Susan Delacourt writes that the Conservative proposal for leaders debates is a shining example of what she calls Harperology 101:
He likes rules, as long as he’s making them, not so much when others do. (See Supreme Court of Canada rulings, independent watchdogs, etc.) His Conservative candidates have been no-shows at election debates in their ridings for years now, through several elections. And of course, Harper is famously and proudly dismissive of the mainstream media. Add that all up, and what other outcome would we expect when confronted with the mainstream, broadcast media making the rules for the TV debates?
For ten years he has been making the rules about communicating with Canadian voters. And, so far, his formula has been successful. Jeffrey Simpson writes:
The Conservatives are focused not on broadening their base but activating the base they have. With perhaps one exception. Conservative support seems to have widened in Quebec, where the issues of terrorism and identity politics around Muslim women’s head coverings, and the recruiting of several high-profile candidates, have helped.The Conservatives need about 40 per cent of the national electorate to win. They benefit hugely from a split vote between the Liberals and New Democrats, a split that is not disappearing as the NDP gains ground in polling data and by winning the government in Alberta.Split opposition is exactly what a party with a dedicated and motivated core vote needs. The party with such a core doesn’t even think much about the other 60 per cent of the electorate. It wants its own hard core to coalesce by fearing some of the 60 per cent (the other parties return the favour by scaring their supporters with the thought of another Conservative government): social liberals, secularists, tax-and-spenders, Big Government lovers, CBC-watchers, “elites” of all kinds.The Conservatives know how to craft a message. Keep it simple. Keep it short. Reinforce everything all the time. Make the party’s four themes lock together: balanced budget, low taxes, smaller government, personal security. Mix in a little patriotism and Stephen Harper as a tried and trusted leader, and you have the Conservative campaign long before the election is called. All parties try tight messaging; the Conservatives do it best.
It's a supremely cynical approach to politics. By appealing to Canadian stupidity, he wins -- a truly sad state of affairs.