Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It Will Be About Getting Out The Vote


Canada faces what the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas called a "legitimation crisis." Duncan Campbell writes:

Simply put, many Canadians no longer believe that power being exercised in their name is rightful. The political system as a whole is no longer believed to work.

When in 1993 Canadians voted massively to throw out the Conservatives, it was expected that changes would ensue. Instead the Chrétien-Martin Liberals continued with the same economic policies introduced by the Conservatives.

Disillusioned with political outcomes, people give up, and declare a pox on all political parties. The abstention rate in federal elections has been running in the 40 per cent range.

Stephen Harper understands how to turn the crisis in his direction:

The people who stay home multiply the strength of Conservatives who tend to turn up and vote. The 25/60 rule says that if 25 per cent of eligible voters vote Conservative, and only 60 per cent of the population bothers to vote, the Conservatives win 40 per cent of the total vote and over one-half of the seats in Parliament.

His base hovers around 30%. As long as they vote -- and other voters stay home -- Harper will own the cat bird seat. So he keeps delivering for his base:

The Harper government target their political base constantly. No government in Canadian history has focused every action on pleasing about 35 per cent of the population and ignoring the rest of us. This is the essence of Harperism.

The legitimacy of the government and what it does is not questioned by the Cons' supporters. They get fed what they want. Tough on terrorists, check. Lower taxes, check. Cutbacks to social spending, check. But for significant numbers of Canadians, the Harper Cons lost their legitimacy as a government by following a narrow ideological agenda.

The next election will be all about how well the opposition parties get out the vote. If they offer a kinder gentler version of Harperism, the votes need to defeat Mr. Harper will stay home.


Lorne said...

So far, it seems, Owen, the Liberals and the NDP are not disappointing citizens' low expectations. I hope things change, but if they continue to present themselves simply as 'Harper lite,' they will likely be handing Dear Leader another victory.

Scotian said...

Which also underscores why it is only his party that has the motive to reduce the vote turnout through things like the robocalls misdirections and harassments we saw widespread in 2011. I agree turnout is essential in the next election, thankfully this time the Libs have a leader who is clearly encouraging turnout instead of depressing it as Ignatief clearly did.

Your post puts a finger on why Harper is so bad a PM and his government so horrible even on policy points where they actually are for the most part sensible, because they never govern for the wider nation it is always first and foremost shaped to consider the impact on their core base and to hells wit the rest of us. No other Canadian government has ever acted in such a manner, and I refuse to believe that either the NDP or Libs should they win next time out would do so, this is something that is I believe peculiar to the DNA of Harperism itself, and was of course one of those things I was fighting against since before the birth of the CPC.

I also think the original author is making a bit of an overstatement with how he reads what happened in 1993 and afterwards. I also remember just how loud the voices internationally had become on debt crisis and Canada, including the IMF, and I think many Canadians heard that as well and this is why they accepted what the Libs did despite their essentially throwing out the Red Book they campaigned on. I'm sure it caused some cynicism increase, but I am not as sold that it was as big a driver towards dropping turnout as the Rabble writer appears to.

Honestly, I think some of the problem is that too many Canadians got too complacent in assuming that no matter who won there would be competent government in the end, flavoured in different ways perhaps, but still competent government for the whole. Harper though has delivered something entirely different, especially once he got majority, and if I am correct we may well see a major upsurge in turnout this coming election, and I know I am certainly hoping so and doing all I can in my own life to encourage increased turnout. The parties need to be doing the same, and I would hope and expect that they are.

We will see.

Owen Gray said...

It seems to me. Lorne, that they lack courage. They fear they will offend voters.

Owen Gray said...

The conventional wisdom, Scotian, was that once he received a majority, Harper would mellow.

The problem is that there is nothing conventional about Harper. He's hell bent on destroying all Canadian conventions.

thwap said...

If i were to believe that our political system is hopeless (and I am starting to) I would do more than just not bother to vote.

I would engage in permanent civil disobedience, since I see no reason to grovel before the majesty of a legal and political system that is completely corrupt and disrespected even by those who claim their authority from it.

On the one hand though, some of this apathy among people is a sign of laziness. Turns out that voting for what you want in a capitalist society doesn't get you what you want, even if your side wins. What to do?

Decide you're a powerless drone and let elites do with you what they will? Hopefully it won't be TOO bad.

But on the other hand, it fell to US, the political junkies, to propose some way out of the morass of corrupt capitalist policies. But we neither had the analysis to coherently argue how to get from where we are to where we claim we want to be, ... or even how to hold our leaders to account when they so clearly violate our system of government.

So the majority of the apathetic can't really be blamed for not know what else to do when we couldn't tell them ourselves.

Owen Gray said...

We on the progressive side of the spectrum haven't been effective when dealing with Harper, thwap.

But unless we become more effective -- and that means mobilizing -- we can't claim that we tried our best.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Hi Owen. I think that Harper focusing on his base and ignoring the majority of Canadians is a conscious decision. It is a CON strategy to win the election. He won the last election because of his base voting and the low vote count from the majority of Canadians and plans to do it again in 2015. Another reason he ignores most Canadians is his implementing his neo-liberal policies which he pretty well does behind closed doors. By not communicating he pretty well never has to explain what he is doing and he knows that Canadians would not be in agreement with his neo-liberal agenda. So out of site is out of mind.He focuses on trying to keep the vote minimal by creating legislation like "The Unfair Election Act" which suppresses voters, so they can't vote.The sheer arrogance of ignoring the majority of Canadians while implementing policies that are not discussed, not debated and not shown to the Canadian people until their ready to be forced on us is jaw dropping. Policies that the Canadian public would be dead against. While he dismantles our democracy in creating a market state is definitely done behind closed, doors, anyone who takes the time to study this government can see what Harper is doing. Most Canadians don't see. This means more then ever he has to be removed because the majority will vote. People do not even have to be aware of his agenda, they can just truly dislike him and/or not trust him. but they definitely need to get out and vote. For my part I will be getting involved in getting as many people to vote as possible. Thx. for writing about this issue Owen. His giving the majority of Canadians the finger is what I despise most about him.

Owen Gray said...

He and his party know that the majority of Canadians despise what he calls "Conservative values," Pam.

He knows that he will always get a minority of votes. And he knows that the only way he will win is if the majority of Canadians stay home.

Toby said...

Pamela Mac Neil said..., "Most Canadians don't see."

Worse, most Canadians don't even look. What we are surrounded by isn't apathy, it is wilful ignorance. I have no idea how to goad people into paying attention when they refuse to.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm convinced that ordinary Canadians have a host of concerns that simply do not resonate with the opposition leaders. Trudeau and Mulcair seem to duck these issues, leaving many potential voters feeling utterly disaffected.

Here we are at "progressive bloggers" and yet no one is focused on how the progressives came to be ostracized by the Liberals and, to a slightly lesser extent, the New Democrats.

I sense that people are looking for bold vision on the environment, democratic reform and inequality. We know they're convinced that the Canada their children will inherit will be diminished from their experience of it. Who is addressing that? If anyone, it's Elizabeth May but one voice can only carry so far.

Owen Gray said...

At the moment, Mound, Elizabeth May is more progressive than either Trudeau or Mulcair.

Owen Gray said...

We've become narcissistic, Toby. All that matters is "me" -- "us" has become a dirty word.

mogs moglio said...

I am beginning to think it is a giant conspiracy [can I use that word?] to keep the Harper-con clown show in power.

Elizabeth May is the only one who publishes outside of parliament and slams the Harper-cons.

I have not heard a peep from Trudeau or Mulcair and their silence is deafening. The professor Ignatieff seemed to do everything in his power to get Harper his majority. So did Dion.

Owen Gray said...

It will be not just about giving Canadians a reason to vote against Harper, Mogs.

The opposition parties must give them something to vote for.