PHOTOS: Pat Paulsen and Bobby Kennedy. Below: Mr. Paulsen in 1970 … and in focus, putative PC leadership candidate Sandra Jansen and Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean.

Where’s Pat Paulsen, now that America needs him?

Or, to put this another way, seeing as Mr. Paulsen permanently departed this vale of political tears back in 1997, if he were running for president of the United States today, he’d probably have a fighting chance to get elected. Consider the competition!

pat_paulsen_1970For those of you too young to recall Mr. Paulsen’s heyday, he was a deadpan comedian who frequently appeared on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (Who? What? — Ed.) and briefly had his own TV comedy program.

His best running gag was running serially for the presidency of the United States in as many states as he could get his name on the ballot. (Not many.)

As he asked at the time, “Why not? I can’t dance – besides, the job has a good pension.” That’s got to be better than Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s key messages in 2016: “It was just locker-room banter” (his) and “I can start a war with Russia if I want to” (hers).

Unlike Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton, Mr. Paulsen’s comedy ran to the low-key slapstick, played with a poker face. Plus, at the time people actually thought he was funny. (Alas, his stuff doesn’t really hold up that well in replays, so I’ll spare you the Youtube link … maybe it was all the non-medicinal pot fumes at the time.)

Regardless, Mr. Paulsen ran for president in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992 and 1996. He came second to George H.W. Bush in the 1992 Republican primary in North Dakota, and second to Bill Clinton, granted with only 921 votes to Mr. Clinton’s 76,750, in the 1996 New Hampshire Democratic primary.

Protest votes, they say, but they did attract enough attention that real politicians, like Bobby Kennedy, were willing to appear in a clip with him now and then.

jansenMr. Paulsen once appeared on stage in Edmonton. I know that because his picture used to grace the wall of the old Mayfield Inn dinner theatre.

Plus, he showed up in Victoria, B.C., circa 1968, for a nightclub act if memory serves. But the promoter sent him down to Beacon Hill Park’s Speakers’ Corner, where his remarks were witnessed one damp weekend afternoon by a bored Victoria Daily Times reporter with a pencil stub and a steno pad (plus a dime in his pocket, presumably, in case anything exciting enough to phone in about took place), two dog walkers, and a kid with bicycle, that is to say, your blogger.

Mr. Paulsen promised to walk the next weekend to Port Angeles, Washington, 40 kilometres across the evocatively named Juan de Fuca Strait, to prove his fitness to be chief executive of the United States. The effort to walk on water, I’m sorry to report, was not much more of a success than Mr. Trump’s efforts to prove a similar point.

And, um … that’s it!

As readers can tell, it’s been a slow night in Alberta politics. The only buzz is that today’s the day Calgary-North West Progressive Conservative MLA Sandra Jansen will officially announce her much-rumoured run for the PC Party leadership.

ghqk36kuWe shall see, I guess. Last night Ms. Jansen was playing her cards close to her vest and not responding to your blogger’s desperate plea for confirmation.

If she doesn’t run, it’ll be an outrage, because then her putative campaign manager, political strategist Stephen Carter, will have been given the bum’s rush for no good reason from the CBC’s Calgary political panel, where he was at least as entertaining as Pat Paulsen.

Mr. Carter has a reputation as a political rainmaker, but he’s going to have to make a lot of rain if Ms. Jansen’s effort to keep the PCs from turning into the Wildrose Party is going to put down lasting roots.

These are desperate times for Alberta conservatives of all stripes, after all, deprived of what they think as their rightful place at the helm of Alberta’s ship of state by, of all people, Rachel Notley and the NDP.

Conservatives like Ms. Jansen who think their party should retain its big-tent, centrist traditions, and Wildrosers like Opposition Leader Brian Jean who reckon they deserve at least some credit for saving the party in its darkest days and keeping the thing in running order ever since, are going to have a hard time overcoming the siren call of Jason Kenney, the former Harper cabinet minister who promises a united right will regain power, whether or not its principles remain intact.

Mr. Jean was in St. Albert last week, resentfully complaining that Mr. Kenney never phoned him about his plans to unite the right through a unique double reverse hostile takeover, first of the Wildrose Party and then of the PCs. “He’s had my phone number and my email address for 12 years,” Mr. Jean said plaintively.

During his St. Albert stopover, however, Mr. Jean attacked Ms. Jansen for not being, as he put it, a true conservative. Unlike Mr. Kenney, I guess.

For her part, Ms. Jansen can’t stand Mr. Kenney and says she’ll quit the party if he becomes the leader.

Mr. Kenney himself has been quiet for a couple of days, although his grin may have lingered in the air at the St. Albert Legion during Mr. Jean’s brief stopover.

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  1. If Sandra Jansen runs for the PC leadership and wins I think judging by her voting record in the legislature since the last election she will pull the PC party to the centre if not a bit left of centre. This will siphon a lot of votes from the NDP while at the same time pushing those more right of center PC supporters to the Wild Rose. If she wins the net loser will be the NDP and the net winner the Wild Rose. You will have 4 parties battling over the moderate vote and one left on the right, there will be no need to unite the right. Funny how politics works in Alberta.

    1. That is the way it works everywhere using the “first past the post election” system. The result is usually zero public interest democracy – which suited the aristocrats who created the system just fine – just as it suits big business today.

    2. To your winner versus loser argument I have to comment that social conservatism is a loser. Trying to ride phony lertarian fiscal conservatism while hiding retrograde social policies is a loser. The best that real (c)onservatives (do they even exist anymore) can hope for is a progressive fiscal conservative to lead them and that they state in no uncertain terms that they will work with whatever party has the best ideas. That would likely be the WRP as long as their most *clears throat* iconoclastic members kept schtum. An amalgamation of PC and WRP would be a cynical fiasco. Like it or not, a lot of PCers have actual principles!

      1. Sorry for the delay.

        “Mr. Paulsen promised walk the next weekend to Port Angeles, Washington…”

        I think that this should be

        “Mr. Paulsen promised to walk the next weekend to Port Angeles, Washington…”

        Typo may have been the wrong word – I thought that you had dropped a word.
        Can’t figure out how to boldface or italicize here or I would have made it more obvious.

        1. You’re right, Lars, I was just blind to it, is all. Too much blog writing too late at night. DJC

  2. If you look at the history of the PC’s in power in Alberta, you will see there was usually a party to the right of them. They were usually more a center right party than a party that tried to get the most conservative voters. As Farmer points out, it is sort of odd that there are more parties battling it out for the center left vote, but it seems to be the right that is now so preoccupied with uniting.

    I suppose in a democracy it is ultimately up to the voters to choose the party they like best, so I think parties merging or taking over other parties could be seen as limiting or trying to control that choice and hence being somewhat anti democratic.

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