Five Traits Needed To Win The Conservative Leadership

September 1st, 2016 | J. Hodgson
cpc leadership

The Conservative Party leadership race is less of a race and more of an ambling shuffle. So far most of the candidates seem very timid and reserved. Hopefully things pick up soon, but there is currently a malaise weighing on the Conservative Party that needs to be lifted. In order to lift it, we need five traits to be injected into the leadership race and into the potential leaders themselves...otherwise we’re looking at a snooze-festival until Justin Trudeau wins a second term.

So, without further ado…

#1. Vision

If you’re running for the leadership, make sure you have a compelling reason to do so. This means having a vision for what you want Canada to look like, accomplish and become. What are you going to focus on as our national leader? Why should people vote for you?

This seems really elementary, but so far it doesn’t seem like current leadership candidates have bothered constructing a vision. Maxime Bernier is staking out territory as the libertarian candidate.

The others? Please tell me if you know.

You can’t just show up and be yourself and expect people to get excited. Even Justin Trudeau required a Gerald Butts army of backroom boys to provide some Liberal substance to go along with the hair.

Embody and communicate a vision.

#2. Ideas

Promoting conservative ideas is necessary in order to counter the tide of liberalism. Conservatives need to drive the agenda with ideas that set the pace. Defensive conservatism is a failure from the start, because it does nothing but slow down the progressive march.

Maxime Bernier has floated privatizing Canada Post, ending supply management, and abolishing the CRTC. These are big, bold, attention grabbing moves. Let’s get more on the table. Ideas need not be in short supply.

You’ll need to win over card-carrying Conservative members who aren’t as impressed with a nice set of personality characteristics. Being vague and beige isn’t a recipe for success. Let’s hear what you think and what you want to do. If you don’t have ideas to sell, then why bother trying to climb into a leadership position?

#3. Brand

The CPC brand needs revitalizing. Maintaining the Harper status quo and just slapping a new face onto the party isn’t going to work. The CPC needs new direction in the hearts and minds of normal Canadians.

When Harper won in 2006, the party brand was decency, transparency, respect, tax cuts, family and security. By the time Harper walked off stage on Oct 19, 2015, the brand had morphed into one of autocracy, hostility, stability, competence, tax cuts and complacency.

Much less inspiring.

What will the party brand become now? Youth? Patriotism? Strength? Empathy? Liberty? Prosperity? Unity? Freedom?

I don’t know, but the leadership candidates should.

Do they?

#4. Engagement

Normal Canadians don’t live and breathe politics the way political junkies do. Normal people aren’t even mildly interested in politics outside of election cycles. This is an opportunity for the CPC to introduce themselves to the public with a new first impression.

How do you do this?

By presenting ideas and hustling face-to-face. Get relational on a small scale and aim to get noticed on a large scale. Non-biased media coverage is hard to attain in Canada, but if you give the media something interesting, like a new idea, they’ll take the bait and help provide exposure. Don’t bother cultivating social-media, it’s myopic and fragmented and dying. Read this article I wrote about social media last year.

Get normals excited by reaching out to them on their turf. If you can’t get them excited then at least get them awake. The dividends will come later.

#5. Guile

Some conservatives are advocating becoming a second Liberal Party under the guise of modernization. Conservatism needs to be conservative in order to have traction, but wearing your heart on your sleeve is a dangerous vulnerability as well. The liberal media will exploit this vulnerability and use it to destroy you.

Harper had a good balance of knowing how to handle the liberal cultural context that the CPC finds itself in today. Sometimes you have to talk the talk, while letting the base understand that you’ll never walk the walk. Be sophisticated and tactical. Without guile, you’ll be chewed up and spit out.

Above all other traits, guile is what is needed to thrive and survive.

The leadership race is boring. If it’s boring now, it’ll be even worse in a general election in three years. Adopt these five traits and add some meat to your campaigns. Otherwise we’ll all be yawning during the concession speech in 2019.