Saturday, December 27, 2014

How Cynical Have We Become?

Stephen Harper passed his best before date long ago. If he paid attention to history, he would have misgivings about running in the next election. Jeffrey Simpson writes:

Think of the prime ministers with majorities since 1968. Pierre Trudeau served 11 years (1968 to 1979) before being defeated. Brian Mulroney served a bit less than nine years before resigning. Jean Chr├ętien was prime minister for 10 years and a month before resigning.

But, in our first past the post system, all Harper needs is 40% of the votes to form a government:

He has an unshakable core vote of 30 to 32 per cent of the electorate. These people skew older, rural, male, western Canadian – and they vote. The Conservatives know how to mobilize them.

They have also identified minority groups – Jews, Tamils, Ukrainians – and tied Canadian foreign policy to the interests of these slices of the electorate. They have large amounts of government money in the form of tax cuts and government advertising to direct at other slices of the electorate: single-income families with stay-at-home mothers, parents with kids in athletic programs. And they have a large series of targeted spending announcements yet to be made, on top of the dozens and dozens already made.

It's an entirely cynical approach to politics. And Stephen Harper isn't the first politician who got to where he is by being entirely cynical. But when the people themselves get cynical about their leaders, those leaders go down to defeat:

The most powerful anti-government sentiment in any democracy is the oldest adage in politics: “Time for a change.” The economy can be reasonably sound, the political alternative untried, even shaky, the government experienced and able, but when the largest parts of the public settle on the ill-defined but powerful notion that the time has come to change, there isn’t much the incumbents can do.

Harper is betting that Canadians haven't reached that point yet. 2015 will test just how cynical we have become.


rumleyfips said...

The " unshakable " 30% has been quivering a bit lately. Bill Casey has returned in my bedrock con riding. Two of the reformacon amigos, Ford and Hudac have fallen in Ontario. Veterans are organising against Harper.

There are all signs as hopeful as the first Redwing blackbird of spring.

Owen Gray said...

I agree that they are hopeful signs, rumley. As Victor Hugo wrote, "There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come."

Let's hope the idea that it's time for Harper to go is an idea whose time has come.

Lorne said...

There is an interesting article by Susan Delacourt in today's Star, Owen, that looks at Harper's appeal to immigrants, who tend to already be conservative in their values:

Edstock said...

First, a non-cynical best wishes for the New Year.

Second, IMHO, Canadian federal politics has never been in such perturbing times thanks to the effect of the web: push-back from the sea of peasants. The big, gazillion-dollar question is, to what effect?

There is a puzzling irrationality to Stevie's methods as the Fantino Foot-Blaster sand-dance so aptly shows. And now Canadian courts are siding with First Nations that omnibus-bill environmental changes violate treaty obligations.

Add Duffyblob and other gaffes and there's lots of fodder coming up to keep us enchanted until October.

Owen Gray said...

You would think with all the push back, Ed, that Harper would be having second thoughts.

But it appears that he never has second thoughts.

Have a Happy New Year.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Lorne. Given the rising fees for citizenship applications, perhaps some of those immigrants are having second thoughts.

Happy New Year.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

I think it is the fact that Harper will do anything to stay in power,including cheating and lying, that makes me hesitate about him losing in 2015. My faith in the common sense of the silent majority has been shaken. I really love George Carlin and he got pretty cynical
near the end of his life. He was a smart guy and what he saw in American politics gave him alot to be cynical about. To me 2015 will be a test of what Canadians consciously value. Will they be indifferent and let Harper win or will they turf him on the scale that they did with Mulroney? Carlos Santana said at a tribute concert he gave to Jimmy Carter, "Our generation were idealist", then he hesitated and said
"we still are" I hope he was right Owen. This country is worth fighting for, which you and other bloggers have already been doing. Happy New Year.

The Mound of Sound said...

Harper's greatest talent and the key to his longevity may lie in his ability to drive the public away from politics and, hence, away from the polls. He has the angry, frightened, old white vote and he knows he can ladle out a bit of fear or prejudice to get them out to vote.

Owen Gray said...

It only takes 40%, Pam. And Harper has proved skilful at manipulating those 40%.

2015 will show us just how gullible we are.

Happy New Year.

Owen Gray said...

Precisely, Mound. If he can generate enough apathy, he can win.

Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

If Harper was really afraid he wouldn't win? I think he would have found an excuse to resign. To me Harper is very confident he will win by buying, up his ethnic votes.

We all know Harper cheating to win, isn't beneath his dignity. And, that we can count on.

Scotian said...

The reason 40% can so easily win majority power is because we have been for many decades voting along three/four national party lines. All it takes to eliminate the Harper government is for one of those parties to gain significant support from traditional voters of the other(s). As I have noted for a decade now, for better or worse, whatever you think of them, the Libs are realistically the ONLY party that can pull this off in any reasonable time to remove Harper before he totally destroys this nation.

I don't like having to make this argument every election cycle, it is tedious, and makes me sound like a Lib partisans, which I'm not. What I am though is someone that has watched Canadian federal politics since I was in single digits, born into a family that has roots back to Confederation on both sides in the two longest parties (libs/PCPC), and was the protoge of one sides political master who had searched through two generations of a large family to find someone willing to be taught.

EVERYTHING I have learned throughout my life is what has gone into this argument I've been making time and again. For those that claim I have to be a Lib shill instead of the swing voter I proclaim, the first time I was considering taking out membership in a federal party was right after MacKay won the PCPC leadership because I was increasingly worried about how dominant the Libs had become and from a process POV that was very unhealthy. Thankfully MacKays treachery came out before I had fully decided to do so, I was hesitant because I'd never had membership in any political party at any level to that point in my life (to this day I've only had one for a year, and that was for a Provincial nomination of a friend to run for a party and nothing more, and it has since lapsed).

So no, I make this argument not out of partisanship, but because under our current electoral structure, under the demographics that currently exist it is the ONLY sure path of removing Harper and his cronies from power, pure and simple. The question is, will we finally see that happen in 2015 now that he has shown what he is like when given a majority? THAT is the real question to my mind.

My one hope is enough swing voters and soft NDP voters have come to understand that Harper is a threat beyond any other, and that this really is the only way to be sure to drive him from power. If anything we also need to do it with a Lib majority, because otherwise Harper will trigger a Constitutional Crisis with a minority and with his control of the GG, that would get extremely dangerous indeed.

The point is not how much better the Libs are normally, the point is how much better AND less destructive they are than Harper now, THAT is the point needing grasping more than anything else IMHO!

Owen Gray said...

His "Fair Elections Act" guarnatees that he won't be investigated for election fraud, Anon.

Owen Gray said...

Which is to say, Scotian, that Canadians have it in their power to send Harper back to his job with the National Citizens Coalition -- if they choose to do so.

Scotian said...


Exactly! As I have noted before, my sole consolation in all of this is that I have been fighting the right battle all along, that I have always understood the threat from Harper, and I did not dismiss him as a threat even back when people still thought he was a fringe player. I get so frustrated at times because the answer is so bloody obvious, but because we are still seeing these same old games between the Libs and Dippers, especially from the Dippers once they thought they could get rid of the Libs, I just weep. I mean really, how can ANYONE seriously argue that there is little to no difference between the Harper CPC and any Lib Leader Libs? I mean really, given all the things Harper has done that NO prior PM had ever done or even considered doing should make that idiotic argument obvious bullshit to anyone with even a tenth functioning brain!

Yet Captain Closet has been skillfully able to manipulate the NDP into being his allies, and even now he relies on them to split the vote enough to make sure he stays in power, and failing majority so bitter and poisoned the relationship between Lb and NDP that he can with a straight face argue they could never form a working majority in Parliament be it a formal coalition or something less confined.

For me my sole hope is in combining all the Libs coming home under Trudeau that left over the last three elections combined with the old PCPC voters wanting their good name back and enough Dipper voters recognizing the ugly reality that only the Libs, and a Lib majority at that, is the only sure way to make sure Harper is gone after the next election. A minority results risks a Constitutional Crisis being triggered by him, and bluntly put, I do not trust the GG he put in place to act in the best interests AND precedents of the nation in such an occurrence.

I am sick and tired of political purists saying everyone else is so evil, and one good thing about the Libs is that they are the least purist of the lot, there are upsides to not being an ideologically driven party, and that is one of them. They at least can envision working with others, even if they are currently ruling out coalitions for political reasons (and I also believe because Mulcair has made it all but impossible for Trudeau to trust him, especially after the way he shivved him on the harassment issue).

Time to return to sanity.

Hugh said...

This here link says the Conservatives have had massive budget deficits every year, except their first two:

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Hugh. There's a lot of suspicion that they're fudging the numbers.

Owen Gray said...

The numbers may force the Libs and the Dippers to cooperate, Scotian. Necessity is the mother of -- if not invention -- then at least sanity.

scotty on denman said...

One of the pro-reppers' greatest faults lies in their habitual sins of omission that border on disingenuousness. I'll skip over the bent logic that pro-reppers' espouse concerning the nature of representation, wasted votes, and the like to focus on the common canard that Harper ---and many other governments---win a parliamentary majority with "only 40% ." In fact, we don't vote at-large, but, rather, by riding, and in a lot of ridings, especially in Albetar, Conservative candidates win with an outright majority, not with a plurality.

Owen Gray said...

True, Scotty. We do vote by riding; and majorities in those ridings can be lopsided. But they also can be narrow.

Most importantly, splitting the opposition vote can pave the way to victory -- something which Harper has done quite effectively.