Thursday, April 07, 2011

Harper Harping on Ignatieff's "Americanism":: What About His Own Contempt for Canada?

"Stephen Harper" {2009}, by Klaus Shmidheiser on Plaidklaus
First off, I want to say that I think Stephen Harper is bad for the Conservative Party and even if he can continue being PM after the May elections, it will be at a cost for the party and for Canada.

I'm sure the Harper war room must be sweating the upcoming debate. Profusely. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff isn't coming across as an out-of-touch egghead straight out of the ivory tower—an American one at that. While expectations may have been low, Ignatieff has done well on the campaign trail while Harper seems more awkward and gaffe-prone than ever. His responses to questions and his party's tactics are not that of a leader, but as if he's part of a huge Borg-like political machine. You saw it here first::

Mashup of Conservative Party of Canada logo with Borg Insignia, Kenneth M. Kambara

I first blogged about Harper attacking Ignatieff on these grounds over on ThickCulture way back in 2009, "Is Michael Ignatieff Real?:: The Politics of Authenticity", and again earlier this year, "The Offensive Offensive:: Conservative Attack Ads Target Ignatieff". It always struck me odd for the Harper Conservatives to get on Ignatieff's case for being a wanna-be American. 

Why? I've always thought of Harper who desperately to make Canada more like the United States.  His brand of libertarian economics that's expensively fused with a strong desire to show that Canada belongs on the world stage as a major player. I also think he's taken more than a few plays out of the Republican handbook where Nixon meets Bush 43.

In Walkom's column in the Toronto Star, he chronicles Harper's prior statements that paint a picture of a divisive mentality that is full of contempt. Here's a few choice bits from the wayback machine::

Harper on a Socialist Canada
While this could be reframed as Harper really talking about the Liberals, I think it's pretty clear what he meant::
“Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the word and very proud of it,” he told an American audience 14 years ago, in a speech that keeps coming back to haunt. 
“Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country,” he repeated in 2001.
Here he's decrying the tyranny of the Canadian social safety net::
“In terms of the unemployed, don’t feel bad for many of these people,” he said in Montreal in 1997. “They don’t feel bad about it themselves as long as they’re receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance.”

Harper as Part of "Bloc de l'ouest"
Harper's support of the Alberta Agenda seems to come from a, wait for it...Albertan exceptionalism.

Alberta, with its mixture of “American enterprise …(and) British traditions of order” stands out as a beacon for the rest of the country, he wrote in the National Post in 2001.
Hold on! Is Harper embracing American ideals over Canadian ones? Likening Alberta to America appears to doing just that, along with a curious nod to the Britain over Canada. Maybe he was just still pissed about the 2000 election::
“The rest of the country has responded by telling us in no uncertain terms that we do not share their Canadian values,” he wrote after Jean Chrétien’s Liberals trounced the right-of-centre Canadian Alliance in the 2000 election. “Let us build a society on Alberta values.”
Harper on the Gullibility of the (M)asses
Here we have the Harper mind in action. Perhaps as an economist he never really thought of how people aren't rational, utility-maximizing atomistic units. Whoa, psychology! It's interesting to see how he noted this gullibility of man, stated that he noted its utility as an epiphany, and subsequently used the identical tactics reduces politics to, just that, a set of tactics.
The tactics used by the winning Liberals then, to mock and disparage Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day for his evangelical beliefs, horrified Harper. “The Alliance was devastated by a shrewd and sinister Liberal attack plan,” he wrote.
Yet what struck him even more was how easy it was to bamboozle voters,  “There is no reason to believe the same strategy could not be repeated at any time under any circumstance against any political movement,” he noted.
I think we all know how Harper is very much concerned with power, but a power that supersedes his both his economics and ideology. In this, I see his contempt for Canada as it stands today.

He may have this mythical vision of a Canada that's like Alberta and mirrors the free market and exceptionalism of United States. I think he realizes that not everyone shares this, but that he can amass power by duping people with tactics. I honestly believe he thinks he's doing Canada a favour by advocating an Albertan manifest destiny. Alberta managed to shrug off the influences of Toronto, Ottawa, and points east and it's just a matter of time before another "quiet revolution" occurs, of a quasi-libertarian, foreign big wig nature. The problem with this...I think he underestimates how his visions are contrary to many Canadian values and that the population isn't a bunch of rational, utility maximizing rubes to dupe. Given this, I've wondered for a while if the Conservative Party was under strain because of a divide along ideological and tactical lines. I have been trying to document evidence of Harper not being supported by the old Progressive Conservative faction of the current Conservative Party of Canada.

I find it odd that Stephen Harper would bash Ignatieff on being "un-Canadian" when (a) he has his own trajectory along these lines and (b) knows of the power of "spin" that can be used to manipulate the masses. Perhaps he thinks the Conservatives have a monopoly on effective marketing strategy. Given his campaign thus far and the fact that EKOS has him out of majority territory [pdf], I think he better rethink that.

Twitterversion:: [blog] Harper attacks Ignatieff 4 being un-Canadian,but has hist.of contempt for a Canada that's not like the US #canpoli @Prof_K

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