Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Taking Shape

With the latest evidence of Harper cleansing his campaign crowds, scrubbing the rooms, restricting access so only robotic supporters remain, a dangerous theme for the Conservatives is starting to gel. I note an uptick in Conservative supporters whining about the media, which is further anecedotal proof of a campaign coming off the rails.

This frame of a Harper as "bubble boy", restricting the media, not interacting with Canadians, going so far as to check out rally participants and deny access for the most baseless of rationale, it's all congealing into something of real consequence. Harper likes to portray himself as the anti-elitist, grassroot populist. Students of Canadian politics know it's a bunch of bunk, but to the busy Canadian, they can be sold, repetitive messaging can offset reality. However, when an election comes people do start to tune in, and now that they are to a certain degree, they are bombarded with countless examples of Harper as anything but the populist, more a man afraid of Canadians than connected to them. Contrasted with Ignatieff, Layton offering diametrically opposed campaign style, and Harper's predicament becomes more pronounced.

I'm not sure just how much "bubble boy" can resonate, move numbers, but I think it foolish for apologists to dismiss out of hand. People don't like the idea of a closed off politician, manipulating the optics, it comes off as phoney, it smells artificial, it's not flattering in the least. Moreover, with each successive example, the frame gains steam and it becomes an election theme. A stark contrast is present, everytime Ignatieff wades into an unscripted event, Harper's approach is that much more unaccountable, almost undemocratic.

What Canadians are starting to see is the Harper political junkies have seen in Ottawa for some time, all the "under the radar" control freak, paranoid, message management stuff, that is really a hallmark of his reign. You can argue all day long about resonance, but there is no disputing Harper doesn't look good, these examples aren't helpful in drawing voters, at best a non factor, at worst a DISTINCT TURNOFF. As well, when you are continually answering questions about your controlling nature, it's hardly what your war room welcomes, hardly a desirable development. A frame is forming, and it isn't flattering.


CuriosityCat said...

Inciseful analysis, Far and Wide, and right on the button.

The BubbleBoy politician image is starting to stick, now that Harper's paranoia is showing through his tattered Teflon clothes.

Canadians are not idiots. They fiercely resist any politician who thinks he can unilaterally usurp the Queen's place in Canada, which Harper is trying to do with his regal, let-them-eat-cake airs.

His TV shots now show a bewildered, slightly seedy old uncle image - you know, the one who smells just a little bit and has bad eating habits? Not the kind of image that wins over the youth, who are now riled up.

And riding a four-wheeler just does not cut it, Stevie.

Kirbycairo said...

I am not sure if it will 'resonate' with voters. After all, this guy has been a control freak for years and so far it has not done nearly as much damage as it should.

However, these are the types of narratives that can suddenly change everything and a man like Harper suddenly could find things spinning out of control. It happened a bit like that in the US in 92 when Bush (the elder) suddenly found himself losing ground when he thought he was a shoe-in. The real danger for a guy like Harper is that people become desperate and start saying things that make themselves look like losers. Remember when Bush said at a rally that his dog had more experience than Clinton? People hate the smell of desperation.

Of course today Harper didn't look so much as desperate as he did like a guy who just didn't want to be campaigning. He looks pale and tired and most distinctly lack-luster. And that might be as dangerous as desperate.

We will see over the next week i guess.

Tof KW said...

This is the first election, maybe since 2004, since the spotlight has really turned on Stephen Harper by the media. Then it was due to the accusations of his 'secret agenda' which he never quite fully dodged at that time.

In 2006 he learned his lesson and was controlling the message and his own party to ensure no one was off-key.

In 2008 and now PM, the focus of attention by all mean should have been back on him and his government, however Dion made himself the centre of attention with the Green Shift. Harper already branded Dion as a weak leader through his attack ads, but the Green Shift was like manna from heaven. Never a good idea to sell a complicated adjustment of the tax structure in the middle of an election campaign. Harper could tell you this from the CPC tax platform of '04.

Now, Harper is back to where he should have been since winning in 2006 - in the spotlight. The media are finally asking tough questions (all 4-5 chances they get) and it's not looking pretty.

Anything can happen still, but I'm expecting some really bonehead maneuvers once they start panicking. If the sense hits the individual CPofC MPs that they're sliding and can't control the national conversation anymore, then this will hit the fan fast.

I have a nice bottle of Scotch I'll break out should I see the Harper war machine finally fall apart.

Steve V said...

Harper the mean spirited, control freak, has never been an asset. Never have we had this discussion though when the electorate is starting to take notice, relatively speaking. I think it does hurt, and if it doesn't, it sure distracts from his tight message control. Did people see him with Milewski, Harper was very edgy, didn't look the frontrunner. I think the opposition can mock him relentlessly, and because Harper has shunned the media, he won't get the same cover he's enjoyed in the past. Time will tell...

Tof KW said...

I wonder how much of this is just from the reporters getting tired of Harper's control over their jobs. They were given free reign to question PMs until Harper hit the stage. And I'm surprised Terry Milewski is even being allowed to interview bubbleboy anymore.

BTW - George Stroumboulopoulos had a good piece about this on his show the other night, answering back the CPC allegations that Milewski has a Lib-bias ('cause you know they will attack him with that). So Strombo showed a clip with Milewski asking then PM Paul Martin a tough question about the softwood lumber dispute: "Are you just grandstanding for votes and making the matter worse for our negotiations?" That takes guts to ask questions you know are pissing off a PM, and that's Milewski's job. Just because your name is Harper doesn't mean you get a pass.

Strombo ended by saying forget about whatever political bias you have, if you can't question your government and your leaders honestly, then what does this say about the state of our democracy?

Steve V said...

"So Strombo showed a clip with Milewski asking then PM Paul Martin a tough question about the softwood lumber dispute"

I was mocking Cons earlier on da twitter. Do they have no memories, Milewski was a thorn in the Libs side for YEARS!!! He was freaking relentless. Nobody was complaining then, in fact they were cheering him on! Now, it's back to "left wing media" crap. Gawd spare us the stupidity.

Omar said...

Same thing with Lawrence Martin who is constantly tagged by Reforacon commentators with "Liberal shill!" every time he pens a piece for the G&M. Yeah, I'm sure Chretien thought of him as a shill for his party when he was writing scathingly about Shawinigate. Forever wailing about media bias just makes these folks look stupider then they already come across.

ottlib said...

The control freak nature of Mr. Harper has not really cost him much, except maybe majority governments on two different occasions.

The difference I think with the kids being thrown out of rallies because of their Facebook profile pictures and bumper stickers could change that.

These were young kids, first time voters, who were victimized by this BS, not the Ottawa Press core.

Alot of Canadians, particularly older Canadians, (you know the ones who actually vote) could not care less about what the Conservatives do to the media but I believe they would care deeply what they do kids.

Steve V said...

I remember when Martin's book came out, the reaction from Cons. I was like, you know he has other books too eh, you should read em!

Jerry Prager said...

Bubble boy sloganeers ruled the day !

4 wheeler says "I make the rules."

It's not just the screening of crowds though, it's the NOT knowing that Carson had vetted as a serial criminal, or the pretending NOT to have known.

You can screen students at a rally but not a fraudster in the PMO.

Jerry Prager said...

It was William Elliot as national security adviser who approved of Carson then became head of the RCMP !


And then orchestrated with Fantino to violate rights at the G20.

Jerry Prager said...

"“As far as I know, Mr. Carson’s clearance did not raise any issues regarding his suitability for his PMO duties,” he (Brodie) said. “I relied — as I should have — on the security clearance process.”

rockfish said...

Critically important -- not one word of 'coalition' or a reverberation of 'a vote for the Liberals is a vote for Michael Ignatieff' squirted out of the newscasts that I saw. Harper's message is off the rails (now) and there's a faint sense of panic about the internet. Of course, it hasn't exactly bubbled over to support for our side, despite an incredibly polished first 10 days (minus glitch on Day .5)... It demonstrates that negative attack ads, no matter the factual information, does have serious sticking power. But the traction is still to come... I'm just eager to see how Harper shuffles into his next pre-screened death ship...