Dan Gardner is a respected journalist. He takes great care to remain scrupulously objective, at times maddeningly so.
Thus his article about the Harper government is a powerful deconstruction of the neo-Conservative modus operandi.
Parliament has been a particularly nasty place for years but that was a consequence of minority government, many pundits said. The government was always in danger and so the Conservatives behaved as if they were in a non-stop election campaign. A majority would change that, the pundits said after the election. The Conservatives will calm down, drop the nastiness, and deliver a more statesmanlike government.
But that hasn’t happened. [...]They are the party of Stephen Harper.
Tom Flanagan recently described the prime minister’s personal interests. “He doesn’t really care much about money,” Flanagan told the Hill Times. “He likes to watch hockey and so on, but he doesn’t have a lot of active interests that he wants to pursue. He doesn’t play golf. He doesn’t play tennis. He doesn’t care much for travel. He doesn’t paint. He doesn’t fish. You know, he loves politics.”
Indeed. Stephen Harper has been obsessing about political power his whole life. It’s what he does. It’s all he does.
The same is true of many of the top people around him. John Baird, Jason Kenney, Tony Clement, Peter Van Loan. They’ve spent their entire lives in politics. It’s all they know.
But Harper is more than a political obsessive. He’s a passionate obsessive. Almost frighteningly so.
As Conservative strategist Rod Love told author Lawrence Martin, Harper and other Reformers seethed — and rightly so — at the way the Chrétien-era Liberals framed them as the lunatic fringe. “Others got over it,” Love observes in Martin’s book Harperland. “Harper? It was just burned in his psyche. So when he came to power it was payback time. This wasn’t just about going after someone in the Commons in the day, then going out for a beer at night. This was about destruction.”
The same description surfaces over and over. Stephen Harper doesn’t want to beat the other side; he wants to destroy them. They’re not opponents; they’re the enemy. As for the depth of his ideological feelings, the prime minister’s colleagues use the word “hatred” to describe his antipathy to liberalism.
When politics is everything, when opponents are enemies, when there’s hatred in your belly, certain things follow. Ruthlessness, for one. Personal attacks. A refusal to accept the legitimacy of different views and to work with those who hold them.
Stephen Harper is only one man, of course, but unlike every Liberal prime minister his dominance of his party is total. He effectively built it from the ground up. It is his party. And its personality mirrors that of its creator and master.
The Conservatives did not behave the way they did in the past because they had a minority of the seats in the House of Commons. They behaved that way because they are the party of Stephen Harper. They still are. And so they still behave that way.
In their lavish and deliberate use of Rovian tactics, Stalinist control and Goebbelsian communication strategies the former Reformatories, as directed by Harper have rebranded themselves by securing the name of a once honourable political party, but they are fundamentally still the cabal of greedy, ideologically-bound carpet-baggers that Preston Manning gathered and released - like a herd of rapacious hyenas.
The robo-calling they deployed during this year's election campaign may be surfacing again, this time to unseat Montreal MP Irving Cotler. It would seem Con insiders expect the Liberal veteran will shuffle off into the sunset and that his riding will be the next battlefield for a quick and dirty by-election campaign.
The practice of *strategic incapacitation* the Cons apply in Parliament is ^NOT inadvertent. It is all-encompassing and it is indeed ruthless.