I have a terrible confession to make, kiddies: I feel absolutely no pity or sorrow for Stephen Fucking Harper, now that his chickens are finally coming to roost after more than 20 years. Yeah, I know that the man has been our so-called prime minister only since 2006, and with a very mediocre electoral showing at best (two minorities, followed by a majority which, we now know, was obtained only through electoral fraud). But trust me, what we see of him now is just the tip of the iceberg; he’s been honing his creepy craft for a very long time. does not get to be the Prime Fraudster without a lot of careful, diligent training in the black arts of weaselry and chicanery. And, as Murray Dobbin writes, Harpo learned it from a true master of deception:
I have tracked Harper’s political career for twenty years and for the first part of that period I also tracked Preston Manning. The two men present an interesting contrast. Manning really was a Christian and I always found it interesting that while he would bend the truth to the breaking point and was a master practitioner of what I called calculated ambiguity (able to deliver totally different messages in the same statement) he never in my experience actually lied.
You had to know how to corner him to tell the truth but if you could (almost no journalist ever even tried) in the final moment of the sparring he would not lie. I once called into a talk show and tried to get him to admit he supported a GST with no exemptions. He had garnered probably 40% of his party’s membership in the early ‘90s on his opposition to the GST but I knew that he actually supported this tax – as all neo-liberals did.
In fact, he had invited Sir Roger Douglas, the man who transformed New Zealand into a free market wasteland, to speak at the party’s biggest policy convention in 1990. He actually introduced him by highlighting the fact that he had introduced a value added tax with no exemptions. That he could get away with this while opposing the GST at the same time was a testament to the sway he held over his adoring membership.
On the talk show in question I kept pushing him to tell me his position (the party was debating its GST policy at the time). He kept dodging and weaving, avoiding the question until finally the host got fed up and said “Come in Mr Manning, it’s a straight forward question.” There was a long pause and then he said it, “Yes, I would prefer a GST with no exemptions.” I thanked him for informing Saskatchewan voters that he would put a tax on their groceries.
Murray Dobbin frames this in light of Preston Manning’s professed Christianity, which is itself at odds with his politics. Jesus, as we well know, was an early socialist who told the rich to give up their excesses if they really wanted to follow him. He also preached that you could not serve both God and mammon. The two went together.
Preston Manning, like all good right-wing weasel politicians, managed to neatly decouple the two, embodying in the process the cognitive dissonance of all the so-called Christians who vote for right-wing candidates. Their smug hypocrisy, their need to feel rewarded on Earth (as opposed to heaven) for their superior righteousness, and his willingness to pander shamelessly to that (hey, he was a victim of it himself, the man couldn’t help it!), was the key to his success. Promise them Family Values — an anti-choice, homophobic, sexist, authoritarian platform that Jesus himself notably NEVER preached — and they’ll swallow anything that you feed them. They’ll honestly believe that whatever they gain at the expense of the common good, however paltry and ultimately hollow, is “earned”. They’ll even vote against their own best interests with a smile on their doughy faces. And while they may comprise just one Canadian voter in five (the same fraction, I might add, as comprised Hitler’s prime voting base in Germany), they will never waver in their support. They are such convinced True Believers that you will never lose them no matter how you abuse them. It’s important to keep that base of sheeple blatting along with everything you say, because otherwise, your credibility would be nil.
Of course, Preston Manning didn’t just come up with that strategy on his own, either. He in turn learned it from other masters. The US Republican party, in other words; the slimiest party on the continent, perhaps even the world. There is literally nothing that is beneath them; the famed “Southern Strategy” should make that abundantly clear. The willingness of Ronald Reagan to play to the right-wing base’s prejudice was made clear when he kicked off his presidential campaign in Neshoba County, Mississippi — the scene of the infamous “Missisippi Burning” murders (significantly, of three voter-rights activists.)
Abraham Lincoln would not recognize what had become of his party a scant hundred years after the Civil War, were he to return at the time that Ronald Reagan was dog-whistling at the racists of the South. Just as Canadians don’t recognize their own country, a scant five or six years after Harpo & Co. took the helm here. These Nixonian dirty tricksters, who modeled their strategies on those of Donald Segretti and Karl Rove, have infiltrated our own Parliament, and packed our Senate with a raft of rubber-stamping, bobble-headed Yes Men (and a scattering of token Yes Women) who can be counted on, not to provide Sober Second Thoughts, but only ratification for whatever fascistic move Harpo decides to pull on us next.
It isn’t at all hard to see how Harpo stole our elections; not a damn thing that man did was the least bit new or original. He learned dog-whistling and doubletalk from dear ol’ Preston Manning, and dirty tricks from Dick and Dubya. And he deployed all that quite ably to get his majority-that-isn’t. Bravo!
But…why did he do it?
Ah, there’s the rub. Warren Kinsella asserts that the SupposiTories didn’t need to commit election fraud, as “they were always going to win the damn thing anyway”. That’s not only a jaw-droppingly silly thing to say, it is demonstrably false. After two successive minorities, and an election in which the NDP was on a roll and bidding fair to become, if not the next government, then a loyal opposition that would put some serious, socialistic brakes to a third Harper minority, it was becoming obvious that Canadians had had it to the gills with Spiteful Stephen’s petulance, proroguing and all-around abuses of our parliamentary system. Last year’s election was a make-or-break one for the Harper Government™, and things looked like they would go the way of “break”.
Until the numbers rolled in. And, unbelievably, they had Majority stamped all over them. It wasn’t even close!
I could not then, and I do not now, believe that there were really that many stupid Canadians out there, who would honestly vote for such a band of brigands. After all the hammering the SupposiTories’ reputation had taken in the weeks and months leading up to that election, one would have expected heads to roll, and blue-clad arses to go flying out of Parliament by the dozen. One seriously expected the existing Harper minority to become a rump, and perhaps an NDP/Liberal/Green coalition to form and put an end to all the shenanigans. Instead, that already ill-deserved minority morphed into a majority. And right away, I blurted out to my parents: “They stole this one. I don’t know how, but they must have stolen it. There’s just no way!”
And of course, I was right. They DID steal it. (I tawt I taw a coup d’état. I DID! I DID tee a coup d’état!)
How they stole it is just now beginning to come out in the media, so there’s no need for me to talk about that here. Instead of the how, let’s focus on the WHY.
We already know that parliamentary democracy presented a severe inconvenience to the whole Harper Government™ agenda. It would have stalled all their plans, from NAFTA to Fortress North America to the dismantling of the long-gun registry (which, BTW, still enjoys popular support; after all, a majority of Canadians voted for it!) And we know full well that Stevie Peevie was in the habit of proroguing Parliament for no good reason, other than that it wouldn’t give him the votes he needed to impose his agenda. He knew he couldn’t get away with that hold-your-breath-until-you-turn-blue nonsense forever. So he had to get a majority, which would mean a cutoff for all debates (that’s the essence of parliamentary democracy, kiddies!), and no more need to prorogue when you could just slash and burn everything, unhindered.
And if you can’t get a majority the honest way — and he couldn’t, being fundamentally dishonest like all right-wingers — you get it any way you can. By any means necessary. And if that means copying the same dirty tricks that worked so well for Richard Nixon and that little turd, George W. Bush, well, so be it.
And far be it from me to give a man credit where due. The sheer diligence of this one is remarkable, and I cannot begrudge him my grudging admiration. Stephen Fucking Harper learned it from the masters, and he learned it to the hilt. And he applied it all without scruple or shame. We no longer recognize our own country today, because the slimiest dirty-trick politics from south of our border have been imported so subversively and applied so successfully.
Bravo, Spiteful Stevie, bravo.