Stephen Harper Is The Face of Democracy

There’s a peculiarly funny bit in this Ottawa Citizen story covering the first event of the People’s Social Forum, which happened to be a march on Parliament Hill yesterday. It’s about the child of labour leader Chris Wilson:

Wilson’s eight-year-old daughter, Sasha, held a sign that read: “No more Harper. Not cool.” Asked why she doesn’t think the prime minister is cool, Sasha said, “I don’t know. My daddy says so.”

It’s funny because that’s pretty much indicative of progressive politics in Canada these days. Ask why they hate the Harper government, and they’re more likely to sputter out insults and invective rather than hand out anything resembling a reasoned argument.

They don’t really know why they think the Harper government is bad for Canada; but they know what “Daddy” says. And “Daddy,” in this case, is the popular “groupthink” of the Left, the hyperpartisan set of so-called counter-Establishment thinking that constitutes an Establishment of its own, the one that hates conservatism simply because it’s too intellectually lazy to consider its merits — not to mention their own deficiencies.

But here’s the thing. These people often forget that Stephen Harper did not become Prime Minister of Canada all on his own. He got there with the help of about 5.8 million people, the ones who voted Conservative back in 2011.

Now of course the Left will haul out that hoary old chestnut about how that’s a minority of the total votes cast. What that line of reasoning conveniently omits is that the remaining votes were split between the other four national parties (and yes, the Bloc and the Greens are national parties), which means that the Canadian Left simply failed to coalesce behind a single party.

Which means that the Harper majority is not just a result of Harper’s efforts, but of the Left’s failures — most particularly, their failure to sell a progressive vision of how Canada ought to work. Not merely to mainstream voters, but to each other.

A lot of punditry will complain that Harper’s politics are about division — dividing the electorate instead of unifying the country, et cetera. But they somehow forget that division is democracy. Arguing for one idea may be persuasive, but it’s hardly democratic. For that, you need two or more ideas in competition with each other, and theoretically once they’re all argued out, the one that makes the most sense wins. One of the reasons why the Canadian Left tends to be mocked or ignored in favour of the so-called “politics of personality” is that they’re rendered too incoherent by their own hatred of the Establishment to mount an effective counter-argument.

The marchers of the Peopls Forum hate Harper. Okay, it’s good to get that off your chests. They just need to remember that emotion does not necessarily translate into action — and that the people who voted Conservative in 2006, 2008 and 2011 won’t change their vote just because the Forum participants say so. That, too, is democracy.

About phantomobserver

I'm a professional librarian currently working in Ottawa, Ontario.
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3 Responses to Stephen Harper Is The Face of Democracy

  1. nathannathanbaumancom says:

    Victor, this is the weakest post you’ve written in a long time. You’ve set up a straw man on the basis of your anecdotal experience about “the Left,” which you have then set up in terms of gross generalizations. I’ve been reading your blog–which I consider very insightful and highly informative, for the most part–for years, and based on that reading alone, I could give you many reasons for why I think Stephen Harper is not the leader our country needs.

    For the record, I did not hate Stephen Harper in the beginning, and I thought that the people who did were ignorant and prejudiced. Many months after Harper got his majority, though, I came to change my mind. I think he is a very dangerous leader, and the sooner he and his party are gone, the better. Since you asked for a list of exactly why those of us who do not like his leadership to not like it, here goes. The following are good reasons to vote him out:

    -the attempt to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of votes with the measures originally proposed in the so-called Fair Elections Act (some of which still survived)

    -the slow, gutting of the social safety net on the philosophical basis that limited government is better than progressive government. I’d rather take what’s really achievable in places like Sweden and Finland to whatever is going on inside the minds of those who think Ayn Rand novels pass for wisdom.

    -the constant cuts to oversight mechanisms in government, including the CRA

    -the abolishing of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and the wisdom that it possessed

    -the unprecedented silencing of federal scientists by the PMO

    -the total gutting of environmental protections in the name of streamlining and “economic growth”

    -the ramming through of the Enbridge Pipeline over the objections of the majority of people in my
    province, and without proper consideration

    -the attacking of ordinary people like me who are opposed to Northern Gateway as “foreign-funded” and “radical” by Joe Oliver, who was subsequently promoted by Harper to finance

    -the lack of creativity to get Canada to diversify its economy away from dependence on oil

    -the numerous pieces of half-assed legislation that anyone who had taken Grade 11 Social Studies could have predicted would not withstand a Supreme Court ruling (e.g. the law that tried to allow retroactive sentencing)

    -the attempt to get a part-time non-Quebec-based judge with a specialization in Maritime Law to serve on a seat reserved for a Quebec judge at the Supreme Court level. Quebec is a progressive province and its voice is supposed to be represented on the Supreme Court. The appointment of Nadon was a middle finger to Quebec and the constitution.

    -the misleading and libelous attack on the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the aftermath of the Nadon affair

    -the promotion to Minister of Justice of a man who has highly misogynist reasons for why the federal government does not wish to appoint more female judges

    -the nickel and diming of the military, resulting in many disabled veterans of the war in Afghanistan and other places being kicked out of the military with a small pittance hardly enough to cover the cost of living for them. For a government that supposedly prides itself on military matters, this is obscenely hypocritical

    -the complete boondogle that is the Joint Task Fighter and the inability of the government to consider its options with an open-tendered contract. After wasting millions of dollars and years of time, we eventually may get a single-jet fighter that can’t even withstand Arctic cold…if we get anything at all

    -the willful blindness involved in seeing systemic problems with violence against aboriginal women as isolated crimes and nothing more (despite unanimous provincial support for studying it as such)

    -the incredible rejection of all the provincial governments’ requests to reform the Canada Pension Plan so that pensioners will not live in poverty

    -the proposed legislation regarding prostitution that fixes none of the Supreme Court’s criticisms of the old law, while making it even harder for prostitutes to operate safely than they did under the old law

    -the ridiculous move to get our Forces out of the relatively-civilized UAE solely because we wanted to protect Air Canada from competition–and the subsequent move to put a Canadian military base into Qatar, of all places. I don’t think we should be projecting force in the Middle East, but if so, why are we benefiting a government that is a sponsor of the Islamic State orcs?

    -the inability to get a law passed that would allow for physician-assisted suicide. It will never happen with an evangelical in power, I know, and I don’t really fault Stephen Harper for this one, but it is a reason why I don’t like his government, and you asked for reasons.

    No doubt, I could think of other reasons why I despise our current federal government.

    So yes, ordinary Canadians like me can certainly think of reasons why Harper and his Conservatives need to go, and as quickly as possible. This government is well past its best before date. Thanks to its penchant for governing from ideology rather than careful analysis of facts, it will not get the support it got from Canadians in 2011.

    [Apologies if this gets posted twice–I had trouble logging in for some reason.]

  2. One of the great quotations of our time is from James Burnham, a former Trotskyite Communist-turned-conservative who became an editor at National Review.
    Fifty years ago, he wrote in his book Suicide of the West that “Modern liberalism, for most liberals, is not a consciously understood set of rational beliefs, but a bundle of unexamined prejudices and conjoined sentiments. The basic ideas and beliefs seem more satisfactory when they are not made fully explicit, when they merely lurk rather obscurely in the background, coloring the rhetoric and adding a certain emotive glow.”
    To compensate for five decades of public education and pop culture, let’s simplify Burnham’s message to say that most left-wingers do not base their views on facts but on their feelings.

    • Joseph says:

      Leftist ideology is all about making things look good.
      How it actually works is only important by how angry the left voter gets because the other side “sabotaged” the effort or too embarrassed to admit they made a mistake. ex. Obama

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