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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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An exodus from Stephen Harper's office has decimated the Conservative leader's PR team as he strives to appear more friendly and election-ready.

The Canadian Press has learned that Harper is set to lose two more communications staff as he embarks on a national trek of campaign-style whistle stops.

He has become a magnet for criticism as the Tories lag well behind the Liberals in public opinion polls despite the sponsorship scandal.

Communications director Geoff Norquay is resigning from the post less than a year into the job.

Strategic communications director Yaroslav Baran is also leaving.
No question that the CPC and Harper have had a communication problem. And the handling of the Grewel tapes simply proved that the operation's wheels had fallen off. However, the real problem is not communications; rather it is that the CPC seems incapable of coming up with anything to communicate.

N=1 has reached his tipping point.
The actions of the CPC surrounding same-sex marriage are changing my mind.

Harper and the CPC appear to be opposing SSM with a tenacity, a ferocity, that they reserve for absolutely nothing else. Not health care, property rights, war, trade, separatism, terrorism... nothing. It is easy to conclude that fighting an inevitably losing battle against allowing gay Canadians to wed one another must be the single most important thing in the CPC platform. We hear from the CPC nothing but compromise on the issues that will actually affect my personal life: compromise on taxes, compromise on medicare, compromise on fatty foods for Heaven's sake. But on a matter which will not directly affect me at all, the CPC is ready (aye, ready!) to Fight To The Death. It has become readily apparent to me that the CPC doesn't actually care about my issues at all. They evidently care about the issues of those who don't much like gay people, and who don't think homosexuality is normal. But I like gay people--at least, I like them as much as straight people, which is to say I like them as much as I like any individual. And I think homosexuality is normal--at least, it's as "normal" as any type of human predilection in which no-one is injured and in which all participants engage willingly. I accept that for millions of Canadian Christians, Jews, and Muslims, homosexuality is considered evil. They're wrong, and I no longer wish to associate with a party that acts as if it agrees with these Canadians.
I quote at length because N=1 is, I suspect, a perfect sample of the thinking occurring in apartments, condos and starter houses across Canada. People, young urban people who like Southpark and who have grown up in a largely secular society are asking themselves why they would support the CPC. What's the point when the CPC is committed, apparently, to yelling "me too" nearly every time the Liberal make a policy statement. Except of course on an issue which, to anyone under fifty - or is it forty? - is about extending equal rights to our fellow Canadians.

My friend The Ambler, arrives at much the same position for entirely different but equally valid reasons:

"Because it's being passed with the support of the Bloc, I think it will lack legitimacy with most Canadians," Harper told CBC Newsworld.

"The truth is most federalist MPs oppose this."

Stephen Harper: political genius. The Liberals accuse him of being "in bed" with the separatists. What to do? If you're Stephen Harper, you don't instruct the Liberals on the nature of Parliament. No, that would require some allegiance to principle. What you do instead is to raise the Liberals and suggest that Quebec's votes don't really count. Well done, Stephen!
the ambler
And, Kevin being Kevin he is perfectly capable of determining the ongoing effect of Harper's hapless leadership style,
Several of the "Blogging Tory" sites come with this warning (or a similar one): "This blog not only endorses the Conservative Party of Canada but also Stephen Harper as its leader." After due consideration, I have also decided to support the Stupid Party and not only but especially endorse Stephen Harper as its leader.

This decision may surprise faithful readers, but it has long been my position that not only must the Conservative Party be destroyed but that everything it stands for must be dealt a mortal blow. And Stephen Harper is doing very nicely indeed on both these fronts. Especially of late. Especially today.

After today's little outburst, "govern" is not a verb that will appear in any appraisals of Stephen Harper's future as a federal political leader. If he had the slightest self-awareness, he'd make my prediction come true and resign by Canada Day. I know that he doesn't, and I'm guessing that he won't, and so I couldn't be happier. Another year of Stephen Harper's leadership will do to the Conservative Party what Stockwell Day's leadership did to the Alliance Party: kill it stone dead.
the ambler
The uneasy coalition of economic conservatives with socons which lies at the heart of the current incarnation of the CPC represents the triumph of hope over experience and is the single thing which is saving Dithers and his scoundrels. Regardless of whether Kevin's side or my side run the CPC the contradiction between the libertarian ethos of many fiscal conservatives and the theocratic impulses of the socons virtually ensure that no coherent, attractive, message can issue from the CPC.

So, in a longer term sense it is likely that the cure for the "stupid Party" is not the removal of Harper from office - he'll just be replaced with someone who political operatives think can win Ontario votes - and certainly not the replacement of John Norquay with Carolyn Stewart Olsen (on whom The Ambler is most instructive)but rather the end of the CPC in its present, Frankenstein, form.

The old body parts of the Progressives, the Conservatives, the Alliance and the Reform Party make a monster not a mandate. It is indeed scary. It even walks with a lurch, jigging and jagging from right to further right.

The next election is already lost. Lost because people like N=1 have had enough of the socons and lost because The Ambler would sooner have a root canal than vote for a person of so little principle as Harper. Lost because Nick Packwood cannot vote for a party which insults his friends and lost because Sean Macormick will not insult his friends and lost becauseNancy Fielding thinks that Harper's Bloc baiting in the C-38 debate is indefensible. Five votes which were Tory, or at least anti-Liberal, all lost.

[Update: And from Damian Penny, the vacationing sage of Corner Brook,
For the love of God, Steve, don't base the entire campaign around the gay-marriage issue. It's like giving the media and the Liberals a loaded gun.

Unsurprisingly, Kathy Shaidle, unmarried but loving it, weighs in,
No, see, we're all hip, urbane libertarian-type "conservatives" around here. We've got gay friends, see, and we can't let principles we never had to begin with interfere with those wild Oscar Night Parties at Seth and Raoul's. We don't want people to think we're boring and stupid like that preacher in Footloose or anything.....

South Park Conservativism has its place. We're all agreed that political correctness is a radioactive cultural pollutant that must be eradicated (and I was sure it would have been by now). Dennis Miller has lots of funny lines. P.J. O'Rourke is genuinely brilliant. And we have to kill terrorists and stuff.

So... that's what you're basing your worldview on? M'kay...

I don't see the point in being a "conservative" who isn't interested in conserving tradition, who doesn't instinctively look askance at selfish, frivolous court challenges, who suddenly develops a deep regard for "rights" and the lingo of victimology (i.e., "homophobia"). You're a libertarian. It's. O. K. Really. Say it to yourself until you get used to it. Start quoting Frank Zappa, and toss that bike helmet in the trash. You'll be so much happier.
relapsed catholic
(Note to Kathy: its about equal rights under the law, it isn't a "gay thing" at all.)

Once you start losing people of this quality, and gaining theocons like Kathy, the issue goes beyond communications, beyond leadership, right to the heart of the contradiction at the root of the CPC. Libertarians and socons have profoundly different agendas. And those agendas are politically incompatible.

The idea underlying the current CPC is that the libertarian and socon elements (as well as the "progressives") could unite in their desire to defeat the Liberals. It turns out that they can't. Nor is there much chance of the urban and the rural strains of conservatism meeting halfway in some sort of ideological suburb.

The monster will lurch into the next election. Like Strangelove's arm, assorted socons will pop up with scary remarks. Libertarians will despair and stay home in droves. Dithers will win, Canada will lose - again.

The hope in all of this is that Kevin's prediction will come true. The CPC will once more into the breech and then collapse. Dead. Stone dead.

Which will let us get on to the creation of the two parties of the right which are so badly pretending to be one. The villagers will light the torches and wave their scythes and, at least, let the monster rest in peace.