Top News

Russell Wangersky: Pavlov’s voter

What do an ugly dog and Kid Rock have in common? More than the obvious …
What do an ugly dog and Kid Rock have in common? More than the obvious …

There’s a dog in my neighbourhood that howls along with every ambulance siren.

Russell Wangersky

He doesn’t know what the siren is, but he recognizes it every time, and reacts just the same: a quavering howl, just enough out of pitch, enough out of step, to clearly differentiate howl from siren.

It is a particular kind of skill; the tone of the siren changes, and almost instantly, the howl changes, too.

This past weekend, a news site suggested that Kid Rock was potentially going to have to face Ted Nugent in a faceoff for a Michigan seat in the U.S. Senate. Ted Nugent is a rock star who supported Donald Trump’s candidacy; his tweet announcing his intentions reads, “If these GOP sonsabitches don’t get it right this time I will come charging as the ultimate WE THE PISSED OFF PEOPLE Mr. Fixit Constitutional firebreathing shitkicker candidate from hell!”

Kid Rock, also a rock star of sorts, bills himself as “the King of White Trash,” and has an interesting America-view. (I’d say world-view, but neither potential candidate seems particularly concerned about the world in any way.) Here’s Mr. Rock in a 2010 interview: “I have nightmares that I’m going to wake up and everyone’s driving a Prius and living in a condo and we’re all getting health insurance.”

Duelling rock stars and howling dogs may seem unconnected — but bear with me here.

We’ve built a cult of celebrity that is almost unprecedented: you can’t go on your computer or flick on the television without crashing into semi-naked Kardashians or baby-bearing Beyonces. We hear about them as actors and performers, but also as business champions; with the strengths of their “brands,” they sell huge volumes of goods and are held out as successful entrepreneurs.

It’s no wonder, then, that a politically unqualified business showman would become the U.S. president, or that Arnold Schwarzenegger could end up as governor of California — it’s clearly a help when everyone already knows your name.

Heck, look at the current federal Conservative leadership campaign, with star candidate Kevin O’Leary.

Now, O’Leary seems like an unusual candidate for the Tories. First of all, he lives in the States, only rarely passing through for the occasional campaign debate before departing again — something the Conservatives themselves used with great effect to destroy the campaign of Liberal Michael Ignatieff. In the past, O’Leary has donated money to political candidates, but to Liberals, not Tories. Even his positions on issues seem far more aligned with Liberal policy than with the Tories.

In other words, a very unlikely Conservative leadership candidate. You’d think he’d have next to no support — instead, he has plenty. He’s even seen as the front-runner.

So, why would the Tories be interested in a Boston resident who’s closer in political philosophy to their opponents than he is to the Tories themselves?

Simple. His name recognition — from television shows like “Dragons’ Den” and “Shark Tank” — puts him on the top of the list in polling over a relatively recognition-challenged crew of Tory never-beens.

And polling is critical. Because of that, the Tories might just surrender anything like principles and choke down their distaste to try and land a winner.

We’ve got a role in that, too. Voters are lazy, and they like a name they know, especially someone that performs the role of politician without ever actually having done the slogging and forced education that politics entails.

I like the neighbour’s dog, I suppose. It’s noisy, but who wouldn’t be? A dog’s life sounds pretty darned boring. And the food? Try it some time.

It can be counted on to react in a simple, knee-jerk way to simple stimulus, every time. Ivan Pavlov proved that.

But would I let it vote?

I don’t think so.

Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@tc.tc — Twitter: @Wangersky

Recent Stories