They back Jack.
Jack’s got the knack. The others? They yak, but they lack.
There you go: Some really (really) bad poetry, designed to neatly sum up Election 2011. There’ll be lots of much smarter political analysis this weekend, but I’m sticking to my pithy rhyming couplets.
Whether he captures the keys to 24 Sussex or not, the NDP’s Jack Layton is the winner of this campaign, hands down. Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff have lost. Why, you ask?
There are lots of reasons: Harper ran a lousy, uninspiring campaign. Ignatieff pushed for an election when he should have pulled. Both men are seen as conservative and conservative-lite, and the country is apparently fed up with policies that are nasty, brutish and short-sighted.
But the main reason why Layton will make history Monday night? The best explanation for why he is going to be leader of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition — or maybe even her prime minister?
Because Jack is the most likeable leader, that’s why. He’s a HOAG.
I’ve written about my “Hell Of A Guy” theory in these pages before. As the political cliche goes, you can picture yourself at a tailgate party with Jack, swigging Buds, telling lies about the ones that got away. Steve-o and Iggy, you just can’t. Standing behind a podium in an early-morning university class, giving you a lousy mark because you spelled “Milton Friedman” wrong in an essay, sure. But HOAGs? Nope.
I’ve worked with Iggy and can attest to the fact that — in person — he is a thoughtful, easy-going, impressive guy. But that quality doesn’t come across on TV. On the big flat-screen, the Liberal leader doesn’t emote HOAGism. It’s not fair, it’s not accurate, but it’s a fact.
Harper, meanwhile, has elevated thuggishness to official state policy. He doesn’t try to avoid being mean-spirited; he positively revels in it. He embraces it. And Harper’s mistake — and his team’s mistake — has been equating being a hard-hearted SOB with “decisiveness.”
It isn’t. Being a hard-hearted SOB isn’t decisive, Team Tory. Mostly, it’s just evidence that you’re a hard-hearted SOB. More precisely, an angry guy who doesn’t like the country, let alone the people who live in it.
Now, I know what you’re going to say before you say it — how in the name of all that is holy can anyone vote for Wacko Jacko?
His policies, you’ll say, are nuttier than squirrel poop. He wants to reopen the Constitution! His promises cost $70 billion, and he claims he can balance the budget! He wants to have tea with the Taliban!
All true. Also true: Canadians haven’t read Jack Layton’s policy manual, nor do they intend to. For different reasons, Messrs. Harper and Ignatieff wanted this election to be a referendum on “leadership” — and they got what they wanted. In their hubris, however, they never imagined Canadians would vote for the third leadership option, nutty policies be damned.
But Layton’s team, you’ll say, they’re not serious! He’s got candidates vacationing in Vegas — while the campaign is underway! He’s got candidates who have never run a three-house paper route before, let alone a country! He’s got no organizational strength on the ground!
Also all true. But ask Toronto’s Rob Ford or Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi and they’ll tell you: Canadians don’t want polished professional politicians these days. They like populists. They like HOAGs. They like regular folks.
I’m a Jean Chretien Liberal, and a Bill Clinton Democrat. Both those men were successful because they never forgot that there are a lot more votes on Main St. than on Bay St. (or Wall St.) They were winners because they never forgot where they came from or who made them what they are.
And that’s why Canadians back Jack.
And that’s why, for the others, it may be time to pack.