding after all are, as conservatives are always saying about federal and provincial taxpayers, the same people.
The lesson that applies to them and to Smith, as Brian Mulroney, a Conservative of the old school who remembered loyalty is a two-way street, put it rather succinctly, is this: "You dance with the one that brung ya!"
Eventually, I suppose, Smith will resurface in some kind of well-paid sinecure with the Manning Foundation, the political wing of the oilpatch, or some generously financed organization of its ilk. Or even, like her one-time mentor Tom Flanagan, as a political science teacher in a publicly funded university with a generous public pension plan.
That, I suspect, is the true purpose of the loyal literary efforts of the likes of Messrs. Coyne & Cosh -- who, put on the page that way, have a disconcertingly appropriate Dickensian ring.
In the mean time, though, I'll bet Dave Cournoyer, Susan Wright and I will soon be welcoming Smith to the ranks of Alberta's blogging elite. After all, she has a background in journalism, of sorts. And consider the company!
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Image: Flickr/Dave Cournoyer
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