Of du­elling rock stars and howl­ing dogs

Vot­ers are lazy, and they like a name they know

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky East­ern Pas­sages Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc — Twit­ter: @ Wanger­sky

There’s a dog in my neigh­bour­hood that howls along with ev­ery am­bu­lance siren.

He doesn’t know what the siren is, but he rec­og­nizes it ev­ery time, and re­acts just the same: a qua­ver­ing howl, just enough out of pitch, enough out of step, to clearly dif­fer­en­ti­ate howl from siren.

It is a par­tic­u­lar kind of skill; the tone of the siren changes, and al­most in­stantly, the howl changes, too.

This past week­end, a news site sug­gested that Kid Rock was po­ten­tially go­ing to have to face Ted Nu­gent in a face­off for a Michi­gan seat in the U.S. Se­nate.

Ted Nu­gent is a rock star who sup­ported Don­ald Trump’s can­di­dacy; his tweet an­nounc­ing his in­ten­tions reads, “If th­ese GOP son­s­abitches don’t get it right this time I will come charg­ing as the ul­ti­mate WE THE PISSED OFF PEO­PLE Mr. Fixit Con­sti­tu­tional fire­breath­ing shit­kicker can­di­date from hell!” Kid Rock, also a rock star of sorts, bills him­self as “the King of White Trash,” and has an in­ter­est­ing Amer­ica-view. (I’d say world-view, but nei­ther po­ten­tial can­di­date seems par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the world in any way.)

Here’s Mr. Rock in a 2010 in­ter­view: “I have night­mares that I’m go­ing to wake up and ev­ery­one’s driv­ing a Prius and liv­ing in a condo and we’re all get­ting health in­sur­ance.”

Du­elling rock stars and howl­ing dogs may seem un­con­nected – but bear with me here.

We’ve built a cult of celebrity that is al­most un­prece­dented: you can’t go on your com­puter or flick on the tele­vi­sion with­out crash­ing into semi-naked Kar­dashi­ans or baby-bear­ing Bey­onces. We hear about them as ac­tors and per­form­ers, but also as busi­ness cham­pi­ons; with the strengths of their “brands,” they sell huge vol­umes of goods and are held out as suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs.

It’s no won­der, then, that a po­lit­i­cally un­qual­i­fied busi­ness show­man would be­come the U.S. pres­i­dent, or that Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger could end up as gov­er­nor of Cal­i­for­nia – it’s clearly a help when ev­ery­one al­ready knows your name.

Heck, look at the cur­rent fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship cam­paign, with star can­di­date Kevin O’Leary.

Now, O’Leary seems like an un­usual can­di­date for the Tories. First of all, he lives in the States, only rarely pass­ing through for the oc­ca­sional cam­paign de­bate be­fore de­part­ing again – some­thing the Con­ser­va­tives them­selves used with great ef­fect to de­stroy the cam­paign of Lib­eral Michael Ig­nati­eff. In the past, O’Leary has do­nated money to po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates, but to Lib­er­als, not Tories. Even his po­si­tions on is­sues seem far more aligned with Lib­eral pol­icy than with the Tories.

In other words, a very un­likely Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship can­di­date. You’d think he’d have next to no sup­port – in­stead, he has plenty. He’s even seen as the front-run­ner.

So, why would the Tories be in­ter­ested in a Bos­ton res­i­dent who’s closer in po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy to their op­po­nents than he is to the Tories them­selves?

Sim­ple. His name recog­ni­tion – from tele­vi­sion shows like “Drag­ons’ Den” and “Shark Tank” – puts him on the top of the list in polling over a rel­a­tively recog­ni­tion-chal­lenged crew of Tory never-beens.

And polling is crit­i­cal. Be­cause of that, the Tories might just sur­ren­der any­thing like prin­ci­ples and choke down their dis­taste to try and land a win­ner.

We’ve got a role in that, too. Vot­ers are lazy, and they like a name they know, es­pe­cially some­one that per­forms the role of politi­cian with­out ever ac­tu­ally hav­ing done the slog­ging and forced ed­u­ca­tion that pol­i­tics en­tails.

I like the neigh­bour’s dog, I sup­pose. It’s noisy, but who wouldn’t be? A dog’s life sounds pretty darned bor­ing. And the food? Try it some time.

It can be counted on to re­act in a sim­ple, knee-jerk way to sim­ple stim­u­lus, ev­ery time. Ivan Pavlov proved that.

But would I let it vote?

I don’t think so.

“We’ve built a cult of celebrity that is al­most un­prece­dented …”

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