Election Watch #7: The Conservative Strategy? (And is it Working?)

I was dismayed when, in discussion lately with an otherwise-intelligent and rational Conservative supporter, I was informed that an election was a contest to be fought tooth and nail, because winning meant that your party got to do what they wanted for the next four years.
And at one level, it is. In the heat of an election campaign, the contest is what is important, and winning does become paramount. Not to the level of “tooth and nail,” perhaps, but that’s a matter of degree.
What is wrong with the statement is the “do what you want” part of it. I would define an election as a contest to persuade the voters that you’re the best person to do what they want for the next four years.
Thus I was completely dismayed at my friend’s statement, but it certainly explains the actions of the Conservatives over their last term. Think about it. If you forget about what the electorate wants, what is your primary objective over the four years of your mandate? Why, to get elected again, of course.
So let’s play at “Conservative Policy Makers, circa 2011,” and see how we should spend the next four years.

Looking from 2011 Forward:
Our best analysis indicates that without Layton, the NDP will falter. Combined with the natural rejuvenation of the Liberals and the populace finally discovering that we aren’t really doing anything for them, we Conservatives are going to be facing a tough fight next election, and possibly another minority government. What to do? As all good businessmen know, the best way to deal with a problem is to throw money at it. So we’re going to need a huge war chest when 2015 rolls around. Attack ads cost money.

Suggested Plan of Attack:
1. Butter up the donors. Find out what the big corporations and the rich individuals want, and give it to them. Support the oil sands. Ignore global warming. Lower taxes to the rich and to businesses. Bring in those donor dollars!
2. Focus on our strength. We have a good, solid, 35% of the population behind us. Let’s make sure we keep them. Give the Conservative grassroots something to be happy about. Trash the long gun registry. A great idea, because it will get us votes and save money too.
3. Don’t actually do anything about the Senate. Our supporters don’t like change, and we wouldn’t know what to do anyway. At this stage of our mandate, whatever we do, we don’t rock the boat. “Stay the Course” is our motto.
4. Set up a paper tiger. Make the population afraid, and then put on a big show about “doing something about it.” ISIS is good. Home-grown nutter “terrorists” are better. Actually, Arabs in general are great. Stir up racial hatred. Ban the burka. Keep those refugees out. Enact legislation that gives the police more power. Our authoritarian supporters love it.
5. Aim for a balanced budget at the end. We really can’t do anything about the economy, but we can make ourselves look good when it counts.
6. Bamboozle everyone into thinking that the election is all about the economy. We can talk about the economy. We can keep it dull and slog it out. Nobody can come up with an “I have a dream for Canada” campaign on the economy.

So, Did it Work?
Well in some cases, it did. Who would have predicted that Tom Mulcair would decide to give up on the “soft left” vote, and go for the “soft right” instead? I mean, a balanced budget as the mainstay of the NDP? It looks like someone bit on the hook, line, sinker, and half the back of the boat as well.
The rest of it pretty well didn’t work. The Senate scandal, the refugee crisis, the oil price decline, and the recession worked a tag-team attack that the other parties couldn’t have managed better if they had tried (and in some cases they didn’t). The incredibly bad acting in the attack ads has been a real bonus for the cartoonists and Internet wits.

The End Result?
It might be predicted that, due to this bad luck and a dearth of real policy, the Conservatives’ support will be pretty well pared down to their grassroots base and that’s all. The worst part of it is that the NDP, by espousing conservative values, might have disenchanted all the undecided voters on the left, who will then flock to the Liberals. The undecideds on the right could be forgiven for likewise choosing the Liberals.
And where would that lead? Back to the good old Liberals, I suppose. Whoopee, ding. Yawn. Maybe a coalition. That would at least be interesting.

Sidebar About the Attack Ads
Little does Stephen Harper know, but he has been completely bamboozled by the Arts community. All those actors he hired have done a wonderful job of undermining the content of the attack adds through the technique of subtle caricature. The business-like Conservatives didn’t have the sensitivity to realize what was happening under their noses. So the attack ads have turned against those who paid for them, providing us with some of the best entertainment in the campaign so far.

Sidebar About Thursday Night’s Debate
If you listen to the pundits, Mulcair won because even though he doesn’t know anything about the economy, he managed not to look like a fool. Or maybe Harper won because he looked calm and cool and authoritative, while not saying anything. Or maybe Trudeau won because he came out strong. Or maybe he lost because he came on too strong. I guess in the end Trudeau wins every time he stands up and keeps his foot out of his mouth, because everybody started the whole campaign expecting him to implode.

In other words, the Economy is a pretty dull topic, and nobody can talk about it with any real authority, because even the economists can’t agree on what to do about it, and nobody can tell if what anybody did had any effect.
Now, can we please talk about something important?

PS. I can’t resist one comment on the American Republican debates.

Donald Trump is merely a test for the real candidates. If you want to be President of the United States, you better be able to knock over a buffoon like that with a couple of well-placed shots. If you can’t, you don’t deserve the kewpie doll. Back into the crowd with the rest of the rubes.

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