Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Is Steve Whipped?

I've often mocked Stephen Harper calling him names such as Beelzebub, the Prince of Darkness, Furious Leader and such.

This election, however, has left my indignation just a bit muted, dulled in a way.

It might just be me but when I see clips of this most authoritarian of prime ministers on the campaign trail I don't see the old Stephen Harper.  I see a guy who looks resigned, defeated, even whipped.

The arrogance is dialed way down. The infuriating bombast doesn't seem to be there.  He looks like an old guy going through the motions, saying the things his supporters want to hear but quite unconvincingly.  His chin is down, his face sags, his eyes appear rheumy. The smile looks even more forced than usual.

Check out this clip from CBC News and see for yourself.  Sorry but the clip won't embed for some reason.


Boris said...

I've had the same sense lately. He looks cooked.

Given the scandals of the last parliament, I can only imagine what will happen next round if he manages to squeeze enough votes for last minute win. It was Duffy, then a refugee crisis, two candidates and riding direct down this week. The first two instances do much to publicly highlight just how miserable there world view is. Liars and thieves on trial, and ugly xenophobia against desperate people. Most Canadians won't vote for that. There's still more than a month of campaign left.

Toby said...

The mystery is Harper's base which is made up of people who don't pay attention to politics as such. They seem to absorb brainless twaddle couched in Conservative talking points but otherwise vote Conservative just because they always do, always have, always will. Can any of them be knocked off their Conservative pedestal or will they all march into the polls like the dutiful automatons they are and give Harper another term while Justin and Tommy split the vote?

Pamela Mac Neil said...

I agree Mound he does look beaten. I think part of that is because he is in an election and as much as he is trying to be protected from the Canadian public in his invitation only campaign, it's not working. He is better at behind the scenes manipulation and all of his communications have been tightly choreographed, but as I said it's not working this time . This is where the rubber hits the road and when the going gets rough he hasn't the courage or guts to stand firm. I think we are looking at the real Harper.What the heck would he do if had to face ALL Canadians. He always seems to need a closet in one form or another. His campaign is very poorly run.

Kirby Evans said...

The grey man looks greyer by the day. Today, when his supporters tried to shout down reporters when they tried to quiz him on his reluctance to deal with the refugee crisis, he looked dejected and fed up. He knows that things will look bad if people keep seeing Con supporters looking like crazy rednecks it will reflect badly on the party. But you can sense that he is fed up that after ten years in power, he has been unable to stop Canadians from actually caring about such things as refugees. I think when he started out that after a few years in power he thought most Canadians would be a bunch of rabid, know-things. He thought, in other words, that the rest of Canada would look like Alberta. I really think that he is profoundly disappointed that it hasn't worked out that way. In fact, if he had any sense he would realize that in some ways he has been careless and created a backlash that is going to push the country further to the left then when he entered the game.

Anonymous said...

I think Kirby has this right.

And, if so, just think what the NDP victory in his "go-to" province must have done to him!

When you've spent all this time trying to turn the country in the direction of your base...and then your base turns away from you...where do you retire to?


Dana said...

I'm just waiting for some of his crazy-assed supporters to physically go after a journo or two. I hope no one gets badly hurt but I really hope there's a camera running and pointed in the right direction.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Boris - Glenn Ashton (Curiosity Cat) has a post about an item from the Hamilton Spectator based on off-record comments from senior Conservatives. They hear that flushing noise and are seemingly disgruntled that, rather than seek outside advice, Harper is simply closing ranks around his inner circle cutting them off. It seems to indicate many of them aren't doing much to help Harper this time round.

@ Toby - Harper's saving grace so far has been his ability to energize the base and get them out to vote. I'm not sure he'll succeed this time.

@ Pamela - My best Ottawa Tory buddy told me months ago that, after demolishing Wright to save his ass, Harper has been cut off, unable to attract any A-List talent to his PMO. He's got 'to the death' loyalists like Novak and Byrne but we've seen their failure to guide Harper into seizing the narrative from the opposition. His electoral successes have come from turning the election away from his own record and scandals and into referenda on a succession of Liberal leaders, using smear tactics to win. That's not happening this time around. His mojo is gone.

@ Kirby and Mike - I've wondered what Harper must be imagining his legacy will look like. His relentless drive was to get an armada of bitumen-laden supertankers China-bound. He knew the urgency. Joe Oliver let slip that they had just a few years to get this up and running or risk being left holding the bag, bitumen a stranded asset. In their obsessive effort they swept aside navigation, marine and fisheries protections and turned the National Energy Board into a kangaroo tribunal that shut down opposition, even the best science.

@ Dana - the idea of that sort of thing happening in Canada would be thoroughly disheartening.

Brian said...

The Conservatives' victory sand castle in 2011 was built on their good fortune of having Michael Ignatieff to run against, the most unlikeable, wooden and inept leader the Liberals ever had, and later the prospect of a coalition that included the Bloc, led by the NDP (it wasn't foreseen that the Bloc would collapse all the way down to 4 seats, and people only had 2 or 3 weeks to wrap their heads around the NDP being near a position to lead a government - they hadn't had 4 years to watch the NDP act unscarily in opposition, and Mulcair doesn't exactly bring Hugo Chavez to mind.). And I say that as someone who voted Liberal anyway, knowing it was futile.

It's 2015, both opposition leaders and parties are far more likeable than Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, the Bloc is no longer a factor to complicate minority scenarios, and the tide is coming in to wash away their sand castle. The Conservatives convinced themselves that the 2011 result was due to their outstanding governing performance and tactical electoral brilliance because it's more flattering for Conservatives to believe that, rather than acknowledge that it was a run of good fortune and circumstances far removed from anything they actually did. It's no wonder Jenni Byrne and the Harper palace guard are drawing fire from other Conservatives - it's not like it's within their power to will Michael Ignatieff into being, or conjure up the prospect of the Bloc holding the balance of power in an opposition government, and that's all their "strategy" was ever based on. The Conservatives complaining about Harper's governing and campaigning style have no principled reason to - they were perfectly happy to go along for this same ride before, the only difference is that circumstances have changed and the same scare tactics that worked before aren't in play now.

As for non-political factors, they had the good fortune between 2008 and 2011 of riding on Paul Martin's economic coattails, a better man than Stephen Harper could ever hope to be, who had the wisdom not to deregulate the financial sector as the Conservatives had wanted to do. But you can only do that for so long. The Liberals really should have been able to prosecute that case against them, but a) it's not an easy a case to make as it should be to demonstrate to the public why something that's happening "now" - our recession being shallower than in the US and worldwide - was due to a government that came before. It's not intuitively obvious and most people don't look that deeply, and b) Michael Ignatieff wasn't the right vehicle to do it. They also had the good fortune of high commodity prices, and that's flipped now too. And now people are also getting a closer look at Conservative hostility to "the others" bubbling to the surface with the Syrian refugee attention, even in the form of xenophobic tweets from Peter Kent the cabinet minister who's running again. And when you have the Duffy trial going on, Del Mastro heading to jail, and you recruit Peter Penashue in 2015 to run again in Labrador, who resigned over violations of election laws in 2011, you can't exactly run on your ethics...

But I try to look at the glass half-full - if it weren't for these 4 completely miserable years and the Liberals' disastrous run in 2011 handing Stephen Harper a majority, the Liberals might not be campaigning along with the NDP with a pledge to get rid of the FPTP system, which will make future Stephen Harpers impossible. Maybe that will be Stephen Harper's legacy - uniting the country against him to the point where Quebec exterminated the Bloc to enable Canada to be rid of them, and uniting the other parties to be rid of the FPTP system and ensure that this stain on Canada's history never happens again.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

When Harper is gone he will still have won the day.
We will be left with a Canada that we do not recognise; a Canada that will never be the same.

deb Scott said...

maybe its a ploy, to look hangdawg and depressed, to get the sympathy vote;P

Harper has alot more baggage this election season and that probably is weighing on his mind.

The Mound of Sound said...

You might find Andrew Coyne's take on Tory lethargy interesting.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Anon 7:42 - I too am worried about Canada post-Harper. Look at the Obama years. Many voters expected him to sweep away the undemocratic practices of Bush/Cheney, the expansion of executive powers and the evolution of an imperial presidency. Instead Obama expanded some of those powers and left the remainder largely intact. Yes, he did some good with health care and now with climate change (although he has opened the Arctic to drilling) but the structural problems that needed reforming never happened which means they're probably here to stay.

Mulcair and Trudeau talk about electoral reform but that probably means re-opening the constitution and, when that happens, everyone shows up at the table with their own personal agenda. It means a terrific amount of horse-trading and stare downs. I don't trust Mulcair not to give away the shop for the political win and I have grave reservations that Trudeau has the sand to control the premiers.

One way or the other power will be in the hands of a neoliberal. None of the prospects is capable of breaking the neoliberal/corporatist/free market fundamentalist stranglehold on Canada. Some believe that promises of a small hike in corporate tax rates and carbon pricing show Mulcair and Trudeau are not neoliberal but that's the sort of loose talk you get from people who have no understanding of neoliberalism and its companion afflictions.

Like it or not there is a world government and it's corporate, wielding incredible powers that once resided as elements of national sovereignty now freely surrendered. Ever since the Thatcher/Reagan/Mulroney era we've given away the shop and our democracy, our society and our economy have been degraded accordingly.

As I see it, the first step to free ourselves of the yoke of neoliberalism is to smash the corporate media cartel. Strict regulations controlling concentration of ownership and media cross-ownership are essential if Canadians are ever to have access to the fullest possible range of information and opinion across the broadest political spectrum. When the national media have fallen under the control of corporatist forces the public is genuinely fed a corporatist message. You can tell when that has occurred. It's manifest when the media are transformed from the watchdog of government (on the side of the public) into the government's lap dog which is what we've seen for a very long time.

Do you think you're going to get that sort of bold action from a Tom Mulcair or a Justin Trudeau? Not unless you're lying to yourself.

CV SoG said...

To be honest, I wouldn't just count the Cons(ervatives) out just yet.

As a Canadian who's been living in the US for a number of years (many of which were during 2000-2008), I can tell you that Harper in many ways resembles Dubya. And the thing about the latter is, Dubya had the establishment behind him. And they (collectively) knew that a predominantly right-wing/conservative/libertarian candidate couldn't win any election outright.

Instead, they focused on making the campaigns as nasty and unpleasant as possible, to the point of drawing their opposition into it. That is, create such nastiness and unpleasantness as to tune out a large bloc of potential voters from participating in the election. Along with that, disenfranchise any bloc of voters who'd vote against Dubya by any and all means necessary.

The intent was to make the vote as close as possible, whereby it can then be fixed.

To this very day, there are many people in America who believe (as I do) that Al Gore won FL in 2000, and John Kerry won OH in 2004, but were upended by a combination of right-wing courts, GOP Operatives, and corporations who controlled the voting apparatuses.

It worked - and look at what happened to the US during those times.

Think it can't happen in Canada?

Scotian said...


One of the main reasons I am a proponent of the ranked/preferred ballot as the first step in voting reform is because it is a relatively easy legislative change, unlike anything where PR is involved, and easy to explain to voters that it is the same ballot, you just rank your choices instead of only choosing a single choice. Another is that I am conservative when it comes to making fundamental changes in how we transfer and legitimize power in our society, and that is conservative in the non-political sense of the the word. We can do the ranked ballot without having to make much more than basic legislative changes, it would not need altering the Constitution or more fundamental processes, and it is an easy to understand starting place for the wider citizenry who aren't hard core democratic reformers (aka well over 90% of them I would suspect), and if after a few elections it appears it wasn't the fix needed then you also have a better case to make for going to the more difficult means of some sort of PR system given the challenges putting it in place nationally AND getting enough of the voters/citizens to buy-in to it (as well as understand how it works). Not to mention having had time to get used to the idea that said voting process needs such major change, something political and democracy activists may well be, but I still do not see the same in the wider voting/citizenry base.

I know this isn't the favourite view of many in the change the election process camp, PR seems to be the panacea cure-all in their minds, me I'm not as convinced on that point but I'm also not convinced reality wouldn't prove them right in the long run. However, when it comes to making these sorts of changes unless we are doing whole scale radical revolution across the board I prefer to move in a more gradual controlled manner, especially when we are talking about something as fundamental as voting methods.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ CV SoG - I have your point and I do fret over it.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Scotian - yes, I prefer your option to PR although it would leave the Greens a bit disadvantaged I suspect. That said the constitutional amendment business is like the Maelstrom. Get a little too close to the whirlpool and you're in.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Brian - I hope you're right but I don't see either Trudeau or Mulcair as having the depth and vision to enact electoral reform without plunging the country into one or several constitutional battles. Needing it and making it happen are different matters.