Question: Is Premier-elect Dexter cool?

Ungodly, high-waisted dad-jeans be damned, Lezlie Lowe says. I want to hang out with that guy!

Yeah, I'll fess up to a little bit of Obama envy, sure. And Chronicle-Herald columnist Ralph Surette says I'm not alone.

Surette told CBC Radio's Information Morning last Wednesday that a voting majority of Nova Scotians are green for Barack, and that's why we signed in our historic NDP-thick legislature June 9.

No question---Nova Scotians were ready for Rodney to two-step his way out the door after the Tories' thousand-year reign. And we weren't game for any ye olde Liberal tricks of Stephen McNeil. But there's more behind the NDP's astonishing gains. And Surette hit the nail on the head when he mentioned the O-word.

"The Obama election spread the idea that change that seemed extremely unlikely only a short time ago can actually happen," Surette tells me in an email. "It's impossible to measure, but it was in the air and coloured the context a bit and made it not only easier but actually more compelling to take the chance and vote the way we did."

I'll put a finer---if somewhat superficial---point on it: We voted NDP in part because we all want to believe Darrell Dexter is cool.

Just stop laughing and hear me out.

Did you know Barack and Michelle have been livening up the White House East Room with author readings, spoken word performances, jazz concerts and DJs? All true. Since January. On a regular basis.

They're shaking up White House art, too, borrowing work, a White House rep told the Wall Street Journal, to "round out the permanent collection." Translation: modern painting and sculpture from artists who aren't necessarily dead and/or white.

Barack's one cool-factor caveat, according to brilliant San Francisco Gate columnist Mark Morford, are the president's jeans, which Morford calls "ungodly, high-waisted" and "poofy." I've seen the photos; Morford's right.

Darrell Dexter's jeans? The Google Images archive of his existence tells me if it's not a suit with this guy, it's khakis.

But Dexter does wear jeans, says Kathryn Morse of the NDP caucus office. "Levi's. Nothing fancy."

Also? Potentially bordering on Obama's dad-pants.

But this isn't really about dungarees. And I can abide by ungodly, high-waisted and poofy on Obama and on Dexter, so long as our new premier gets the rest of it right. He can start with the reinstatement of the Nova Scotia Arts Council and support for strong, independent arm's-length funding for the arts in the province.

Bigger picture? Dexter can channel Obama and confirm Ralph Surette's bang-on sense: Nova Scotians were inspired and looking for change.

Dexter made it clear during the campaign that his priority was keeping young people in the province. How? By building a place where they not only could, economically speaking, stay, but where they would want to.

That promise is about the economy, health care, social programs and a serious, holistic embracing of environmental issues. But it's also about the fleeting, fickle fancy of coolness.

So I'm asking Dexter to make a name for himself as someone who deserves not only our respect for his leadership and clear-mindedness, but as a man about whom the under-40 set can actually think: Ungodly, high-waisted dad-jeans be damned! I want to hang out with that guy!

Darrell and his family don't have a staffed residence and a full-time social secretary like the Obamas. But they do have Province House, which has been cloistered behind its spiky black iron fence for too long. Look at Joseph Howe on the south lawn there, his little right hand reaching to the masses: "Wait, wait, no, awwww, don't go, please, a little company, come on...."

Make Province House the White House East Room, Darrell. Open it up for poetry slams and art shows. Find someone with suitable eclecticism to plan a concert series. Hire chefs to serve weekly local food buffets. (OK, that idea came off the top of the head of the NDP's Kathryn Morse, who promises, without many details, that the June 19 Cunard Centre swearing-in ceremony for the new premier and his cabinet will be larger than the norm and open to the public. But please let's not leave this embracing of the public at that, shall we?)

Is Darrell up to the task? Is Darrell, I asked long-time NDP MLA Maureen MacDonald, cool?

"I think he's Nova Scotia cool. He doesn't take himself...well...he's not the centre of the universe. He's got that connection to other people. That's Nova Scotia cool."

And, basically, that's all that I'm looking for. And maybe some better jeans.

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