Conservative Party of Canada Leadership Race: Where are the “Statesmen/Stateswomen?”


J. Stewart Cook

When I think of a “leader” I think of people with “statesman/stateswoman” like stature. Those who come to mind are leaders such as, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Brian Mulroney.

I like the definition under Wikipedia…”A statesman or stateswoman is usually a  politician, diplomat or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career at the national or international level.” I also like the words “notable” and “respected.” Other descriptive words I noted outside of Wikipedia were “wise” and “skilled.”

There is a Socratic dialogue written by Palto. Its intention, “to clarify that to rule or have political power called for a specialized knowledge. The ‘statesman’ was one who possesses this special knowledge of how to rule justly and well and to have the best interests of the citizens at heart. It is presented that politics should be run by this knowledge.”

According to the World Book Dictionary, a statesman is “a person who is skilled in the management of public or national affairs.” while a politician is “a person who gives much time to political affairs; a person who is experienced in politics.”

By combining the two, you have a “leader” who is skilled and politically astute…at least this is the expectation.

Looking at the Canadian Conservative Party Leadership race, one seeks, and hopes, to find a candidate (there are fourteen) that exudes the qualities of a “statesman/stateswoman.”

U.S. Professor, Dr. J. Rufus Fears, stated that a “statesman” must possess four critical qualities:

A bedrock of principles, a moral compass, a vision, and an ability to build a consensus to achieve that vision.

He explains that “the statesman builds his platform on a foundation of firm, unchanging, fundamental truths. These are the things he believes at his very core, his overarching philosophy. He may change the details of his policies and his methods for achieving those policies, but only inasmuch as those short-term tactics of expediency serve the purpose of furthering his bedrock of principles in the long run.

Dr. Fears argues “that the modern politician makes decisions by using “antennae.” He puts his feelers out there to gauge the public mood. Once he figures out which way the wind is blowing, he then shapes himself and his message to give the people exactly what they want. But as Dr. Fears would hammer home again and again to us: A statesman does not govern by public opinion polls.”

A statesman “has a clear vision of what his country and his people can become. He knows where he wants to take them and what it will take to get there. A statesman’s foresight is one of his most important qualities.”

A statesman, “…must enlist those who serve with him in the government to support his initiatives, and their willingness to do so rests on the pressure they feel from their constituents to align themselves with the statesman’s vision. Thus, a statesman’s success in building a consensus ultimately hinges on his ability to convince his countrymen of the soundness of his philosophy.”

On the other hand, “a politician may have a bedrock of principles, a moral compass, and a vision, but if he lacks the ability to build a consensus around his vision, his efforts to change policies, laws, and the course of history will largely be in vain.”

Having followed the Conservative candidates over the past months, I have tried to narrow the number of candidates I believe have the key qualities of a “statesman/stateswoman.” I have yet to note any one particular candidate.

Last month, a poll by Forum Research, asked which of the following eight candidates would “make the best permanent leader of the federal Conservative Party.” The candidates listed were O’Leary, Bernier, Lisa Raitt, Chris Alexander, Steven Blaney, Michael Chong, Kellie Leitch, and Andrew Scheer. Of these eight candidates, one hopes that a “statesman/stateswoman” will stand out amongst the rest.

In the world of politics the “underdog” may have the  qualities to become the greatest leader of the day. Of the eight aforementioned candidates, I believe one will be responsive to my question….”Where are the statesmen/stateswomen.” Yes, in politics, a day does make a difference!

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