Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cement

You have to give the Prime Minister some credit. On several occasions Harper has shown the capacity to morph and redefine himself, in the face of very negative impressions. The mean, hyper-partisan, preoccupied with divisive tactics, all these narratives looked to be on the wane. Harper managed to position himself as co-operative in the coalition aftermath, and he also managed to project a "softer" image, somewhat helping his "affection" score with Canadians. All the negatives remained, but it was back burner stuff, Harper had effectively manipulated the political short term memory dynamic. However, if you scanned recent editorials, and the overall tone of coverage and voter reaction, all that "good work" has evaporated and we are back to dissecting the cold partisan, self interest before good government, all those frames that have held Harper back. The question now becomes- is this just another temporary setback or has Harper finally cemented himself as a tragic figure?

While things in politics do tend to change quickly- only a fool is entirely definitive- it is relevant to mention that each time you reinforce negative narratives, the chances for rebound diminish. When you judge the character of a person, if you see an almost pathological recurring theme, you eventually conclude that's the persons nature and it takes much effort to convince you otherwise. In the political realm, when enough voters reach a personal conclusion, it equates to ceilings, it suggests past your political prime.

At this point, I honestly believe much of Harper's future opportunity will rely on the Liberals and their perceived effectiveness. Should the Liberals project strength, vision, competence, Harper may have a very hard time "recalibrating" if you will. Let's not forget, his fall surge in the polls was largely a by-product of Liberal self-inflicted wounds. Left with no credible alternative, the Conservatives benefit, but this support shouldn't be misconstrued as solid or firm.

I have no doubt that Harper is capable of rebound, the chameleon qualities and propaganda machine formidable. That said, how many times can you project the same negative attributes and not pay a permanent price? Every former leader would agree, the public tolerance isn't infinite.

6 comments:

Mark Francis said...

This is certainly a landmark on the political terrain people will be able to see for a long time.

Tof KW said...

Well written Steve. Indeed, at some point his history will all come back to doom Harper, the only question is when. He may survive this latest bonehead manoeuvre (I firmly believe he will), but this miscalculation and all his past hyper-partisan, divisive schemes will come back to finish him off.

I’ve personally equated the longevity of a political career to that of a human life. Over time, disease after medical condition after disease will affect your health. One can suffer a coronary and survive, then a stroke a few years later and survive, then a bout of pneumonia and likewise endure it all – but as you age this all compounds, and ultimately finishes you off. You can continue to live a dangerous lifestyle and roll the dice, or live in moderation and (hopefully) enjoy a long life.

Harper’s game of hyper-partisan, sectarian politics will eventually kill his political life, it is all a question of time. In four years he has already accumulated all the political baggage of someone normally in office for 3 terms

Steve V said...

Great analogy.

Northern PoV said...

I believe that it was Harper's acquisition of the "Conservative" brand (even more than the consolidation of the two parties) that allowed him to use the abysmal sponsorship scandal as his lever to gain power. The brand is what keeps him in power as Canadians have this quaint idea that to keep politicians honest, we must trade parties from time to time. "It's the Conservatives turn." (And it might be true if the PROGRESSIVE Conservatives were in power.)

I think things are ready to go the other way but ya
"Should the Liberals project strength, vision, competence, "

that's the missing ingredient at the moment.

Steve V said...

Our impotency has allowed for the illusion that Harper is attractive. I firmly believe any gains made have been an almost default consideration.

Tomm said...

Steve,

I too agree that your post is interesting and well considered.

I think Ignatieff has quit flailing about and appears ready to follow-up a disagreement with a policy or position announcement. He can eventually corner Harper with that type of tactic, and as you say, in the meantime, Harper's negative's continue to climb as he reinforces perceived stereotypes.