I’ve had politics on the brain lately, as we released episode 9 of the Unknown Studio this long weekend. On this episode, we discussed the state of politics, citizen engagement and the party system in Alberta and Canada with guests Dave Cournoyer and Duncan Wojtaszek (you can download the episode here or subscribe via iTunes).
Part of our discussion turned to stateman (-woman/person) politicians, and how they don’t really exist anymore. I think most people know what I’m talking about when I statesman — I’m talking about the Trudeaus, the JFKs, hell even the Sir Winston Churchills of the political world. And while I think most people get it, I also think I could have done a better job, at least in the episode, of articulating exactly what I meant by stateman.
To me, a statesman politician is someone who gets themselves elected and takes their job seriously. They have a vision for improving their country and of improving the lives of their citizens in measurable, practical and smart ways. They also have a strategy of how to implement their vision. They’ll do these things at the risk of their popularity or re-election chances (although I would argue that if you’re being a proper statesman, you should have improved chances for re-election over those other politicos by virtue of your statesman-ness). They’ll do it because it’s right.
Then I remembered one of my favourite movies ever. It’s a movie that’s totally off the wall, but definitely a reflection of how I wish things worked. It’s a movie called Dave, starring Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella and Ving Rhames. It’s actually the movie from which I ganked the titled of this post.
Dave sees Kevin Kline’s character “Dave,” a sometimes-impersonator of the sitting US president (“Bill Mitchell”) and head of a temp employment agency, thrust into the most powerful chair on the planet when the president has a heart attack. The geniuses in the Whitehouse decide to hire Kovic to impersonate Mitchell so they can continue with their nefarious scandals and such. Until Dave wises up to what’s happening and decides to take a stand… FOR AMERICA.
If it sounds campy and over-the-top, that’s because it is. But regardless of camp, it stills serves as a soothing balm when juxtaposed against the dead-eyed cynical heaps of flesh we [generally] call politicians these days.
Dave Kovic believed in the statesman president. When he was suddenly asked to assume the president’s role, he realized just how corrupt everything was. And he decided to go for broke and do something about it.
No one in the Canadian political system wants to go for broke. No one wants to take a tremendous risk (or, hell, several small ones) to improve the state of the nation. Should we expect them to? Yes, we should. We give these people the keys to the nation and they repay us with ad scandals, double-talk and outright dishonesty.
It’s little wonder no one in their right mind wants the hassle of running for public office. The mess that needs cleaning up seems insurmountable. If you want to be inspired by politics, your best bet these days is to rent a fictional movie from 1993 called Dave. You won’t regret it. Here’s one of the best scenes from the film: