Appeared in Business in Vancouver – May 10, 2013
I tried to assemble an all-time dream team of distinguished candidates for the May 14 election – excluding actual politicians such as Commie-slayers Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Not easy.
I considered Plato. Too obvious. Also he predicted democracy would lead to chaos, followed by dictatorship. Pass on Plato.
Famed nation-builder Louis XIV seemed perfect for the party’s right-wing vote. The Sunshine King didn’t lack confidence. “The sun shines out of my lower orifice,” His Maj declared. “Here’s my election slogan: ‘Don’t be stupid, don’t be screwy, vote for your beloved King Louie!’” I said: “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
Staying French, I checked La Rochefoucauld’s tweets. One was, “Peu de gens savent être vieux,” or in the other official language, “Few people know how to be old.” Ouch. Insult the seniors vote? B.C. candidates have been fired for less – and, in the case of the NDP’s Jane Shin, excused for much worse.
Speaking of millions of internuts, I warmly back Dr. Samuel Johnson, who opined: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money” (and if you think I come that cheap, pal, think again). But a business audience will love the sage’s “a man is seldom more innocently occupied than when he is engaged in making money.” Unless they think deeper: The rest of the time, what did Johnson suspect they were up to?
To woo the LGBT vote, Oscar Wilde is a cinch. The heavy thinkers behind Christy Clark’s Liberal attack ads could substitute this Wildean tactic: “Forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”
A student in an Iris Murdoch novel translates a passage from The Elegies of Propertius: “While the light remains, only do not forsake the joy of life. If you will have given all your kisses, you will give too few.” Might grab the cool-youth vote.
Tugging at the left, there’s always Karl Marx, whose Communist Manifesto I praised in a university essay in youth. But his “Workers of the world, unite!” mantra collapsed when the workers proved they’d rather shop than unite.
The other Marx, Groucho, could help appeal to the ethnic vote (and lighten an otherwise mirthless campaign). As a measure of how times have changed, he was refused use of a Los Angeles pool: “Mr. Marx, we don’t allow Jews in this pool.” Groucho: “Could my daughter go in up to her waist? She’s only half Jewish.”
Back to my youth: I’d have shared with Adrian Dix’s closet old-lefties my delight in F.R. Scott’s capitalist-slamming poetry. Scott, a founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the New Democrats’ predecessor, typically wrote lines like: “Free enterprise does not, of course, mean actual competition/And cutting prices – God forbid! – that’s treason and sedition.” Probably played better 80 years ago.
Stirling Moss was a top British racing driver – I cherish the press conference I attended in Toronto as a sports car columnist around 1958 where Moss, whose wife Katie was a Molson, cheerfully noted his name was scarcely known in Canada: “They think I’m some kind of soap.”
Imagine Moss asking the premier about her (ridiculously over-chewed in the media) drive through a red light at 5:10 a.m.: “How fast were you going?” “Zero. I stopped and then drove on.” “When is this race over?” “May 14.” “Ms. Clark, you’ll never win driving at that speed.”
Last word to E.M. Forster. Could be my party’s finance minister. The theme of his novel Howards End is: “Only connect.” Like connecting B.C.’s taxes, debt, public services and money-spinning businesses. Some fools – or nostalgic Soviet-lovers? – don’t get it.
© Trevor Lautens, 2013