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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

12/13/2004

Clash of Civilizations

Well, not quite; but the conservative Party's antics regarding gay marriage suggest there is a completely unresolved tension in that strange ammalgamation of PC and old time Reforrrrrm party ideas. I've been writing about this over at the Politics Canada e-Blog. Here is a cleaned up version of a couple of comments.

Sadly, I don't think the PC's are imitating Bush on gay marriage - I fear that the nutbar socons are getting themselves in a lather all on their own and without regard for the largely indifferent electorate.

I think Harper could lose seats on this issue. Largely because it hands the Liberals the ability to portray the Tories as a bunch of bigoted fundamentalists. This is heartbreaking for those of us who want to see the Liberals defeated.

Harper has been entirely unable to present a genuinely conservative vision grounded in the paramountcy of individual rights. Instead, he has been tacking and trimming to try and keep the socons in the tent.

On an entirely bogus issue like gay marriage the absence of a rights based platform leaves the Tories at the mercy of their socon wing and the assorted fundamentalist pressure groups which see gay marriage as a useful wedge issue.

Because no coherent philosophical response has been given to the socons for fear of driving them from the CPC, Harper is now in danger of having to run on a platform of supporting Americans and hating gays....this is not going to win any extra seats.

Such intellectual horsepower as the CPC does have seems deathly afraid of confronting the socons in a real battle of ideas. The fiscal conservatives are convinced that they need the fundys to win power; but, in private, they would like the fundy's support without having to implement any of their ideas. This is the Mulroney strategy and, while it worked the one time, it requires a leader of the Conservative party who could just as easily have been the leader of the Liberal party: Harper is not that leader.

The alternative is to meet and beat the socons on their own ground by extending the free market fiscal positions of the party into the arena of personal rights. There is plenty of room to do this but it would mean risking the alienation of the fundys.

Personally I don't think the Conservatives really have a choice: Canada's own Taliban has grown far too sophisticated to be soft soaped as it was in the Mulroney years. So they are going to have to be defeated on the field of intellectual battle.

Harper is stuck with the question of whether to embrace the Charter and put a Conservative, individual rights spin on it, or attempting to turn back the clock. After all, it is not called the Conservative Party for nothing.

Where conservatives have been successful - think Regan or Thatcher - it has been by building new coalitions with new visions rather than trying to provide, "A better yesterday tomorrow."

But to do that means actually coming to grips with philosophy and policy before going off to do political battle. The Mulroney option, essentially cutting a deal with whichever bunch of Quebec nationalists are available and then promising the ROC to do exactly the same thing as the Liberals, but better reduces the Conservative Party to the role of a Liberal government B-team.

If that is what it takes to win power then that power is not really worth having because, fundamentally, nothing would actually change.

To succeed the Conservatives need to propose a radical, individualist antidote to what is coming on 40 years of Trudeaupia. And they have to embark on a massive education and political campaign to sell a vision of Canada in which Ottawa is rendered insignificant in all but a few areas. They have to provide a vision and a set of policies to implement that vision which returns power to individual citizens.

So long as they are obsessing about gay marriage or exotic dancers or specific boondoggles rather than the culture of boondoggle they are not going to create or articulate such a vision. Which will mean the Tories will lose, or, worse, win without any commitment to root and branch reform of the nation