A week can be an eternity in politics. In our democratic arena of votes and propaganda, so much can change so fast that we can end up living in a whole new world after a few short days, and have little or no idea how we got there.
When that happens — when, for instance, a powerfully entrenched leader suddenly departs from the public stage — it usually starts with a calculated decision made by someone who had a concrete goal in mind, but it often ends out of everyone’s control.
That can be terribly frustrating for an ambitious politician who eventually needs to impress the rest of us by showing himself or herself as a master of events, not just as a helpless cork tossing in the waves.
Speaking of the rest of us: barring snap elections, public riots or revolutions that would allow us to participate in the process, all we can do is sit back and hope for the best.
We can possibly influence some of the change-buffeted politicians with our popular and/or loudly stated opinions, but otherwise we’re not usually invited into the fray — unless, as already mentioned, one of the politicians prematurely calls an election, or we take to the streets, neither of which are really justified at this time.
The snap election’s the most possible of the options, but none of them are actually probable, which means all we can do is wait and watch as the politicos sort themselves out.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing — not right now, at least.
We can all use a breather. While the province’s political parties gear themselves up for a future conflict, the rest of us can treat the next few months as a kind of commercial break. We can turn down the volume on the TV, go to the fridge to raid it for snacks, and maybe pop to the washroom to freshen up.
If you’ve still got ’em, go outside and smoke ’em. In short: relax. The next step is all up to them.
Besides, as busy as all the politicians are going to be, they won’t have much time to think about us. Nor (as an aside) does our parliamentary system require them to — as is amply illustrated by the remarkable, but quite acceptable, fact that Newfoundland and Labrador now share a premier that absolutely no one elected to fill that position. The King is dead. Long live the Queen.
Next in charge
Any transition of power creates turbulence for those near the epicentre — like if the premier suddenly vanishes from his chair at the cabinet table and all the ministers get sucked in to fill the resulting vacuum.
Also, the process of trying to figure out who’s next in charge encourages a type of amnesia that starts at the very moment the King passes on.
Nothing but good is remembered of the former leader because, in relinquishing power, he’s lost his importance to the immediate situation — and politics is very much a game of immediacy. The past can be rewritten and the future is untouchable, except through promises that dissipate as soon as they’re spoken. So, only the present remains to the politician who’s trying to navigate a shaky ground of shifting loyalties, who’s trying to come out on top or at least end up on the winning team.
Which is great fun for the rest of us to watch.
Naturally, in the end, we’ll have to pay for the show one way or another, but for now, we don’t have to take it too seriously. Besides, what’s coming up doesn’t look terrible at all. With that consistently popular premier now gone — Williams was the name, wasn’t it? — the Liberals have much more than a fighting chance against the Progressive Conservatives in the next election.
That means for the first time ever a real Labradorian might become the most powerful politician in the province. How could that be bad?
The King is dead. Long live the Queen.
Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.