Harper's House Of Cards
"If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt." - Sun Tzu
Stephen Harper and the current incarnation of the Conservative Party have built themselves a fragile house of cards. If Mr. Harper makes the wrong move or sends the wrong message, that house will come crashing down.
If you're a Conservative who thinks your party was able to magically convert thousands of liberals into conservatives between 2003 and 2006, you're kidding yourself. No conversion ever took place. Moderates and libertarians will never become permanent residents of the Conservative Party, just as they'll never become permanent residents of Canada's far left NDP. Moderates and libertarians are transients. The Liberal Party is that comfortable place in the middle when one side gets too hot.
The Liberal Party has always housed part-time socialists and conservatives. Between 2006 and 2011, the Liberals altered their platform in an attempt to steal support from the NDP. The plan backfired and most of those socialists and conservatives jumped ship, leaving behind a withering minority of diehard moderates who refused to let go. With the NDP just next door, part-time socialists didn't see any value in sticking with a party mired in corruption and scandal. Small C conservatives didn't want to have anything to do with the Liberal Party and its new infatuation with the far left.
The only loyalists that belong to the Conservative Party were once members of the Canadian Alliance. You remember the Canadian Alliance, don't you? They're the social conservatives. They're that old, dying breed of traditionalists who despise gay marriage, non-Christian customs, and anything remotely secular. They're the ones who think civilization will collapse if we let our generations succumb to Satan's liberal doctrine. Yes, they're the ones who give conservatism a bad name. In addition to them, there might be a few moderate conservatives who still appreciate social traditions but don't seek to impose their views on anyone – or to join the Liberal Party. The conservatives outside of that little clique roll their eyes and hope their party finds a way to purge those fiends and their antiquated beliefs.
It wasn't those medieval fiends and their fear of everything non-Christian that won their party a majority. It was the moderates and pro-market liberals. Without them, there would be no Conservative majority. Unlike these moderates, the medieval fiends have nowhere else to go. If they truly want to stop Trudeau and his Satanic liberalism from ruining our society, they'll vote Conservative. The moderates will vote Liberal if they have to.
As our culture moves deeper into social liberalism, these medieval fiends will die off. However, time doesn't always move fast enough. Some part-time conservatives may see value in giving the Liberal Party a minority just to force Harper's resignation, or to force the Conservative Party to rewrite its platform. It's an idea driven mostly by angst and frustration toward the Conservative establishment, but it doesn't stand up to logic. Once we start to think of the long term implications of ousting the Conservatives just to teach them a lesson, it starts to make less sense. But, if Harper makes the wrong move, those moderates and libertarians might decide to pull the trigger on his government.
There's no telling what horror might be unleashed on Canadians in the event of a Trudeau minority propped up by the NDP. At least 60% of Canadians don't yet fully identify with big C conservatism, for various reasons, which means such a minority coalition could last longer than any conservatives would be comfortable with.
If Harper's house of cards survives 2015 and moderates decide to give his government another chance, the possibility of a Liberal/NDP merger becomes more feasible. In this scenario, a merge between the two lefts would probably be welcomed by anyone mortified by four more years of Harper. By this time, it should be welcomed by conservatives too.
The Liberal Party is that happy medium where “kind of conservative” moderates get to hang out when the big C party isn't cutting it. If that middle party were to disappear, Canada's whole political landscape would change. The new Liberal/NDP hybrid would have to appease a whole new base by adopting policies that meet in the middle. In the middle of the left. This would undoubtedly keep the new party on the left of centre for good. There would be no more convenient shifts to the right when needed. To satisfy and keep the old socialists from the NDP, those days would have to end. With the Green Party lurking in the backdrop, the new party wouldn't be able to afford giving them any in-roads.
If Harper's house of cards doesn't survive 2015 and moderates decide to end Harper's career, the consequences could be devastating for conservatism in Canada. Trudeau may be a rookie, but his Liberal handlers will make sure to supply him with guidance. The old Liberal establishment will make sure to control all of his big moves. Over time, everything Harper has achieved could be reversed with centrist leadership by the Liberals. Under Trudeau, the Liberals could restore the hegemony they once had.
Trudeau has embraced Canada's oil sands and energy industry, putting himself in line with conservatives and drawing a thick line between himself and Mulcair. On top of that, he's wooing the NDP's pro-marijuana wing with his support for legalization. According to polling data, his tactics haven't hurt him. Coupled with Trudeau's inherent popularity, the Liberals may have the strength they need to turn the tides and win a majority.
If anyone should really be afraid, it should be the social conservatives. If they lose the moderates that their government relies on, they'll lose their majority. If they continue to be selfish by trying to reopen unpopular debates, they will lose those moderates to Trudeau. The pro-business conservatives who don't care about gay marriage, abortion, or legalized marijuana will see nothing to fear in a business friendly, socially liberal Trudeau government. Fear mongering and playing the tax card won't work. It's not that simple anymore. Winning and keeping the moderates will require more substance.
Harper is the most competent leader Canada has had since the early years of Jean Chretien, but if he fails to play his cards right in the next few months, he could face ruin. There shouldn't be any doubt that Harper will play his cards right, but there is a chance he might overestimate the faith some conservatives still have in him. Harper will need to consider who holds the real power in his majority. Paying closer attention to the moderates and libertarians is more important now than it was in 2006.