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.