We are all having a good time chortling about the Ruth Ellen Brosseau Crisis (Day 7!), which has become the biggest “cute white girl goes missing” news story since Natalee Holloway. But I think political horserace-handicappers need to start considering, seriously, whether the New Democratic Party is starting to foul up their foul-up. Humour is the most powerful acid in politics when it comes to dissolving confidence and momentum; a politician can fight a lie, but he cannot fight a good joke.
The NDP has left us with the impression that it has all but kidnapped Brosseau and is putting her through some kind of sadistic round-the-clock training—perhaps in a basement lit by a single bare light bulb—in the hope of making her presentable to the cameras at some point. This really is getting kind of creepy, and the English-language phone interview with somebody who can only be described as “a person claiming to be Brosseau” didn’t help. Nor does the media’s collective failure to establish any meaningful proof of Brosseau’s prior existence. (There are no candid photographs extant of a campus pub manager? There’s nothing on Flickr?)
I suppose Brosseau’s captors/handlers can argue that she is a grown-up who signed nomination papers on the dotted line, and that it will not do for her to back out now. The problem they have is that the longer we have to wait for her to manifest her existence, the greater the NDP’s apparent investment in her success, and the higher the standard that will eventually be applied to her. The party brass did have the option, in the hours following the election, of distancing themselves politely from her, slapping her on the back, wishing her good luck, and letting her take her own chances. They could have said “We’re a party with a strong grassroots, and we don’t handpick elite candidates according to their polite capitalist credentials or the content of their tax returns.” Instead, at the very moment its professionalism should no longer have been in serious question, the party made the decision that the new Quebecois empire must be defended to the last ditch. Which seems to have left it playing out a bizarre fast-forward retelling of Shaw’s Pygmalion.