Thursday, January 28, 2016

His Base Instincts


Stephen Harper lost the last election because he catered to his base. He made the niqab a big issue and it backfired on him. But, behind the scenes, the same instincts that drove Harper to demonize the niqab also shaped his position on Syrian refugees. Stephanie Levitz, of the Canadian Press, reports:

Newly released government documents paint the clearest picture to date of how the Conservative government’s controversial approach to Syrian refugee resettlement played out last year.

Before last winter, the previous government had only committed to take in 1,300 Syrian refugees from the millions fleeing the civil war there and spilling into surrounding countries
Former prime minister Stephen Harper had been under intense pressure — including froinside his own cabinet — to increase that total, but only agreed to accept a further 10,000 provided that religious and ethnic minorities were prioritized.

The vast majority of Syrians are Muslims. If Harper wanted to allow only religious and ethnic minorities into Canada, it's clear that Harper's minions were cherry picking the population for Christians. His base wanted nothing to do with either Islam or Muslims, even though that policy flew in the face of United Nations policy:

The refugees the Canadian government accepts for resettlement are chosen by the UN. They do not use ethnicity or religion as a basis for determining whether someone requires resettlement to a third country.

But documents tabled in the House of Commons this week in response to a question from the NDP show how the Conservatives found a workaround.

In February 2015, visa officers in Jordan and Lebanon were instructed to track “areas of focus” for Syrian refugees, which included tracking whether someone was a member of a vulnerable ethnic or religious 
They applied that criteria to the files they were receiving from the UN.

There was a reason we lost our seat at the Security Council. At the UN, they knew that Stephen Harper catered to his base instincts.


ron wilton said...

Some scribes have averred that harper was a very bright guy, so why would he put so much brightness into catering to a base that would still vote for him even if he changed his name back to steven(666)?

I'm glad he did.

Owen Gray said...

I've always felt that the line about Harper being brilliant was manufactured especially for his base, ron. An objective appraisal of the judgments he made and the way he conducted himself suggest that he was far from brilliant.

Steve said...

I have said many times I lived with Muslims and I have no fear. Its just another straw man used to justify a world ruled by superstition and lies.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Harper has a mediocre mind at best Owen. The myth that he is brilliant is just that, a myth.I wonder what he was supposed to be brilliant at? If one were to say he was brilliant at bigotry, deceit and malice, such as his behaviour toward Muslim refugees, then yes I would agree, he was brilliant.

Owen Gray said...

He knew how to appeal to our darker angels, Pam -- and he brought out the worst in us.

Owen Gray said...

Harper was very good at creating straw men, Steve. And he appealed to those who -- as T.S. Eliot wrote -- had "headpieces filled with straw."

Scotian said...

Harper was never a brilliant mind nor a genius, although he always thought he was. We was always a bit on the policy wonkish side (which he clearly mistook for evidence of such hyper-intelligence), and he was a fairly decent political tactician too with a major qualification I'm about to discuss, but he was overall a lousy political strategist. It used to drive me crazy reading people like Wells commenting on Harper playing chess to the others checkers for example.

That qualification I mentioned? Much of what made Harper so strong tactically speaking was his willingness to embrace and use tactics and tools/approaches that had been generally seen as "beyond the pale" by the Canadian political establishment across the spectrum. That the overriding need of providing "good government" as our motto states made certain approaches/methods/tools too toxic, especially for a nation as big physically and regionally diverse as ours, not to mention how relatively decentralized our national system was too. It was that sheer ruthlessness and complete apathy for these core values that enabled him to embrace and win with tactics that no other party/leader would have ever dared consider let alone embrace. Remember, one of the main reasons Harper left Reform was according to Manning at the time that Harper not only saw himself as the smartest man in the room in any room with any other group of people, but also that he opposed Manning's populism. That the base had no business being involved in shaping political policy, a most profoundly anti-democratic mindset.

Harper was never in my view a true genius in anything, his intellect I would rate as no better than at best medium sharp, but never anywhere near real genius. Cunning, clever, I'll freely give him those, but genius? Sorry, nope, I've known too many of those in too many fields including politics in my life (and been occasionally accused of being one myself, a descriptor I have never liked nor agreed with whatever those idiotic IQ tests claim), and Harper simply does not nor has ever measured up. That was, in fact, part of the core problem with Harper's approach to government, he was using the indispensable man approach to governing without even being all that capable of an indispensable man to start with!

All Harper ever really had was his ability to pander to the right people and to manipulate through appealing to baser instincts. Look at how he campaigned in 2004 and 2006, indeed in all his elections as a party leader, and this becomes quite clear, his last election was simply the most blatant on xenophobic pandering, but by no means his first.

Owen Gray said...

I agree with your assessment, Scotian. Ruthless he was -- but not brilliant.

astone said...

"A small minded, mean little bully" And probably also a sociopath!

Owen Gray said...

He felt he had all kinds of enemies, astone. And he was determined to get even.