Monday, May 08, 2006

Confounding Harper's Plan

In response to Pedro the Politico, is Stephen Harper an asshole or an idiot? Well sir, he's not an idiot. I think this much is clear.

Make absolutely no mistake, Stephen Harper and his political advisors, now running one of the most divisively partisan governments in Canadian history, have a plan. The Liberal machine made the enormous mistake of underestimating Harper's Conservatives before and during the election, and that is why we lost.

The Conservatives would tell you that we lost because of sponsorship (untrue; we still won in 2004) or because Canadians disagreed with Liberal policies (also untrue; most people did vote for a centre-left party). The real reason is quite simple - we lost because they out-campaigned us. The Liberal braintrust simply assumed that Harper and his team would repeat the same fatal mistakes they made in 2004, which given Harper's well-documented reputation as a strategist, was itself a fatal mistake. It was just assumed that the Tories would blow it, and the Liberals could coast to another victory.

But they came out of the gates blazing, with daily policy announcements designed to fool people into thinking they were a moderate party. The Liberals had nothing to counter with except (shoddy) negative campaigning. What we absolutely can't afford to do is make another error like that.

Harper and his team have a plan, and frankly it's been in the works for some time. After they lost in 2004, they immediately started working on a plan to win. This much is pretty obvious. What's also obvious is what this plan, chronologically up to this point, has consisted of. Recast the party as more centrist, run a flawless election campaign, win a minority, fool people into thinking the party is moderate by proposing moderate legislation... somewhere down the line, win a majority government. And, according to this guy, render the Liberals as an unelectable brand. That last part is a bit of a stretch - it would take a lot to make the Liberals unelectable, and the Conservatives couldn't do much one way or the other to do so - but their plan to win a majority certainly isn't.

What we're seeing here is one step in his carefully crafted plan to get a majority. His buddying up to Charest, his ignoring the government of Ontario, and his own personal "fuck you" to McGuinty, make absolutely no mistake, are a part of this plan. The question Liberals, from the rank-and-file up to the strategists, should be trying to figure out is, "How?" How does all of this figure into Harper's plan, and how can we best confound it? Let's not make the mistake of giving him a free ride again. Harper may be, as Mr. Pedro put it, "an asshole," but he is a smart guy - beating him is going to require a bit of thinking.


At 5/09/2006 2:23 a.m., Blogger Miles Lunn said...

His going after Ontario doesn't seem to make electoral sense. 1/3 of the Tory caucus comes from Ontario so any gains he makes in Quebec would be offset by losses in Ontario. Now maybe he figures those who would vote for Dalton McGuinty wouldn't vote Conservative federally (which is generally true) and John Tory is more centrist than he is, so if anything it will be John Tory more than Stephen Harper who will be hurt being by too closely aligned since John Tory is a lot more popular than Harper.

Still I figure his conquer and divide strategy is a page out of the Bush doctrine, which worked at getting Bush re-elected. Mike Harris also used this strategy which worked for two terms, but eventually people got tired of it even if they were supportive of the direction the government was going on, they were tired of their confrontational approach.

At 5/09/2006 3:14 p.m., Anonymous CuriositykilledTheCat said...

Want to know Harper's plan? Read his speeches. Note his emphasis on "baby steps" (incrementalism) – his plan reflects his conservative agenda - his views of conservatives and their mission regarding moral values and their role in politics. Note the words he uses with regard to Canada's role in the world: we have to use "hard power" ....

Let Harper speak for himself.

In an article headed Rediscovering The Right Agenda, published only 3 years ago (remember Harper saying he has stayed true to his core? This is his core), in June 2003 (see website of Christian Coalition International Canada (Inc.), Harper makes these points:

• conservatives are in a fight against liberalism;
• the non-conservatives have descended into "nihilism" due to their support of moral relativism;
• conservatives have to ensure a return of our society to conservative values, including clear right and wrong answers to ethical and political questions;
• conservatives are under attack by liberalism, which some tribunals such as rights agencies, have as their aim "the actual banning of conservative views";
• conservatives must bring in more and deeper tax cuts, and eliminate corporate subsidies and industrial-development schemes (take that, Maritimers!);
• conservatives in Canada must put "hard power" (troops) behind the moral right of our society in its clash with those other societies whose values differ from ours and who are our enemies;
• clear right and wrong answers have a place in protecting the family;
• conservatives must give greater place to social conservatism in politics.

Are these summaries of his ideology correct? Read the article yourself, and read some of these extracts:

• What is the challenger per Harper?

"The real challenge is therefore not economic, but the social agenda of the modern Left. Its system of moral relativism, moral neutrality and moral equivalency is beginning to dominate its intellectual debate and public-policy objectives."

• Why are liberals wrong, per Harper?

"This descent into nihilism should not be surprising because moral relativism simply cannot be sustained as a guiding philosophy. It leads to silliness such as moral neutrality on the use of marijuana or harder drugs mixed with its random moral crusades on tobacco. It explains the lack of moral censure on personal foibles of all kinds, extenuating even criminal behaviour with moral outrage at bourgeois society, which is then tangentially blamed for deviant behaviour. On the moral standing of the person, it leads to views ranging from radical responsibility-free individualism, to tribalism in the form of group rights."

• Where is this headed, per Harper (and what do you think this view means with regard to appointments to tribunals, use of notwithstanding clause, appointment of judges etc)?

"The logical end of this thinking is the actual banning of conservative views, which some legislators and "rights" commissions openly contemplate."

• Are we in for deeper tax cuts, ala Bush – per Harper?

"There is, of course, much more to be done in economic policy. We do need deeper and broader tax cuts, further reductions in debt, further deregulation and privatization, and especially the elimination of corporate subsidies and industrial-development schemes. In large measure, however, the public arguments for doing so have already been won. Conservatives have to more than modern liberals in a hurry."

• Where is the battleground (and what does this mean will preoccupy a Harper majority government)?

"The truth of the matter is that the real agenda and the defining issues have shifted from economic issues to social values, so conservatives must do the same."

• What steps must conservatives take regarding protecting the family, per Harper?

"This same argument applies equally to a range of issues involving the family (all omitted from the Throne Speech), such as banning child pornography, raising the age of sexual consent, providing choice in education and strengthening the institution of marriage. All of these items are key to a conservative agenda."

• How about moral questions in our foreign affairs?

"... the emerging debates on foreign affairs should be fought on moral grounds. Current challenges in dealing with terrorism and its sponsors, as well as the emerging debate on the goals of the U.S. as the sole superpower, will be well served by conservative insights on preserving historic values and moral insights on right and wrong."


"Conservatives must take the moral stand, with our allies, in favour of the fundamental values of our society, including democracy, free enterprise and individual freedom. This moral stand should not just give us the right to stand with our allies, but the duty to do so and the responsibility to put "hard power" behind our international commitments."

• How important are "baby steps" (incrementalism) in achieving these conservative values, per Harper (and what does this forecast for the way in which Harper will govern)?

"Rebalancing the conservative agenda will require careful political judgment. First, the issues must be chosen carefully....Second, we must realize that real gains are inevitably incremental... conservatives should be satisfied if the agenda is moving in the right direction, even if slowly."

• Can conservatives attract Liberals, per Harper (what about Quebeckers?)?

"Many traditional Liberal voters, especially those from key ethnic and immigrant communities, will be attracted to a party with strong traditional views of values and family. This is similar to the phenomenon of the "Reagan Democrats" in the United States, who were so important in the development of that conservative coalition."

Welcome to this conservative revolutionary, whose heroes are Bush, Reagan, Thatcher, Frank Luntz ....


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