Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Swiftboating His Opponents

The central problem the opposition parties have with Stephen Harper is that he defines the terms of the debate.He does that, first and foremost, by conducting an eternal campaign. His forces are continually on the attack, defining his opponents as weak, and their policies as un-Canadian.

The recently released attack ads against Bob Rae are the most recent example of his game plan. He has used the same plan against the NDP. Tim Harper writes in today's Toronto Star that:

The Conservatives have been road-testing their anti-NDP message in the House of Commons almost since late leader Jack Layton’s electoral breakthrough of May 2011.

Conservative members have risen time and again in the Commons during a time slot for statements — which are not supposed to be used for partisan attacks — to proclaim the NDP is “not fit to govern.’’

They have parodied the New Democrats as the “No Development Party’’ each time an opposition member has raised questions about the Conservatives energy policies.

They were called the “No Defence Party” when New Democrats rose in the House to question the cost and delivery schedule of the Conservatives’ sole-sourced F-35 fighter jet purchase.

There is a term for this strategy. It's called "Swiftboating;" and it takes its name from the attack Republicans waged against John Kerry. It worked with cynical effectiveness, turning a decorated war veteran into a coward. Kerry lost to a man who worked hard to avoid service in Vietnam, while he flew jets around the southern U.S.

Harper, Bob Rae has said, "throws for the head." But, if  the opposition and the press stay on the election fraud story, they'll eventually sink Harper's swiftboat.


kirbycairo said...

The difficulty in fighting against a 'swiftboat' strategy is the age old problem of entropy - it is easier to destroy than it is to build, and it is easier to foster fear than to cultivate hope.

However, in the final analysis, I believe that it has largely been a sympathetic media that has been most responsible for Harper's longterm victory. His actions (past and present) are ones that would have sunk any Liberal or NDP politician because we would never have heard the end of his racist past, his present corruption etc. I think of it as the same kind of dilemma that women face in society today, ie., if they really want to get ahead they need to buy into the style and substance of their misogynist opponents, and failure to do so puts them in a continually disadvantageous position. And for a woman to succeed in a man's world she needs to be twice as efficient, twice as strong, twice as effective as the men with whom she competes.

Owen Gray said...

It's interesting to see how the American Right has put women in their crosshairs, Kirby. The Harper Conservatives can't be far behind.

What is surprising is the sheer cynicism of these attacks. People at The Globe and Mail -- with the exception of Lawrence Martin -- have swallowed the strategy hook line and sinker. It's interesting that the push back is coming from the folks at Postmedia.

I would not have predicted their digging for the story. Perhaps Maher and MxGregor will be our Woodward and Bernstein.

thwap said...

kirbycairo is right.

But just like women who adopt alpha male characteristics to succeed in a man's world get attacked for being ball-busting bitch dykes, so too, do progressives constantly get attacked for being "angry" and "violent" even when we're speaking out against war and economic injustice and even when we're passively resisting as the cops bust our heads and the state violates all our civil and legal rights.

This whole Rae thing is a passing squall though. It's easily demolished by pointing to harper and Flaherty's own massive incompetence, and the main effort must continue to be burrowing away at the massive, centrally orchestrated harpercon electoral fraud campaign.

Owen Gray said...

The Harperites will stop at nothing to sink their opponents, thwap. And they could succeed yet again -- if people stop digging into the voter suppression story.

However, if the press and the opposition parties have the courage to uncover the facts, nothing Stephen Harper says will save him.

Way Way Up said...

Your comment on women in politics is spot on kirbycairo. With an election coming up here provincially in Alberta I wonder how long it will take for the knives to come out since we will most certainly have a female premier and a female leader of the opposition.

Owen Gray said...

As usual, Way, Kirby has seen beyond the issues of the moment. It will be interesting to see if two women leaders can change Alberta's political culture.

I'm sure they have their work cut out for them.