In many ways, the Conservative campaign was a last stand against the era of celebrity politics.
That last stand failed.
Andrew Scheer, despite clearly being a good family man, was among the most boring candidates of all time. He had an even smaller emotional range than the notoriously unemotional Stephen Harper. After all, Harper at least got angry once in a while.
Scheer represented an anti-celebrity, someone whose “personality” is the fact that they don’t have one. Despite doing alright in some of the debates, Scheer was like a product that simply didn’t appeal to enough of the public.
Of course, on a personal level everything I’m saying about Scheer is unfair. He clearly has a personality with those who know him, and he clearly has a lot of people who support him and think he would have been a good PM.
But on a political level, what I’m saying is correct. And the political level is what the Conservatives have to deal with today.
The Conservatives attempted to spin Andrew Scheer’s anti-celebrity status as a strength, calling him a “steady,” “balanced,” and “reasonable” leader.
But most Canadians just saw him as boring.
And even worse, the fact that Scheer was so boring made him unable to wrest control of the media message.
Because of the massive anti-Conservative bias of the establishment media, any Conservative leader in the modern era must be able to generate their own media machine. Social media gives a leader the chance to bypass the establishment press, and get out their views directly to the Canadian People.
Yet, that only works if the candidate delivering the message has celebrity level-influence, or at least has the ability to generate strong reactions.
In the final days of the campaign, Andrew Scheer was forced onto the defensive, after reports that the Conservatives hired a group to try and discredit the PPC. A celebrity leader may have been able to simply own up to it with bracing honesty, and then shift attention elsewhere in the final hours of the campaign.
Instead, Scheer and the Conservatives finished weakly.
The problem is that Scheer’s lack of celebrity status created a media vacuum around him, and the Liberals gleefully filled that vacuum with their horrendously cynical and dishonest (but politically effective) fear-mongering. The lack of tactical flexibility also didn’t help.
At this point, it’s time to accept the reality that we live in a world where celebrity politicians dominate.
Canada has a celebrity leader.
America has a celebrity leader.
The UK has a celebrity leader.
Ukraine has a celebrity leader.
And many other countries are moving in that direction.
So, the Conservatives must adapt or perish. There are lots of smart policy people behind the scenes who can write platforms and govern. But in today’s communications environment, a party leader must be able to generate controversy, draw clicks, views, shift focus, and fill that vacuum before the Liberals and establishment press does.
After the failure to defeat Trudeau, it’s time for the Conservatives to embrace celebrity politics if they want to win power.