Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Inevitable Harper Majority

Or, so the story goes, it will be inevitable unless the Liberals get their act together.

But, like any good Liberal partisan, I dispute the notion of a Harper majority, no matter how well he can play the piano or appeal to issues-voters on the basis of crime, guns, and country. After nearly five years in power, three successively weak Liberal leaders and fairly uninspiring Bloc, NDP, and Green movements, Mr. Harper's Conservatives are stagnant, and if the polls are right, no closer to their majority than they were back in 2006. Indeed, even bringing the Liberals down to their lowest levels of modern support, derailing its leadership and its organization, and scoring an 11-point victory over the former natural governing party in 2008, co-opting its Ontario-based suburban powerhouse, they're still sit short of a majority in the House of Commons, and had to fight tooth and nail for their coveted plurality (or is it now a majority?) in the Senate, where the Liberals still manage to piss them off one or two times a week. Harper is not exactly rolling about in momentum.

Indeed, even with the most recent polling out by several pollsters, not including Ekos, the numbers have moved little. Nanos, AR, and Abacus shows maybe one or two points difference between their last polls and their most recent. The media jumped on it simply because of the timing right after the by-elections, and proof that Ignatieff was going down. Ekos breaks the trend, though whether its an outlier or not, I'm not willing to bet on it. After all, all individual Ekos polls are weird in some way, but they usually follow trends very well. One wonders who is right.

But either way, even the other pollsters, according to 308.com's projections, don't permit Harper a majority in the House. Canadians just cannot bring themselves to give this man their total confidence, preferring to divvy it among the Opposition parties to varying degrees. So then the media stirs up talk about "cluster strategies" and appealing to their core supporters while depressing Opposition voters, but one has to ask themselves why Harper has to employ all of these political strategies in order to win. If Harper really is the man to return respect to Canada's Conservatives by delivering them their majority, you'd think they wouldn't have to stoop to those levels, right? Right!?....

Layton, Duceppe, May, and Lord knows Ignatieff, are not exactly up to the task of taking on the Conservative machine in any effective manner. They should have been railroaded back in 2008. Instead, the Liberals and Bloc held on, the NDP squeezed in their share, and the Conservatives were deprived of their 155 seats. This was not because people flocked to the Opposition; it's because the Conservatives could not manage to get enough voters on their side. And the blame for that I would lay squarely at the feet of Stephen Harper.

He is both an asset and a liability. He is not popular, but he's seen as effective, or at least the most effective out of the bunch we have up there in Ottawa right now. This balance, aloofness, whatever you call it, keeps his party from winning a majority. Canadians are simply not willing to hand all the keys over to him unconditionally. They simply will not do it. It's why any Liberal you talk to says that if Harper was replaced by someone else, the Conservatives would have their best shot at getting a majority. It's why a lot of us don't want Harper to leave, because we know he'll fail to get a majority, fail to destroy the Liberals, and why we have a fighting chance. Because there really is nothing wrong with the Conservatives, but there is something terribly wrong with Stephen Harper. And the voting public knows this. That "hidden agenda" aspect of his reputation and leadership has never left.

So, next time someone tells you that the Conservatives will get a majority, tell them that they're right - when they get rid of Harper. They very well may be a Conservative majority government on the horizon, but there will not be a Harper majority. As long as he is leader, it's pretty much unattainable.

13 comments:

  1. IMO, the question that rank and file Canadians will be asking themselves when they go to the polls is "am I personally any worse off under Harper than I was before he became PM?" and since the (apparently still) hidden agenda hasn't made things any worse for individual Canadians compared to what is going on in the rest of the world the answer to that question is no.

    --and that means an eventual, probably after the next general election, majority CPC government.

    After that it's really anyones guess what happens. If the CPC abandon their populist stance and show themselves to be real social/fiscal conservatives it will be a one term majority, if they remain populist in aid of retaining power it could well be a reasonably long run with them at the helm.

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  2. So, next time someone tells you that the Conservatives will get a majority, tell them that they're right - when they get rid of Harper.

    No, you guys only say this because you WANT us to get rid of Harper, you NEED us to get rid of Harper.

    Well, it ain't going to happen. Harper is closer to forming a majority than you guys are even getting a weak minority.

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  3. @Glenn: If Harper doesn't manage to gain a majority in the next election the rumblings (which have already started) regarding his populist behaviour just might see the CPC getting messy and looking for a real Conservative who they think can get them what they want.

    It would be a move that would send them back into Opposition - but since staunch ideologues and hyper-partisans always seem to believe they know what Canadians want I can see it happening.

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  4. Glenn,

    Yes, that is the master plan - get rid of the unpopular guy and install a popular guy, and you'll fall right into our devious little Liberal trap.

    stageleft,

    I guarantee that the populist undertones to the Harper regime will not last if he managed a majority. The entire purpose behind what a lot of this man does is to disenfranchise the Opposition in order to ensure his rule goes unchallenged, not to gain the trust of voters in Canada. Populist rhetoric from Harper is about as believable as democracy being promised by the Saudi king.

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  5. Status quo if there's another election, Harper and his band garner another 37 or 38% of the popular vote, left of centre parties pull in around 60% and we've got another Harper minority...unless the split really plays to the CPC by employing their so called 'divide and conquer' strategy....to the CPC Canadians need to be divided in order for them to garner majority control so they can govern as Harper sees fit without a cumbersome opposition to placate.

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  6. That's my point exactly, Gordie. What good is a majority if its won by purposely ensuring Canadians don't go about endorsing your party?

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  7. Harper already has a de facto majority. We can thank Mr. Ignatieff for that.

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  8. You can thank any party leader for that. Do you think all three opposition heads are innocent? They aren't. We're all bargaining for our electoral lives, and only the Bloc is in a secure position for the moment.

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  9. "...so they can govern as Harper sees fit without a cumbersome opposition to placate."

    Harper is already governing pretty much as he sees fit, thanks to an opposition that's offered him about as much resistance as a solid wall of Jello.

    The next election will almost certainly yield a slim CPC majority, basically by default. Nobody else has given the electorate a reason to vote for them, other than the fact that they're *not the CPC*. Voters will generally pick the devil they know when they see no real reason to vote for change.

    Just my opinion

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  10. I think your opinion is very justified, JJ.

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  11. First, I would direct you to my blog where I discuss the three polls from last week. You will note that things are not as bad as you think. You will also note my remarks on the "cluster" strategy for winning a majority.

    Second, Ipsos is famous for inflating the Conservative estimates.

    Third, polls are not predictive so a poll released three weeks before Christmas is not worth squat in predicting what will happen during an election, which will probably be sometime after the next budget in the Spring. I still remember a poll that was published just days before the writ was dropped in 2004 and the accompanying news headline "Liberals Heading for Majority: Poll."

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  12. Really ottlib? What indicators are there that the LPC has, or may at some point in the near future, grow a pair and actually become an Opposition?

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  13. ottlib,

    That's all fair, but a trend in polls cannot be ignored. Many people did expect the Liberals to win another majority in 2004, against a weak and ineffective Conservative leader to boo. But the trend started to work against them, sometimes coming close to overturning the Liberal dynasty completely, until we managed to regain somewhat of a footing.

    So I don't want to excuse any trend that formulates in polls as simply "nothing." That's not what politicos do.

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