Skip to comments.Harper can't win by softening his edge (standing on principle - not CINOism! - beats Liberals)
Posted on 05/27/2005 12:45:21 PM PDT by GMMAC
Harper can't win by softening his edge:
If he's going to be labelled extreme, he might as well take firm Conservative stands
The Edmonton Journal
Fri 27 May 2005 , Page: A18
Column: Lorne Gunter
There's an old saying, "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime."
But there is a lesser known corollary, too: If you're going to do the time, you may as well do the crime.
If you're going to be blamed for something anyway, you may as well reap the pleasures and proceeds that come from doing the deed.
If Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is going to take hit after hit for harbouring "extreme right wing views," he may as well stop trying to be a moderate and be rightwing.
Despite having done all he can to expunge nearly every trace of social conservatism from his party -- to the point where the CPC has no policy on abortion and most socially conservative MPs have been stripped of leadership roles in caucus -- Harper's party is still seen as too "scary" by 39 per cent of voters on "abortion, the death penalty and same-sex marriage," according to a poll that appeared in Thursday's Globe and Mail.
Harper was willing to gag socially conservative delegates to his party's convention in Montreal in March to prevent the inevitable media feeding frenzy that would have erupted if even one overly strident delegate had publicly objected to the see-no-evil social policy resolutions crafted by party brass.
Rather than risk headlines such as "Conservatives still nurture 'extreme' moral views," (with the "extreme" label obligingly supplied by some lefty academic only too willing to assist the media in their efforts to spread doubt about the party), Harper and his organizers connived to keep most social resolutions from the convention floor.
When that effort itself generated a feeding frenzy -- Harper's a dictator! What's he hiding? He's anti-democratic! screamed pundits -- Harper withdrew his gag attempt at the last minute.
The media insist all the time that Harper rein in his social conservatives, then when he does, they attack him for being draconian.
Take "The Belinda," for example, before her departure. Or even after her floor-crossing.
Last spring, pundits and editorialists insisted Harper prove he was inclusive, big-tent, open to progressive ideas by keeping her in a prominent post after she lost the CPC leadership to him.
So he did.
Then, every time she so much as hiccupped about his leadership or some policy or other, the media insisted it was evidence Harper wasn't being inclusive. (No one ever suggested she might be the one not trying hard enough to be inclusive of other Conservatives' views.)
After she left, too, the standard spin blamed Harper for failing to accommodate her.
If she had stayed, though, and continued to speak out periodically, that would have been portrayed as evidence Harper could not control his party.
As I have said many times in the past, some of this is the Conservatives' own fault. They are terrible at selling themselves.
If much of the public is still afraid of them, it is partly the no-win way the media treats the CPC and partly the way the Liberals succeed at baseless scare-mongering, and partly the way half-interested voters lap up the Liberals' smears.
But it is also partly the result of the Conservatives' inability to box their positions in attractive packaging and their unwillingness to do the hard slogging -- over the heads of reporters and editors -- to sell their packages directly to voters. But just as history is written by the victors; in Canada, perceptions and headlines are written by liberal journalists.
The Globe insisted its Thursday poll demonstrated that "voters fear (the) Tory agenda."
And to be sure, 39 per cent were fearful. But 43 per cent said, "no," the CPC didn't frighten them.
The story could just as easily and accurately have insisted more voters are not worried about CPC policies.
Rather than reaffirming the conventional media wisdom that the Conservatives need to moderate their positions still further in order to win, the paper could have, with equal veracity, suggested the gap between the 27 per cent of voters who support the Tories and the 42 per cent undeterred by their policies (a 15-point positive spread) gives the Conservatives lots of room to grow without becoming more "progressive," if they can just market themselves better.
Wouldn't it make more sense for the CPC to focus on those voters who are not put off by their policies, but who are not yet ready to vote CPC, than to waste a lot of time trying to convince the scared 39 per cent (and reporters) they have no reason to be afraid?
Which brings me back to Harper and doing the crime if he is going to do the time.
If he's going to be labelled extreme and rightwing despite his best efforts to moderate himself and his party; if a sizeable chunk of the electorate and the punditry is never going to be persuaded of his inclusiveness or progressiveness, wouldn't it make more sense for the Conservative boss to take firm, principled (but smartly packaged) conservative stands on issues rather than running around trying to look passionate and sincere about wishy-washy policies thrust on him by people who are never going to have his best interests at heart?
Columnist/Editorial Writer, National Post
Columnist, Edmonton Journal
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I agree. What can he lose? Despite Canada being a laughing stock for having the most corrupt government in its history, the Liberals have the same support they did last summer. The CPC is back down to 27%. To hell with it. Come out with a strong right wing agenda. The 27% is basically the core anyways that would be unlikely to change their vote.
Harper need to learn from Mike Harris's "Common Sense Revolution".
I've heard that before. To be honest, out west, I take little interest in what happens west of Alberta, so I never really paid attention to Harris. He only lasted one term, didn't he? What was his approach?
He said he's going to CUT welfare during a debate.
Still this day I can't believe he even got elected. Also, we have the largest teacher strike in history. What did he do? He stood firm and still got elected.
The poll also suggests that a more 'moderate' (read: liberal) leader would not really change the polling numbers at all. It wouldn't matter if it was Stephen Harper, Peter Mackay, Bernard Lord, Stockwell Day or George W. Bush leading the party, it would still be too "scary" for the MSM and their liberal supporters. We need to win from the right.
Hey! Thanks for posting the CSR! I lost my copy a few years ago, and it was The Reason I got involved in politics!
Bah! It's gone!!!! *crying*
2 terms. Then we got Ernie Eves, the Cino, and the rest is Lieberal history.
I think this is the problem of most conservatives (small 'c'). We use common sense, so we know we're right, so what's the use of trying to convince other people. Liberals, on the other hand, are completely clueless, and just want to convince you to join them on their cliff edge.
Mike Harris is a fraud????? No true conservatives would say such a thing.
Good for him. We need to be more like the Ayn Randers who never apologize for fiscal conservatism. Challenge the reality of the welfare state.
I think he got an absolute majority (over 50% of the popular vote) in 1995...dropped slightly in 1999 (something like 47%).
2007 will probably see Dalton McGuinty re-elected with about 35% of the popular vote (a lot of the right will support fringe parties).
We are not too bright here in BC either. We gave 34 seats to the NDP. In the midst of a bright economy.
Interestingly the Ontario Liberals received almost the same number of votes in 1999 and 2003 - the difference was that, in the latter year, over 20% of the conservative vote stayed home sick of being sold out.
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