Imitation is the easiest game to play in politics.
Trying to become the next Ronald Reagan, the next Pierre Trudeau, the next Peter Lougheed, etc. is a lot easier than being and selling yourself. Authentic leaders, as opposed to those imitating leaders, always have a harder job to do, but are almost always more successful.
This does not, of course, mean that leaders should not learn from the examples of others or that there are not good models out there to follow -- but successful leaders have always been those who respond to the unique needs of their own time and place, and who are at the same time authentically seeking to act on their own deeply held principles and values.
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)
In the current Conservative leadership race, members will make a choice between imitation and authenticity. After the success of Donald Trump, multiple candidates are venturing into that version of the imitation game -- in tone, in style, in tactics or in substance. Their failure to recognize fundamental differences in the political culture and the leadership selection processes in both countries will be their undoing. They fail to appreciate a big part of the of Donald Trump's actual appeal -- his sheer originality.
On the other side of the imitation game are those who think we need to imitate the policies of Liberals in order to be successful. I reject that, in part on the basis of policy substance, but also because voters are looking for authenticity and want Conservatives to offer a thoughtful and original vision for the future of the country.
Authenticity is a necessary, but not always sufficient, condition for leadership.
It needs to be noted, of course, that authenticity in a leader is not enough. Personal consistency and character are required as well. A person who is authentic but is otherwise unfit for leadership will bring disrepute on themselves and on their party.
When Justin Trudeau talked about smoking marijuana himself, while serving as an MP and while voting for tougher sentences for marijuana, he showed openness and authenticity, but also hypocrisy. Authenticity is a necessary, but not always sufficient, condition for leadership.
In our ongoing leadership race, there is one candidate whom I see as fully representing the necessary combination of authenticity, character and conservative ideas. That person is Andrew Scheer.
House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer presides over Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Sept. 30, 2014. (Photo: REUTERS/Chris Wattie)
Notably, Andrew's style and approach to politics is entirely original and unique. He has contagious warmth, which speaks to the fact that he genuinely likes other people. He can deliver profound and serious points with both warmth and humour.
These qualities do not take away from his substantiveness -- in fact, they feed it. His personable and sincere presentation style make his genuinely conservative convictions that much more persuasive. Andrew isn't trying to be Donald Trump, and he isn't trying to be Stephen Harper. He's being himself.
It is important that we have a thoughtful and original voice, not an echo of something in the past or of something somewhere else.
For the reasons I've mentioned, Andrew has a track record of getting strong support among those who have worked most closely with him. He was elected Speaker by his peers, and has by far the most support among Conservative MPs and among Conservative Senators. This speaks to the authenticity and character that he displays even when the cameras are off. It would be dangerous for us to have a leader who has little or no support among those who know the leadership candidates best.
Whoever our party elects, it is important that we have a thoughtful and original voice, not an echo of something in the past or of something somewhere else. Authenticity, sincerity, character and originality, not imitation, will be crucial to winning the next election.
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