Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Harper, Harper, Harper

Star column today that reaffirms what we already know, Stephen Harper IS the Conservative Party. A new mailing mirrors the theme we see on the website:
However, it does seem clear the party is actively trying to generate some sort of mystical aura around the person of Stephen Harper.
How else do you explain the special 2008 calendar I recently received from the party as a gift for my "loyal support"?

Now, most gift calendars from politicians feature photos of Parliament Hill, the Peace Tower or maybe some prairie wheat fields.

This calendar features almost nothing but Stephen Harper.

For January it's a photo of Stephen Harper getting off a plane; February features Harper posing next to a guy in a snowman costume; March shows off Harper in a turtleneck; in June there's a shot of him looking studious in his office, and on it goes, month after month.

In other words, for virtually every day in 2008, owners of this calendar can gaze upon a smiling, benevolent, wise-looking Harper.

Obviously, the leader gets the lion share of the focus, pretty standard stuff. However, what we are seeing from the Conservatives seems to be a blend of Harper’s own “go it alone” style and a strategic calculation that Harper is the party’s ace.

You can see the superficial logic in highlighting leadership, because it draws the comparison to the Dion, which works to the Conservatives advantage. That said, the Conservative strategy misses one key element- Canadians don’t much care for Harper. Sure, Harper outpaces Dion, but it also true that “Neither” is the preferred choice of Canadians, when polled on best leader. In other words, Conservative make an error in assuming that Harper is the difference, Harper should be the focus.

Another quote from the column, which is relevant:
”After all, in order to have a personality cult, the leader actually has to have, well, you know, a personality.”

Harper isn’t charismatic, he isn’t engaging or riveting. Harper is pretty wooden, which makes him a strange candidate for “aura”. I don’t dispute the leadership gap with Dion, but I also see no evidence whatsoever that the Conservatives can carry the day, based solely on the weight of Harper’s personality. In fact, we are now two years into Harper's reign, wherein he has already put himself at the center of almost every initiative and the Conservatives have gone nowhere. Our guy isn't as bad as their guy is hardly an impressive strategy.


Jay said...

So if he gets a majority should we expect billboards all over Canada reminding us of Dear Leader like China's Deng Xiaoping?


Dame said...

Harper Clearly has great megalomaniac streak in him ..
the EMP-ERROR as I said in My blog. It is very distressing but same time this is his Achilles heel... and will fall by his flaws ...just like some other huge personalities with the "NAPOLEONITIS" disese .I can See him retiring in Toxic Alberta and brooding forever what went wrong.
This ONE MAN government is unraveling he hs too many plates spinning up in the air what is beyond his Control . Afganistan China ..Usa political Changes Global issues are all beyond the PMO .the Concept of Him as the conservative BRAND is a fouled up case..


Anonymous said...

To see Harper's mug everyday when you refer to your calendar....shudder.

Putin is Time's Man of the Year. This morning the guy from Times said he had an interview with Putin and said he is a very angry man and could go one of two ways - to his hero Peter the Great (I think that was the one) or "Stalin"

Interesting parallel here - Putin/Angry/Stalin and Harper/Angry and reads Stalin and uses some of his methods like pit one against the other....interesting to me anyway.

Scotian said...

Nichols is only now catching on to the attempt to create a cult of personality around Harper? Where has he been the past couple of years?!? I've been referring to the personality cult surrounding Harper both in person and in the online world as a bad thing for at least that long, certainly since he became PM.

As to it being a good idea or not, considering that throughout the last couple of years it is Harper that has defined what being a Con is and how unable the CPC has been to gain on the Libs in any sustained manner, even to the level of support they got in the last election night, should answer that question for anyone able to use basic reasoning/logic. That after two years of all Harper all the time there is no sustained interest in giving this man a majority government, indeed whenever his support gets up to the point where such would be possible it falls back very soon thereafter.

The hyperfocus of Cons on leadership over all else is also another significant tell on their cult of personality. While in American culture that sort of hero worship has strong roots it is not the same in this country, and yet again Harper is showing us how he does not understand the basic Canadian psyche with this approach, as are his supporters in thinking it is such a wonderful strategy and that Harper is playing chess while everyone else plays checkers (man I've heard that nonsense far too many times in the past couple of years, Harper only looks that good when he is able to follow his script, he handles unexpected/unplanned for events rather poorly when one looks at his record from the Lebanon evac situation last year to the Chalk River fiasco this month) with this strategy.

A lot of my conservative critics think I make the American conservative argument (they call it a smear, despite of course the strong evidence supporting said position which I have written in tedious detail here and elsewhere many times over the past couple of years) simply as a smear to attach anti-American feelings to him. I don't. My problem with what he has done in this regard is that he is importing a foreign designed set of political fundamentals designed for a far more combative/aggressive political culture than ours has ever been, and that such is inherently destructive to the Canadian political culture. The last couple of years of Harper government and their idea of governing illustrates that in action quite clearly. The political discourse has been hitting new lows like with the latest justification for attacking the nuclear regulator as a Liberal partisan placing partisanship against the CPC government ahead of the lives of thousands of Canadians as a shot across the bow to prevent the Libs in Parliament from treating the emergency restart legislation in a partisan manner (this despite no proof offered that the Libs would have done any such thing) according to Tony Clement.

This is not the Canada most of us have known all of our lives, this is something else, and it is not pretty nor desirable, which is why the Harper CPC keep failing to gain ground in the electorate despite all their attempts at vote buying, claiming Dion is not a leader and that Harper is supposedly the definition of leadership in action. Focusing on Harper given the distaste and the strong negatives (and I suspect his negatives are also more intensely felt by those that have them then Dion's is, well outside the core base of each party and among the swing voters) he has has not helped the party advance in the past couple of years, and I rather doubt that at this late date that is going to change.

Steve V said...

I find all this very interesting, when you consider Harper's fascination with Joseph Stalin, according to aides.

Scotian said...

Steve V:

Personally, I find that fascination disturbing beyond belief, especially when one considers how Harper has operated since coming to power not to mention how well certain of Stalin's way of looking at things political parallels the Straussian way of looking at things.

Steve V said...


Agreed. I don't know if you remember the posts I did on the Stalin connection quite some time ago, but the story started when staffers mentioned that Harper was "fascinated" with Stalin, and if memory serves one said they found that odd. Two years out, the comparison definetly finds relevance, and it is scary.

Tomm said...

Scotian & Steve,

Got the cooking pot on the burner I see.

Speculating on the level of perversion and evil around an apparent and inexplicable fascination with a true villain.

I think what you guys are cooking up is called CHARACTER ASSASSINATION. Be careful with that. You leave yourself open to wild speculation around other politician's.

You know, I heard that Bob Rae's wife...

Stephane Dion spent time with...

Gerard Kennedy's support was primarily from...

etc. etc.


burlivespipe said...

Tomm, as usual digging deep into the CON bag of tricks. When it comes to character assassination and murky smear jobs, no one can top Harper's gang. Stanfield and Clark never sunk to those depths, but then...
Harper's self-boosterism, where he has aides promoting the 'smartest guy in the room' rumour (no head count was available), is part of what is tripping him up.
There is not a humble bone in his body; he is not skilled at the art of warmth, and his hatred of all things Liberal/liberal seeps through each pronouncement. Just like his threat upon the Mulroney questions, where he fired a cheap shot at the Liberals to supposedly scare them and slur them in the media, it just bounces back to him.
I'm looking forward to the campaign. He'll trudge out big photos of a forced, stiff smile, trying to look as imperative as possible.
Dion and team will hopefully have a broader focus. Policy and the team, with the likes of Goodale, Kennedy, Findlay, Trudeau, Dryden, Rae, Bennett, et al getting to say 'We're the Stephane Dion Liberal Team.'
The CONs can just shudder at their bare cupboard.
I'm predicting a leadership campaign in the fall of 2008. Harper will be hired by the FRaser Institute to sketch out meglomaniac policy initiatives for the rich.