6 Things the GOP can Learn from the Conservative Party of Canada
Much ink is spilled over the fate of the Republican Party. Are conservatives doomed to rump party status? Is it a new Democratic century? It might seem hopeless without a complete overhaul of a seemingly derelict political philosophy, but if y’all just gaze northwards, you can get a few quick tips and cheap lessons on how a conservative party can rise to power again.
1. Sell a National Identity
For all his faults, Stephen Harper has sold Canadians a national identity, and he hasn’t done in it the antagonistic Real America vs. Blue America way that the GOP has. Despite some natural dissent, Harper’s Conservatives have offered all Canadians a sense of identity that we hadn’t had under Paul Martin. It’s part muscular conservative foreign policy, part embrace of our heritage, part glamourization of the middle and working classes throughout, and partially an embrace of certain more left-wing ideals that the Tories were never going to change anyway: socialized health care, peacekeeping missions, human rights chatter.
It appears the GOP would like to sell this same sort of message, they just have to learn to tailor the American identity to the things a majority of Americans want.
2. Charisma is Over-rated
After years of minority governments, the Tories finally broke through with a majority government a couple of years ago. They didn’t do this with some celebrity rock star candidate. They did it with a soul-less robot with not-imperfect hair. Even as they dithered away a possible majority government two elections ago, they didn’t ditch Stephen Harper for a leader that people would actually like; they stuck with the guy that no one would want to sit down and have a beer with.
3. Crass Attacks on an Opponent’s Celebrity Work
Last time ’round, the Liberals had, by any fair measure, the better, smarter and less-evil leader, yet still the Tories trounced them, sending Michael Ignatieff back to Harvard or The Wall Street Journal or Degrassi Junior High or wherever the hell he came from. They did this by quickly and easily attacking him as an unqualified academic who’d never done much in the real world in his entire life. Sure, he was a fairly prolific writer, activist and organizer who had a brief stint in the legislature leading up the election (and, really, Harper never had a real job in his life, either), but the Tories made it clear that such a resume just wasn’t the stuff leaders are made of.
4. No One Cares About Your Hidden Agenda
Like the GOP, there has always been a concern that Stephen Harper was going to bring in a social conservative junta if he ever got a majority. The pill would be abolished, creationism would be taught in schools (well, until they forced everyone to homeschool) and Henry Morgentaler would become the bogeyman every mother warned her daughter of. Granted, Harper never seemed to care about social issues (he’s a soul-less robot, remember?), but still, the whispers continued.
So what did Harper do? Nothing! Who cares about these allegations (even if there’s lots of evidence that your entire caucus would jump at installing such a platform)? Just keep telling everyone that your opponent isn’t a real Canadian while claiming to be the greatest economic stewards of all time.
5. Just Keep Spending
We all know that Conservatives are the real grown-ups in politics. Liberals would never be responsible with the national purse-strings, so when things are bad, the country is going to look to you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve pissed away a massive Liberal surplus; or if you’ve ridiculously jumped into needless wars of bravado; or if you’ve gutted the most reasonable, fair and effective tax scheme in the country; or if you’ve increased spending more than any government in the history of time; or if you’ve turned the words “gazebo” and “fake lake” into icons of government excess; or if you’ve spent bazillions on more prisons at a time when crime and imprisonment rates are plummeting – just keep telling everyone: it’s those tax-and-spend liberals that are going to bankrupt us.
A 0.8% increase in foreign aid!?!?! What are we, made of loonies?
6. Contempt for Democracy is just Keepin’ It Real
You might think that a government that just about gets impeached – that cheated in multiple election, spent money crassly and suspended all government activity when it came out that they tortured Afghani prisoners would never get re-elected. Hah! After all that, the Conservatives won more seats. So the GOP can clearly keep it up with voter intimidation, gerrymandering, sequestration, debt apocalypses, disenfranchisement and filibuster after filibuster after filibuster without worrying about losing support. If the Canadian electorate is any measure, people don’t give a steaming pile of dung heap about democracy, fair play or crime when it comes to politics.
They just need someone who makes them feel superior to those people over there. Keep it up, GOP!