Now that the Conservative Party "love-in" in Calgary is over, having listened to Harper skate around the Senate scandal, and pump helium into the brains of delegates while repeating the phrase, "only the Conservative Party"....the rest of the Canada is left wondering how such a cult of personality leadership could be so impenetrable to normal scepticism.
Laquered hair, pinstripe suit, rimless glasses, and a rather high volume attack approach to politics is merely the mask of a persona chosen by the current leader to convey both confidence and power to those he considers his "base". And there must be something in the kool-aid that is sold at these conventions that renders substantive questions from the floor, and detailed policy debates, not to mention even more reasonable and penetrating questions from the reporters assigned to the event mute and off-base.
It is not so much that Harper seduced the delgates, in the midst of one of the more fast-moving and potentially serious political crises in Canadian history, as that the delegates were willing to be seduced. They had to be, given that the party tradition of a leadership vote seemed to be missing from the agenda; the parties' tradition of respect for the traditions and honour of parliamentary democracy have also gone AWOL under the leadership of this man, who, according to Ottawa insiders like Paul Wells of Maclean's magazine, back in June, called Harper the most isolated political leader on the horizon.
The question of whether or not Harper's keynote address reached beyond the base to at least 10% of the rest of the country needed to win another majority government has been debated by the talking heads on television review panels, without resolving it, because there really has been no polling done to even guess at an answer. However, at least Rex Murphy on CBC, has given the nod to Thomas Mulcair, for his performance over the last two or three weeks in the House of Commons, as rising above that of the rock-star Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, whose empty resume was the focus of more than one disgruntled delegate to the Harper shin-dig, in his search for an alternative to vote for, given his lifetime allegiance to the conservative party and his current disaffection with the Prime Minister.
It's too bad that Political Science curricula do not include a mandatory course in Theatre Arts, in every undergraduate's education, because the elements of theatre, including melodrama, dramatic irony, as well as blocking of the stage, timing of line delivery, tone of emotion and attitude, and the many advantages of stagecraft that put microphones in strategic places with flags and images of cheerleaders as backdrop for the hero's speeches....these are all calculated to induce sycophancy among those who have already surrendered their independence, not to mention a good portion of their savings to the party and its leader.
Sycophancy is also engendered by a too-often adoring media whose bosses, many of them at least, are also card-carrying members of the Harper ring of hollowness, on such vital public issues as the environment, foreign policy, social policy and federal provincial relations. In fact, anyone watching, from near or far, over the last seven years, would have to conclude that this government, under the extremely tight-fisted control of one of the best examples of T.S. Eliot's "hollow men" history has given us, would have to conclude that Canadian citizens, (at least those who vote) are too willing and eager to surrender their votes to a cardboard statue of a party leader, provided that party leader has pounded his mantra of "economic prosperity and jobs for all Canadians" into their heads, at the laughable expense of the public treasury, something about which there is almost literally no public outcry.
Nor is there any public outcry about the missing $3 billion dollars that have simply gone unaccounted, although there has been no report of mis-spending by those like the Auditor General who are charged with keeping watch over public accounts. If Canadians were to be as interested and engaged in the Harper squandering of public money on aborted purchases of Fighter Jets, and redundant prisons, and his pseudo-parsimony in dismissing public servants by the tens of thousands, (more of the Harper theatre of "sound management of public accounts") as we are over a few thousand dollars of housing expenses, first approved and then decried by the same people for their more important political agenda, Canada might be able to look forward to a new and different and even hopefully responsible government unwilling to fete itself and its non-accomplishments with public dollars, in a perpetual campaign of self-aggrandizement that is so blatantly and patronizingly transparent, as if to say to this undiscerning public, "We can do whatever we want to do, because we control a majority in both houses of parliament and the public has gone to sleep on our watch!"
Insulting, and hanging onto the awe and respect of a base of Neanderthals at the same time, is a high-wire political act, and perhaps sometime in the not-too-distant future, if and when the public awakens, they will see it for the cartoon it makes of Canadian politics, and the biggest loser is the country whose honour and pride have slipped down the same river with all the tarsands pollution into the Arctic ocean, where Harper will vainly try to plant a flag. (Isn't "vainly" the only way he could plant a flag?)