#StopHarper is not a political programme

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It’s sometimes easy to forget how unacceptable a figure Stephen Harper was in Canadian politics, a boogeyman for the Liberals to scare Ontario voters with. And that was justified; Harper was and is an appalling figure, although it was easier to identify it then than now, as political exigency has required Harper to mask the signs that he is an ideological compatriot of the worst of the US far-right think tanks and the executor of the will of the Canadian oil industry.

And I know that for many people of a progressive bent of mind, the presence of Stephen Harper in the PMO for what seems like forever is felt viscerally, like a kind of on-going high-level nausea. There is constant silent cry, “Make it go away”—-and not for no reason. When will this unbearable nightmare end?

And yet, here we are…with the Reformatories pulling a third of the vote. In Canada’s weird political system, which is the weird land-obsessed legacy of weird Albion, that puts Stephen Harper within shooting range of another majority government. Now, that 25% of the population supports him is no surprise. (The remainder of his support is a topic I will come to.) As I’ve said in the past, about a quarter of the population is more or less happy to admit to what is at best a lionization of malign negligence —- and at worst, an embittered desire to destroy.

That of course is the key point here. Many left-wing progressives view the fruits of their progress as a fragile flower that must be continuously fed and watered. Harper on the other hand, on the other hand, views the flower of progress with hostility, but cannot be seen to mow it down directly. So the flower appears to wilt.

The contrary dynamic, however, doesn’t hold in the case of the right. The right triumphantly views its goals (which vary, of course, but ultimately all tend to include some form of capitalist patriarchy) as the default, the state of nature, on which human society will eventually settle sooner or later, and it is more a question of whether one will live to see the promised (in some cases, secretly dreaded) land, and whether some particular carefully selected and sentimentalized cultural artifacts will be preserved. (With the inconvenient ones discreetly discarded.)

But many people don’t live their lives that way, and instead decide, if they vote at all, to evaluate how to vote based on their immediate well-being. And there are a lot of people, ordinary people, who aren’t really suffering under Harper, and do not view All That Is Good About Canada as the fragile flower that can be taken away. There are a lot of people who think that a little bit of human-rights infringement or a little bit of minority-targeting doesn’t mean that Canada is materially a worse place. After all, we’re not talking concentration camps here…

To many people reading this, that logic probably seems frightfully wrong and dangerous, and certainly abhorrent. But so what? That is the model that a significant number of voters, a number large enough to push the Reformatories back into power, is using, and impassioned appeals to prevent Stephen Harper from continuing to Ruin Canada will not dissuade them from it. That is why #StopHarper is not a political platform.

Many voters, over and above the roughly 25% essential Viciousness Vote, simply don’t share the urgency. They want to know how they will be helped to keep what they have, and perhaps do better. They want to be told who will keep their kids safe and successful.

For this reason, the #StopHarper movement must scramble to cobble together every vote possible to give Harper the political heave-ho. And that has turned out to mean: adopting the Liberal Party once again, it seems. As there is still time left and the polls have been all over the place, I won’t try to predict precisely how the election will turn out, but it looks like the dream of an NDP breakthrough has once again been squandered. If it is true, as some claim, that the Liberal Party is but Harper-lite with occasional opportunistic sloganeering, then a Moment will have been lost. Because many NDP voters are more loyal to #StopHarper then they are to getting their party into power. The Right seems able to live with not getting its way and engage in strategic patience, but the electoral Left, at least, not.

Some of our commenters are of the considered opinion that dynamics like this one are a sign of a system that is not worthy of participation. That may be so, and it’s a consistent position, although I’m not sure how the consequences of following this advice are expected to unfold. For everyone else: one requires a more clever balancing act between the need to #StopHarper and the need to establish a positive political programme. Otherwise, it will always come down to the mad dash to stop the next right-wing boogeyman from getting (re-)elected. Which is not to say that I blame the #StopHarperists, because the thinking that is required to create a plausible programme that appeals to the, um, ‘apolitical’ is not yet there.

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This page contains a single entry by Mandos published on October 12, 2015 8:58 PM.

The xenophobic process was the previous entry in this blog.

Muslims as a "race" is the next entry in this blog.

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