Ryan Cleary didn’t become the punchline to any New Yorker cartoon at 3:00 PM last Friday afternoon.
Norman laced into Cleary on Facebook Friday afternoon, calling Cleary’s decision to join the Tories “an indictment of Ryan's dishonesty and disloyalty.” and “the actions of a person who has absolutely no understanding of political ideology and is solely motivated by a narcissistic attempt to be on top."
All true, no doubt, but it was just as true when – as Norman acknowledges – she decided not to contest the NDP nomination in 2008 in favour of the NDP’s then-new star candidate. It isn’t Ryan Cleary’s fault that Peg and a bunch of others decided to welcome him with open arms as their asshole and are now feeling a bit like Richard Nixon in another joke.*.After all, Cleary is – as he truthfully said standing next to Paul Davis – exactly the same guy he was as a New Democrat.
Ryan Cleary’s score on the Determination of Arseholic Narcissism scale is entirely irrelevant to what is going on right now in provincial politics. To appreciate the political developments last week, look beyond the superficial.
An enormous ego
The Conservatives wanted a candidate to tackle Cathy Bennett. They’ve been courting potential candidates with all the ardour and sincerity of a horny undergraduate on George Street on a Saturday night. We need a star candidate, they’ve whispered into more than one shell-like. There are dozens of other candidates waiting in the wings but they are all hesitating. We need you to show them the way. C’mon baby, you know you want it.
And want it Ryan did. Reporters asked Paul Davis and Ryan Cleary who approached who about Cleary’s candidacy. Davis avoided the truth like the plague. Ryan, on the other hand, could not hold back: Davis called him, and when the Premier calls, you answer, Cleary said.
Cleary needs to be needed. He needs a platform from which to preach his Ryan-centric gospel. Davis gave him one.
Cleary was so desperate for the attention that he never noticed that Cathy Bennett had already killed a far bigger Saviour of His People than Ryan could ever hope to be. In the by-election after Kathy Dunderdale quit, Danny Williams pushed aside the Danny the Conservatives had on the ballot. Williams took over the campaign in a manic drive to halt the Liberal string of victories. The Great Heart and Soul of the Nation took the battle on as his personal crusade.
The Nation in this staunchly provincial Conservative district said no thanks.
Cathy Bennett kicked Danny Williams’ ass. Since then, Bennett has been cementing her grip on the district. All the while Ryan was kicking his ass kicked in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, Cathy Bennett has been working twice as hard as before in the new configuration that resulted from Paul Davis plan to slash seats in the House.. She’s been able to help Liberals in neighbouring districts. And her crew worked with Nick Whalen to defeat Jack Harris.
Cleary would know that if he was thinking with his big political head instead of his little one. The Conservatives don’t care about Cleary’s chances of getting elected. They got three things out of this.
Three Conservative Gains
First, they got a name on the ballot.
Second, the Conservatives got payback for the embarrassment of 2011 when the NDP stole seats in the traditional Conservative base. Every NDP howl on social media is music to Conservative ears.
Third, the Conservatives are working to collapse the NDP vote. They know the fight for their political survival is on the northeast Avalon. They know the NDP voters are people who used to vote for the Conservatives. They know that Cleary’s anti-Confederate ideology is the one that resonates with townie Tories who defected to the NDP starting in 2008.
If they stand a hope of staying alive, the Conservatives want a straight fight with the Liberals. They need to neutralise the NDP and win back their old voters.
The NDP are doing everything in their power to help the Conservatives. The hard-core NDP activists have reacted to Cleary’s defection the same way they reacted to Mulcair’s “Newfie” comment. They are spewing rage out of every social media orifice they have. Their energy is going into pointless drama. Meanwhile, the other parties are putting energy into the campaign.
Cleary’s defection didn’t cause the NDP collapse currently underway, but it will surely help to demoralize them further. The NDP were already reeling from their federal losses. That hasn’t helped their provincial campaign, which is already troubled by exactly the same problems as the federal campaign. The situation is so bad for the NDP that they will have to struggle to hold on to Lorraine Michael and even Gerry Rogers. Earle is already toast. They have no hope of picking up seats at all in metro and the only prospect of any good news might be western Labrador.
The NDP’s own problems
Ryan didn’t jump to the Conservatives on his own. Reading between the lines of what Cleary and NDP leader Earle McCurdy have said over the past few days, it appears the two had a serious disagreement. That isn’t surprising. The two have never gotten along, except for show. Cleary told reporters precisely that he had never seen “eye-to-eye” with McCurdy. .
Of course, Cleary never got along with the federal NDP either. he got himself into trouble repeatedly with stupid statements about seals and about Europeans as serial rapists. Cleary said a couple of weeks ago that he had great difficulty getting anything done in Ottawa. He had to fight his party and then fight the government. What that meant – simply enough – is that Cleary couldn’t do the job people elected him to do. As far as Cleary’s self-centred, self-serving bullshit goes, put that comment to James McLeod about fighting his own party with his claim last Friday that he knows how to get things done in Ottawa.
But that is a digression.
As it appears, Cleary wanted to move into a seat where the provincial NDP already had a candidate. It wouldn’t take much to imagine Cleary, the legend-in-his-own-mind, expecting the local NDP to kiss his ass. When McCurdy wouldn’t pucker up, Cleary walked to the Tories where people were willing to stroke his tender ego and play upon his vanity.
That doesn’t mean that McCurdy would be wrong to reject the prima donna’s posturing. It does tell you that there is much more to the story than either Cleary, Davis or McCurdy have said. As those details emerge, Cleary will look even less attractive as a candidate than he does now.
That’s really the take-away from Friday’s news conference. The Conservatives are touting Cleary as a star candidate but he is far from that. Before Cleary announced, people were already ridiculing his announcement. Reporters in the scrum were aggressively challenging the obvious bullshit story that Davis and Cleary were telling. You need credibility to be a star candidate and by the end of Friday, Cleary had little if any left.
In a few weeks time, Cleary will be a footnote to the campaign. He will go down in history as a guy who lost badly in a federal election, switched parties and ran provincially a few weeks later only to lose again.
In a few months’ time, though, we shouldn’t be surprised if Cleary runs to replace Paul Davis. That’s what he would have done if McCurdy had given into Ryan’s demands.
Now Ryan is Paul’s problem and Earle McCurdy is – or should be – laughing his guts out at the thought.
*Nixon’s had an arsehole transplant. The arsehole rejected him.