Conservatives: Check Yourselves
I spend a lot time reminding people about the Conservative Party's shortcomings. It's not because I want them to lose, it's because I want them to check themselves before they wreck themselves. As we approach the end of the party's leadership race, it's good to take a look at why conservatives in Canada have had such a rough time and how things could get much worse. If you think Stephen Harper's four years as a majority Prime Minister were a victory for conservatives, you're wrong. When a party goes on to lose as badly as the Conservatives did in 2015—to a snowboard instructor—a leadership contest is supposed to be a period of repair and self-reflection. Rather than fix what Harper got wrong, the party might be on course to do the exact opposite.
It's important to note that it took Stephen Harper four tries to win his majority, but only one try for Trudeau to win his and to unseat Harper and return the corrupt Liberals to power. That's not a victory for conservatives. That's not an accomplishment. It's plain and simply pathetic. Stephen Harper did well in advancing the Conservative Party, but he did little to build a conservative culture in Canada. Without conservative culture, the Conservative Party will continue to struggle for generations to come. However, despite his failings, Stephen Harper still got a lot right. He just didn't have the personality to make Canadians feel good about conservatism. Instead, he made them angry and resentful. Angry voters and lynch mobs are bad for our health.
You don't build a conservative culture overnight, nor do you build respect for conservative values in a day. Arguably, Canadians are more conservative now than they were twenty years ago, but conservatism is still a dirty word for most Millennials. Countless opinion polls from different pollsters have confirmed this over and over again since 2015. Canadians still identify more with liberal values because liberals and the Liberal Party have spent decades building a liberal culture. Our universities are liberal, our media is liberal and our mindsets are liberal. In response, some candidates have proposed making the Conservative Party more liberal rather than getting their hands dirty and presenting conservative values more positively.
Other candidates have proposed taking the party in an ideological direction that would scare most Canadian voters. Whether they want to repeal marriage rights, talk about abortion again, or slash and cut and abolish everything that has the word government in it, some candidates seem willing to take the party so far out of the mainstream that it could only do one thing: sink. If the Conservative Party sinks or becomes more liberal, there will be no hope of ingraining conservative values in future generations.
You don't change culture by blasting the electorate with radical ideas based on principles most of them don't understand or care about. You do it slowly and incrementally over time. It's something Harper tried to do, but his lack of charisma and personality made it difficult. Harper and his Conservatives also failed to effectively fight back when opponents tried painting his brand of conservatism as mean-spirited and nasty. These are the faults Conservatives need to fix without taking the party off the deep end or into liberal waters.
Cut, Slash, Abolish, Reform
As a conservative, it's easy to be mesmerized by someone who proposes abolishing and slashing anything and everything that looks like a government. The only problem is, these kinds of things scare the average Canadian voter. Cutting, slashing and abolishing things is a good thing, but most Canadians won't buy it. We can't forget that we're currently living in an inherently liberal culture, and that if we want to win the war, we need to have more than four years in a majority. If the average voter thinks we're going to cut, slash and abolish everything, we aren't getting elected. Sorry, but that's just the way it is right now.
If you honestly think Canadian voters, young or old, can be convinced that slashing, cutting, reforming and abolishing things is what needs to be done, you'll learn how wrong you are in 2019. In 2014, I wrote about Tim Hudak's disastrous loss to Kathleen Wynne. At a time when the election was his to lose, he successfully snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by making one fatal error.
Conservatives sometimes forget the influence of unions and their members. In Ontario, there are over one million government employees—most of whom are unionized. In the last Ontario provincial election, Tim Hudak threatened to cut and slash government spending and government jobs. More specifically, he threatened to fire 100,000 public sector workers. Ontario's many unions immediately mobilized against Hudak and he lost the election and his job. You can read more about it here.
The fact is that Canadians aren't there yet. If we want Canadians to be open to shrinking governments and public sectors, we need to build a culture. That takes years and it requires winning more elections. It also requires a soft, slow, friendly approach. Canadians need to be taught the value of conservatism over time. They need to be shown—slowly—that cuts and reforms don't always lead to an apocalypse. We won't be able to do that if we can't hold office for longer than four years or even get elected because our ideas are considered too radical.
To all the conservatives who have been whipped up into a cult-like frenzy over cutting, slashing, abolishing and reforming: snap out of it. Your ideas are worthless if you can't put them into action. Canadians aren't ready yet. Even in Canada's “most conservative” province, the Wildrose have failed to win a single election.
The Conservative Party is the only party that opposes a national carbon tax. If one leadership candidate gets his way, voters who oppose another tax won't have anywhere to go. 75% of Alberta conservatives and 60% of Ontario conservatives would lose representation in Ottawa. Advocating for new taxes is not a conservative principle. In fact, fighting against taxes is one of the most traditional and important conservative principles.
Another part of the fight to maintain liberal culture in Canada has involved the suppression of free speech. People who express any sort of non-liberal sentiments are fired from their jobs, expelled from their schools or run off campuses by mobs. Without the constant defence of free speech, conservatism will die. Using ludicrous words like “islamophobia” to shut down criticism and to shame people for publicly stating their opinions is not a conservative thing to do. If conservatives are going to actively join liberals in shaming people, their own causes will die slow and painful deaths.
Without free speech, cultures don't change. The very idea of “hate speech” was designed to shut down any speech that can be viewed as antithetical to various liberal causes. Conservatives must always defend free speech under all circumstances. Speech plants the seeds of change, which is why liberals hate it so much. Without the seeds of change, conservatives will be hopelessly stuck in a liberal culture forever.
If the Conservative Party begins inheriting liberal values, conservatives will leave and conservatism won't stand a chance in Canada. Worse yet, if conservatives keep apologizing for their beliefs, Canadians will keep thinking those beliefs are wrong. Rather than caving into the shame and abuse propelled by the media and liberals, conservatives need to defend their principles with conviction—and maybe with a friendly smile.
Abandoning The Party
I've thought about it myself, but realized it's not a wise move. I was never much into party politics, but I felt the need to participate in the Conservative leadership vote, so I bought a membership. Why not? I won't be voting Liberal, NDP, Green or Libertarian in any future elections. I might as well have a say in who the next Conservative leader will be.
Before you read any further, keep in mind that you absolutely should boycott your local candidate if they don't represent your views, even if they call themselves Conservative. It would be reasonable to boycott the entire party if it was ever found to be corrupt at its core. However, if you're going to choose not to support your local Conservative candidate because he/she is too liberal or out of touch, don't punish the whole party and its members. If you aren't going to vote for your Conservative candidate, volunteer in a different riding for someone else's candidate. If one of these terrible liberal candidates becomes leader, you should still support your local Conservative candidate or MP in the next election. Don't punish your local candidate for what the party's membership decides.
There's been rumblings—as there always is in the party—about people leaving, burning their memberships and giving the CPC the middle finger if the wrong candidate wins leadership. If a pro-life social conservative wins, libertarians will throw hissy fits. If a candidate who believes in Canadian values wins, the progressive conservatives and libertarians will throw hissy fits. If a liberal who loves carbon taxes wins, almost everyone but the progressive conservatives will throw hissy fits. No matter who wins the leadership, someone will throw their membership card into the fire. This seems to be a classic characteristic of conservatism. Unlike liberals, we're more individualistic. Pleasing all of us is like trying to herd gorillas.
A safe candidate who can please almost all conservatives is hard to come by, but there are at least one or two in this leadership race. If either one of them wins, the party will be easier to manage—but there's a chance they'll lose the leadership. If they do, it's important for conservatives to be rational. If enough people throw their hands in the air and walk away, Justin Trudeau will be Prime Minister for twenty years.
No matter who wins the leadership, conservatives stand a better chance in the future by sticking together. We'll most definitely lose in 2019 if we choose a candidate that most Canadians think is too radical, mean-spirited or liberal. Either one of those three characteristics will ensure a Liberal majority in 2019. Trudeau will be tough to beat no matter what, but if the Conservative Party fails to gain at least a few more seats in 2019, the new leader's career will be over, the party will lose donors and we'll be back to square one—but inside of a deeper hole.
This isn't rocket science. If we choose anger and resentment over logic, we'll keep losing. If the Conservative Party loses bad enough in 2019, conservatism as a whole will be damaged. It'll take us years to get back on our feet. If we don't outright beat Trudeau in 2019, we'll need to gain a few seats or break even. The only way we can do either of those things is by sticking together. We can choose a new leader almost anytime, but we can't regain our strength as easily.
You'll hear conservatives grumble about never voting Conservative if that one person they hate wins, but don't listen to them. Those people are being irrational. They aren't thinking with their heads, they're thinking with their hearts. That's something whiny, annoying, virtue-signalling liberals do. No matter who the next leader is, we should give them our support. If we don't, the entire party could face financial hardship. When we refuse to vote, we don't just reduce the number of seats a party holds, we reduce their wealth. Parties that lose the public's faith also lose donors and financial support. Being stubborn and refusing to vote for the Conservative Party because your candidate didn't win is exactly like cutting off your nose to spite your face. If there was a second viable conservative party, the story would be different.
Party leaders don't last forever, but it doesn't matter what we say or do. There will always be conservatives who think it's more valuable to be irrational and to throw a grenade into the tent, than to wait it out and be patient. That could be why we've been losing the culture war.
Undoubtedly, the current Conservative Party could use a purge. There are candidates and members that fail at everything and do a terrible job of standing up for our values, but we won't be able to beat them if we all abandon ship. To win, we need to stay and fight. If we're patient and persistent, we can beat all of our enemies...even the ones within our own party.