Monday, February 01, 2010

Stick

Just to pick up on a point knb has made, many of the pundits might have it wrong, once again. I agree that this proroguing issue will fade, other matters, namely the budget and our economic direction, will takeover the political debate. However, this fact doesn't appreciate the cumulative damage that Harper has now cemented.

Harper's chief liabilities prior to this prorogue issue revolved around the sense of a controlling, divisive and entirely hyper-partisan politician. It is this lingering sense that has handicapped the Conservative brand, even when the polls were favorable, support was "soft" beyond the standard base. Harper had made progress on this front, appearing more "bi-partisan", projecting a softer image that was starting to pay dividends. This sense was enhanced by a weak alternative, people were wrong to see Harper's "rebound" as completely anchored, it always was a flimsy presentation. Perceived support didn't necessarily equate to genuine affection, part default, part passive acceptance. In other words, Harper was always on "thinner ice" than people assumed, and it was this dynamic which explains rapidly changing fortunes, triggered by the slightest transgression.

The issue of prorogue may fade, but the damage has lasting impact. I note that Bob Fife made the point, you can only tarnish yourself so many times before it starts to stick. This prorogue decision completely reinforced all the negative narratives that have hobbled Harper since he took office. There is the "death by a thousand cuts" analogy, and if you prescribe to this characterization, prorogue represents a deep slice. That fact doesn't necessarily equate to permanence, but it does make it increasingly hard to break out and have another "piano man" moment.

It remains to be seen, but this prorogue decision might just be the tipping point, wherein enough Canadians desire a change, Harper unable to shake off his baggage. There is a consistent, comprehensive pattern, developed over time, which is entirely understandable- a simple concept that people can grasp. I would submit, the PMO's recent gymanstics denote a certain desperation, which in and of itself supports their own concerns about "damaged goods".

The opposition are apparently working on reforms to prorogation. This initiative will keep the issue around for the spring session, but I agree that it will lose the primary focus it enjoys now. However, that was never the point, the sentiment revolving around prorogation is something that will linger. All the work the Conservatives have done to transform Harper's image has evaporated. What's worse, you aren't back to square one, the setback is accompanied by the worst reinforcement- namely playing up your biggest achilles heel.

Eventually things STICK, and a politician suffers permanent damage. To assume that Harper can keep making high profile errors, without EVENTUAL lasting impact, defies any sense of history or political precedent. Is this the moment? Maybe, maybe not, but everytime you garner a "tsk tsk" from Canadians, it's that much harder to don the sweater and play a different role effectively. Our eyes are that much more jaundiced, so whether or not the word "prorogue" is part of the discourse in two months, misses the real point entirely.

8 comments:

penlan said...

One thing I've noticed is that people have stopped using the word arrogant in relation to Harper. I think it's a word that must be used on a continual basis to make it stick. It was abundant for a little while but has now dropped off the radar. We need to keep it out there.

Good post.

Steve V said...

I've argued the word arrogant should accompany every single appearance by a Liberal.

Tof KW said...

I've argued the word arrogant should accompany every single appearance by a Liberal.

I fully agree. If the Harpernauts can can continue to chant the same soundbite until (regardless if it's true or not) people will accept it as fact - why can't the grits?

Phil said...

How about "bumbling" or "inept" or "unable to govern"?

I think voters will excuse arrogance if they feel the PM is doing the job well.

He's not. Let's make that clear.

Jesse said...

I think you can make the point here that, eventually, the Harper attempt to try to only allow space between them and the Liberals on a couple signature issues (crime, etc) can backfire. If people start turning on you, but you can't really identify anything which shows what you'd do differently than the Liberals, they'll just slide back into the Liberal column.

Not an ideal situation for Liberals, I'd argue, but a possible long term outcome.

RuralSandi said...

I wonder if the media/pundits want the issue to fade away. We know the media have an attention span of a fruit fly, but that doesn't mean Canadians have to.

It isn't only about prorogation afterall - it's about our institutions and abuse.

The pundits keep saying Canadians don't understand prorogation. Well, maybe that particular word is not familiar to them but shut-down, close-down, extended vacation does.

The ones who can keep it going are the Canadian citizens themselves. Afterall, it's not the pundits/talking heads that should be telling you how you shoulda, woulda, coulda feel about an issue.

Steve V said...

"The pundits keep saying Canadians don't understand prorogation."

I'm not sure why they said that in the first place. Did they forget LAST year, wherein the whole country was focused on the crisis? We all got our refresher course then, so why anybody would be surprised at the most basic level of sophistication here escapes me.

BTW, I prefer GNAT ;)

Holly Stick said...

This just begs for a cartoon of Harper trying to walk with various heavy things stuck to him.