Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The Last Election as Cultural Symptom

The results were certainly impressive for the CPC--especially when one recalls that this party (when it was known as the “Reform Party“), just ten years ago, was putting most of its energy into purging itself of its neo-Nazis.

Given how congenitally bitter so many CPC militants seem to be, it is difficult but necessary to dampen their two-year-old elation by pointing out that Stephen Harper ran on a platform of policies utterly alien to his actual beliefs and completely divorced from what he and his Reform-Alliance jihadists have been fighting for over the last fifteen years. I wonder how humiliating it is for a leader to scratch together a modicum of electoral credibility by fronting an agenda which he would have denounced as "socialist" back when he had the guts to stand or fall on his actual values?

Harper's big problem? He expected a majority, which would have allowed him to pull his "bait-and-switch" without fear of backlash. He'll have to wait for next time. Meanwhile, his government has needed to look "Canadian" in order to have any hope of getting a real mandate. The frustration has told on Harper and the party's other Reform-Alliance ideologues. They’ve become even more bitter and hateful in government than they were in Opposition. Emotionally, they are grinding their teeth down into tiny stubs.

The media (typically) have missed the things that are most interesting about this administration. For one thing, this is the first time since Alexander Mackenzie that we have elected to the prime-ministership a man who has been openly hostile to most of the foundational elements of our society. This is news. Also, libertarian continentalism has replaced socialism as the Prairies' prime political export.

The media have been equally silent about the many ways that nothing has changed. For instance, the government is still, basically, liberal--even more so than the Liberals were. Everything Harper believes in--provincial supremacy, laissez-faire, populism, American moral superiority--is Clear Grit liberalism.

Naturally, everything he believes is wrong. “Populism“, for example, is gibberish: national institutions and processes are demonstrably not safer in the hands of "the people" (ask German Jews or American blacks how dependable "the people" are in the preservation of justice and the rule of law). It is the Crown that has preserved our freedoms (and, I would argue, has done so more effectively than the equivalent sovereign authority of any other nation). What is needed is intelligent reform of the ways Crown prerogatives are administered, rather than radical re-engineering based on soggy, populist nostrums.

Tory historian Donald Creighton wrote this about the results of the 1935 election:


The Liberals had always preached a highly decentralized Canadian federalism; they had opposed Macdonald's national policies during the Nineteenth Century; and they had resisted most Conservative attempts to use the power of the state to carry out the characteristic national purposes of the Twentieth.


Sound familiar? The "Conservatives" are the new Liberals-- conveniently, as the Liberals haven't been much of anything for some time.

Tories must be prepared to admit that Canada is drifting away from the anchorage our ideals once provided for it. It seems hardly possible for a nation to abandon the values that animated it, but it can happen. During FDR's New Deal, Americans embraced collectivism, turning their backs on two centuries of the rugged individualism that defined them. Why? They panicked and assumed there was no other option.

We, too, are panicking, but ours is a quieter panic--a panic of anomie: Canadians are the products of education systems which teach nothing of the moral significance of this nation's founding and history; we grow to adulthood without the slightest notion that we are bound by shared civic responsibilities and historically-determined obligations. Our political imaginations are "provincial" in the worst sense and are dulled into impotence by the bovine vulgarity of our (overwhelmingly American) news and entertainment media. Toryism has as much chance of thriving in such an environment as a dolphin has in a thimble full of turpentine.

Thus the Tory's dilemma has nothing to do with Stephen Harper. Our main opposition is not to a political party. Increasingly, we are opposed to an entire culture--our own. This is a sad fact which we must come to acknowledge.

An agenda as counter-cultural as ours has become needs to be as educational as it is political. The Reform Party knew this, back in the late 'Eighties. It had the Fraser and C.D. Howe Institutes behind it, the support of an entire province's media and political elite, and was in tune with the general cultural effects of Americanisation. We have nothing like that in our favour, but we must start to find equivalents (or build them), or else the midnight of this Dark Age shall thicken and blot out even those stars that still shine.

20 comments:

The Trusty Tory said...

You have got to be kidding me. Do you seriously believe in some of the shit you've posted there? "Believed in a majority?" "Neo-Nazis?" Jesus Christ, man. You aren't a traditional Tory, you're a modern day Liberal!!

Aeneas the Younger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aeneas the Younger said...

DBT would know about the Eighties I suppose; after all, he was 1 year old when Mulroney was elected MP for Central Nova.

I, on the other hand was active in the PC Youth Organisation and a regular on the Hill.

I guess he had the truth in his grasp - along with his blankie.

The Trusty Tory said...

"DBT would know about the Eighties I suppose; after all, he was 1 year old when Mulroney was elected MP for Central Nova.

I, on the other hand was active in the PC Youth Organisation and a regular on the Hill.

I guess he had the truth in his grasp - along with his blankie."


Actually, I was three. That being said, I can read history instead of believing the revisionist history shoved down our throats for the last 13 years.

Sir Francis said...

Trusty:

Well, congratulations: you're the proud owner of this blog's "civility" cherry. You've done the BT's proud, son; I hope the thread can maintain the high standard you've set.

For the record, are you totally unaware that Preston Manning had to systematically rid the party of Heritage Front operatives in the 90's? Are you going to make me link to archived news stories about this?

Aeneas the Younger said...

SFBH wrote:

"For the record, are you totally unaware that Preston Manning had to systematically rid the party of Heritage Front operatives in the 90's?"

More revisionist claptrap I presume. I was in my 30's when that went down. DBT was popping zits at the time, but I guess he missed it as it wasn't reported in "Tiger Beat" magazine.

Pffffffffft.

Aeneas the Younger said...

Who reads the revisionist history? I was THERE AT THE TIME.

God, this boy makes me ill.

Aeneas the Younger said...

DBT: Wanna read something?

http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/orgs/canadian/sirc/heritage-front/hf-xiii-findings-and-conclusions.html

Aeneas the Younger said...

SFBH:

Remember that is was Wolfgang Droege who provided some security for Preston Manning.

DBT: Do you know who Wolfgang Droege is?

"Wolfgang Droege said that he learned about the security group from Al Overfield. He said that it was Overfield who suggested that they could influence the Reform Party. Overfield would later say that it was Grant Bristow's idea (section 7.3 in this chapter reviews the plots). Droege thinks that he got Grant Bristow involved. He thought it was also possible, however, that Overfield approached Bristow.[21]

On June 10, 1991, Toronto Region informed CSIS HQ that Droege, Bristow, Lincoln and Dawson "were employed as security people for a recent Reform Party constituency meeting held in Toronto." The report noted that the placement was organized by Al Overfield who was a Reform Party member and local organizer. CSIS learned that the same individuals were again contracted by Overfield to provide personal security for Reform Party leader Preston Manning at a major rally to be held in Toronto on June 12, 1991."

Wolfie's bio is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Droege

Al Overfield's Bio:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Overfield

Aeneas the Younger said...

Al Overfield and the Reform Party:

On February 28, 1992, the Toronto Sun broke the story that the Heritage Front had infiltrated the Reform Party. [11] Droege claimed as many as 150 to 200 Heritage Front members were also members of the Reform Party, including some at the riding executive levels, though only a handful were discovered to be actual Heritage Front members. [12] When Reform Party executives became aware that Heritage Front members had joined the Reform Party, A Special Committee of the Executive Council began an investigation. The Special Committee revoked the membership in the Reform Party of Droege, Dawson, Polinuk, and Mitrevski. Overfield was expelled from the Reform Party, for showing “poor judgement in the hiring of down neo-Nazis."

From Overfield's Bio at Wikipedia.

Sir Francis said...

Remember that is was Wolfgang Droege who provided some security for Preston Manning.

I was living in Kitchener-Waterloo at that time, as was Droege. I bumped into him a few times, as I had a white-supremacist acquaintance (don't ask!) who was very much into the Reform Party, as well as being a card-carrying member of the Church of the Creator...

Manning visited K-W a few times in the late-Eighties and early-Nineties to drum up support and establish party infrastructure. K-W was rife with white supremacists, and I doubt that this fact was completely unrelated to Manning's decision to build his Ontario organisation from there.

It was a pretty nasty, uncomfortable time. I'm not sure I can forgive Manning and Co. for playing footsie with those racist guttersnipes (until the press got wind of it, of course).

Aeneas the Younger said...

"Thus the Tory's dilemma has nothing to do with Stephen Harper. Our main opposition is not to a political party. Increasingly, we are opposed to an entire culture--our own. This is a sad fact which we must come to acknowledge."

This it the traditional conservative's refrain, as you know.

Red Tory said...

Gee, neo-Nazis and white supremacists in New Berlin. Who would have figured? LOL.

Maybe DBT is unfamiliar with some of the unsavory characters that our current Minister of Public Safety used to hang with when he lived in Bentley, AB. CDL Christofascists, anti-Semites, holocaust deniers, Socred conspiracy kooks, Aryan Nations types… A fine bunch of folks out there on the prairie.

Sir Francis said...

Gee, neo-Nazis and white supremacists in New Berlin. Who would have figured?

I remember reading a letter to the editor of the K-W Record at around this time. The writer was currently living in Toronto but had grown up in K-W. He said, "I hear you're having trouble with neo-Nazis. Whatever happened to your old ones?".

FYI: Kitchener was formerly called "Berlin", tout court. WWI scotched that proper.

The Trusty Tory said...

I am aware of the Heritage Front issue with the Reform Party. They would send their literature out when you bought a membership.

That being said, being a Mulroney Tory, I think Preston Manning was an idiot.

Evidently, so did Harper.

As liberalism evolved, so has conservatism. The liberal party tries to stick the Harper government with things from Mulroney's government.

Is that not in itself an admission that this current Conservative party is not the reform? I think so.

Red Tory said...

DBT — Mulroney is still, to this day, one of the most despised and polarizing figures in Canadian politics. Of course, the Liberals are quite happy to attach the current regime in any way they can to the tawdry scandals from the past associated with Mulroney’s dubious lobbying efforts. That, however, is just the routine politics of character assassination; it has nothing whatsoever to do with ideology. You most certainly don’t hear the Liberals attacking over the issues of free trade, globalization, or the GST, do you? Indeed, by a perverse turn of events, they’ve become staunch defenders of that particular form of taxation!

The Liberals’ loud opposition to the FTA back in the 80s was another example of their political expediency, because it certainly didn’t reflect their historical position on the matter. In fact, they had laid most of the groundwork for that agreement with de facto free trade agreements in major manufacturing sectors, such as The Auto Pact and similar mechanisms in the aviation industry. Once back in power, they promptly did another volte face and embraced their historical position on free trade, even going on to expand the agreement with the vastly more pernicious NAFTA. Together, it should be noted with another so-called “liberal” and globalist — Bill Clinton.

I don’t think you’ll receive any argument here that conservatism has evolved — the difference being that SF, ATY and others feel it has been in the wrong direction.

Dylan said...

Sir Francis, great post. Reading through the comments might be a little bit of tough slinging (why do you call Trusty Tory 'DBT' - that is who you're talking about, right? Or am I waaay out to lunch?).

I love it when conservatives take a look into the history of the Canadian conservative tradition, and come to the realization that perhaps David Orchard was NOT all that off-the-wall as people believed in 2003, and that the CPC really doesn't embrace the true Tory tradition in Canadian politics - they're accused by CPC members of being Liberals!

The irony is enough to make me die of laughter.

Gad Horowitz, the inventor of the term 'Red Tory' has a wonderful essay on Liberalism, Socialism and Conservatism in Canada, which corrolates the rise of socialism to the rise of Toryism in Canada. The stronger social conscious of the Canadian electorate, the more seats the Progressive Conservatives and the CCF/NDP would win. Liberalism as embraced by the LPC (and now the Harper conservatives) was the opposition.

And Red Tory is spot on with his analysis of the LPC about-face on their historical politics and ideology during the Mulroney years.

BTW, RT can put me into the camp of conservatives that believe that Canadian conservatism has gone astray.

Red Tory said...

Dylan — I’m kind of hiatus at the moment, but I’m thinking of doing some light posting, possibly including re-vamping my blogroll to include a category for “True Conservatives” or something like that. I’ll make note of your site and be happy to include you in that group.

Oh, and we call “Trusty Tory” DBT because he used to go by the name “Dark Blue Tory”. Habit…

Dylan said...

RT - I've noticed your hiatus. (Great new look to the blog, by the way.) I'd be honored to be on any blogroll of yours and would likewise add you to mine.

It would be something if we all had the same blogroll - maybe we could get some kind of informal coalition going?

Oh, and thanks for the inside scoop on your e-vocabulary.

Red Tory said...

Dylan — Already done. There's a new feature on my sidebar called "Traditional Tories" (below the pic of Sir John A.) I'll look into putting together an aggregator in due course, maybe when I'm feeling more active, but for now there's just a little button that you're free to appropriate.

Oh and thanks for the kind remark, btw.