Say something long enough, often enough, confidently enough, and people will believe you eventually. ‘That guy HAS to know what he’s talking about – he’s been going on about this Coalition for days now!’ All parties are trying this age-old tactic until May 2 (and beyond, no doubt), but none of them can do it better than Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. And this is likely the biggest tip of the hat they will likely see from me in this campaign.
Paul Wells writes an interesting piece in Macleans for why Harper’s relentless hammering at the Opposition over their Coalition scheming seems to be working. And that despite the drawbacks to this campaign of fear, that Harper is succeeding in his efforts to not only divide and conquer the Opposition, but even those who support him fully from those whose support of a Harper majority is lacklustre.
There’s a chunk of the electorate who like the Conservatives more than other parties but who have been nervous at the thought of a Conservative majority. Rather than take that fear away, Harper is touring the country giving them a bigger fear that trumps it.
Wells suggestion that Harper has found a way to divide and conquer even those who support him to different degrees is a stroke of genius, although it belies nothing more than another manifestation of a campaign of fear. I would expect this in places where Harper needs to shore up Conservative support, but he is trumpeting this same message right across the country, in battleground ridings and Conservative strongholds. And if this is indeed the strategy, it proves nothing if not Harper’s mastery over his party, and over the steadfast right-leaning electorate who have come to think it just easier to acquiesce than share opinions Harper does not want or need.
But running on fear is quite naturally a Faustian bargain. While Harper presents the image of a world in chaos, dragging Canada into the quagmire of Middle Eastern revolution, European cutbacks, and Pacific-rim natural disasters, he struggles to retain the image of the Only-Man-Who-Can-Save-Canada while seeming dark and brooding to voters. Dark and brooding EVEN for Stephen Harper.
Wells writes that “2011 Harper is different from earlier editions. His tone is dark, his body language weary, his appeals to brighter emotions rote or non-existent. He runs the emotional gamut from bored to angry. ‘Of course,’ his detractors will say. But he truly has not always been this way.”
One wonders if Mr. Harper will decide to brighten up before May 2.