Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Game Of Inches

The upcoming election, Geoffrey Rafe Hall writes, will be about nasty, brutish and small things. That's because Stephen Harper has nothing else to run on:

Lacking evidence of either sound fiscal management or a healthy economy — and certainly having nothing to offer on the ‘change’ front — Stephen Harper is confronted with the problem of campaigning on not much at all.

The PM’s answer to that problem so far has been to deliver more of the same — more fear, more legislation that ‘gets tough on crime’ – but these tired old tactics won’t, on their own, mobilize support beyond the party base.

So his first task is to shore up his party's base. That's what all the fear and smear is about. His past election victories have been based on playing a game of inches:

Remember how narrow the margin is between winning and losing in federal elections now. In the northern Greater Toronto Area in the last federal election, seven seats were up for grabs. Five went to the Conservatives, who received 39.2 per cent of the votes cast. One seat went to the Liberals with 38.2 per cent of the vote; the NDP took one seat on 20 per cent of the vote. Less than 59 per cent of eligible voters actually cast a ballot — meaning that the difference between winning one seat and winning five came down to the choices made by less than one per cent of voters.

So even the smallest of actions matter. One tactic that has proved effective in galvanizing base support, regardless of political affiliation, is what psychologists call “out-group derogation”. In simple terms it means creating an Us vs. Them split in supporters minds, with the ‘Them’ group presented as threatening. The tactic works, and Conservatives have used it before. But it really only works well when the distinction between “us” and “them” is based on shared values — such as banning face coverings in citizen ceremonies.

But that's a risky strategy. What if  the "shared values" the Conservatives espouse are shared by only their base?

What if, in the process of identifying and shunning the ‘other’, that group expands beyond the boundaries set by shared values — by many Canadians’ discomfort with the niqab, for example — to a broader multicultural/multiracial society? What if, in the heat of an election campaign, some of the ‘Us’ camp get roped in with ‘Them’?

The Conservatives have courted the immigrant vote. But, if immigrants become convinced that Harper has them in his sites, what happens to his game of inches?

Stephen Harper has made gross miscalculations in the past. Perhaps this is another one. And perhaps it will do him in.


thwap said...

It's depressing that such a small-minded, pathetic individual should still have a reasonable shot at stealing power again.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, thwap. Small minded and petty, his political strategy is all about stealing crumbs.

Dana said...

What's that old dictum about people getting the government they deserve?

It's true everywhere but Canada evidently.

Owen Gray said...

Oh, we've got the government we deserve, Dana. Someone like Harper has been able to leverage a modicum of support into a majority government because we've been too apathetic to do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

Getting through to many people, is an exercise in futility. I am amazed how people just can't see through Harper?

How beneficial is for this country and the citizens is it, to sell Canada out to foreign countries? How does giving foreigners our jobs, do anything for Canadians? That money leaves Canada. Foreigners send their money home. Canadians don't, we spend our wages in Canada.

Of course, Harper will use every underhanded tactic in the book, stay in office. It is not beneath Harper's dignity to cheat to win

Owen Gray said...

He will do whatever it takes, Anon. He's done it before.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all. The only thing we can do in the next election is VOTE. And get others to VOTE. And the next thing to do is vote ABC > Anybody But Conservative. Go to and learn how to do this. They are analysing every riding and will suggest how we can VOTE HARPER OUT. I would vote a monkey in, to get him out!

Owen Gray said...

It's all about getting the vote out, Anon. Harper is all about keeping the number of voters down.

astone said...

I still know idiots who won't vote, because it makes no difference, they say!!People who won't vote are the ones who should go back to where they came from, wherever that may be!!

Trailblazer said...

Beware of the false flag incident that could be the focus of our next Federal election.
Harper has even less that Netanyahu to go to the polls with.

Owen Gray said...

Absolutely true, Trailblazer. I'm sure Harper has been reinvigorated by Netanyahu's win.

Owen Gray said...

Larry Miller -- and Stephen Harper -- hope they'll stay home, astone.

Things will go exactly as planned if the apathetic do as they've been told.