How Harper turned the campaign around

Élections 2006

That complex organism known as the voting public is a flighty, fickle creature, but once it makes up its mind, it can be as decisive as a hanging judge. With the federal election less than two weeks away, that verdict seemed to be jelling before last night's debate. Beginning several days ago, the opinion polls began showing a sharp move to Stephen Harper's Conservatives.
Politics is unpredictable, and that shift could reverse itself, as it did in the election of June, 2004. The Liberals can be expected to put up a furious fight to the end, contrasting their guy and his values with Mr. Harper. But they are fighting a long-standing sense that it is time for a change, perhaps the most powerful sentiment in politics. While the fat lady is not singing yet, she is at least practising her scales.
How did Mr. Harper accomplish this turnaround and how much credit does he owe Paul Martin? Discipline is part of the answer. The Conservative Leader has managed to tame the woollier fringes of the conservative movement and prevent the kind of wacko eruptions that marred the 2004 campaign and enabled the Liberals to paint them as dangerous extremists.
Just as important, he has tamed himself. Whether out of mere calculation or genuine political maturation, he has projected a new image. The angry, edgy Stephen Harper who discomfited the public as recently as the parliamentary crisis of last spring has been replaced by a calmer, more statesmanlike figure. He will never be warm and fuzzy, but he has managed to come across as reasonable, solid and not the least bit scary. For many voters he now represents safe change.
In policy terms, he tacked firmly and deliberately to the centre, unveiling a mix of middle-class tax cuts and new spending programs that could just as easily have come from Brian Mulroney's moderate Progressive Conservatives as from a party with half of its roots in western right-wing populism. In doing so he replaced the "hidden agenda" that the Liberals accused him of harbouring with a real agenda of his own. The one concession to the party's right wing was a pledge to hold a new vote on same-sex marriage, and he took the sting out of that by announcing it at the very start of the campaign so the Liberals could not accuse him of hiding it.
Some may call Mr. Harper's transformation from rigid neoconservative to common-sense conservative an act of supreme cynicism, but the Liberals are the last ones who can complain on that count. Blowing with the wind has been their leitmotif for generations.
Just as Mr. Harper has done himself a world of good in the campaign, so Mr. Martin has reinforced the impression that he is all over the map. From the blizzard of old-style, vote-buying handouts in the fall to the inability to articulate a coherent campaign message, the Liberals have shown themselves to be tired and complacent. Their campaign has seemingly been predicated on repeating the tactics from the last time out. Fighting the last war rarely makes for a winning strategy, and so far has fallen flat. Mr. Martin, meanwhile, has been unfairly maligned as some kind of crook, an outrageous charge he has been unable to deflect with compelling messages of his own.
Canadians have another two weeks to consider the surging Conservative Party, its leader and its policies, looking on them with the new intensity that a presumptive government deserves. Perhaps they will change their minds. The game isn't over yet, but Mr. Harper has possession of the ball and he's working his way methodically down the field.

Laissez un commentaire

Aucun commentaire trouvé