Friday, September 11, 2015

The Invincibility Aura of the Harper Machine has been shattered

The last Tory bigwig leaves The Machine
For a decade Stephen Harper and his new Conservative Party have bestrode the political landscape of Canada like a colossus.

Source of the myth of invincibility:

The signs of the perceived professionalism of the Conservative Party include the acceptance by the public and the media (and the internalization by the Conservative Party members and supporters) of the following:

·       Harper’s discipline,
·       his insistence on few being allowed to speak for the party,
·       his control of the agenda within the House,
·       the extensive use of speaking points to keep everybody on message,
·       the refusal by Harper and his Cabinet ministers to indulge in meaningful discussion in the House of issues, and to treat Question Periods as chances to repeat party talking points, accompanied by baying support by the Tory caucus,
·       the superiority of the Conservative Party information base, which allowed it to slice and dice and serve red meat to selected micro-segments of the electorate,
·       the inability of the Liberals to come to grips with their implosion, and their leaders after Martin,
·       the split of progressive votes to the left of the Tories.

Now that reputation lies in tatters, destroyed by events within the party itself, and by outside events that were out of the control of Harper.

In the process, in the short space of six weeks, the Conservative Party election machine has been shown to have clay feet. The aura of invincibility has been exposed as a myth. Harper’s own abilities have taken a hard knock, as perceived by voters.

What’s wrong with The Machine?

Here’s one take on the problem inside the Machine (my underlining):
Several senior Conservative insiders — speaking to The Canadian Press on the condition of anonymity for fear of party reprisals — had different opinions and gripes about what is ailing the campaign.

They all agreed it clearly "wasn't firing on all cylinders," as one person put it.

One source said cabinet ministers are being encouraged by party stalwarts to speak to Harper about how the campaign can be helped.

Regional organizers and ministers are not being consulted regularly nor drawn into the loop on issues as they arise in the campaign, the source said. The assessment is one of a general lack of nimbleness, which means Harper's rivals have been able to frame parts of the electoral debate… One Conservative went so far as to call it "open mutiny," saying many Tories are simply not pitching in to help with the campaign out of disenchantment.

Here are the major problems facing the Machine, according to senior Conservatives (my underlining):
One former Harper staffer, who worked on several of his campaigns, said the 2015 Tory election team lacks the breadth and varied opinions of past war rooms. He says no one has effectively replaced Patrick Muttart, a long-time strategist who was tossed in the 2011 election and Nigel Wright, the “big picture guy,” who resigned after it came to light he used $90,000 of his own money to reimburse taxpayers for Mr. Duffy’s questionable expenses. “They haven’t got a big policy mind. They haven’t got a big strategy mind and they haven’t got a diversity of advisers.” … Insiders’ complaints about their party’s efforts, and in particular finger-pointing at Ms. Byrne, have tended to centre around a general lack of preparedness.

Owing to several controversies that have thrown the campaign off message, candidate vetting has recently been the most prominent example. But Ms. Byrne’s critics further allege a lack of adequate training for candidates, staff and volunteers. And they say that various aspects of the campaign in which Ms. Byrne has shown little interest – among them digital communications, and the program targeting battleground ridings that was key to previous winning campaigns – have essentially fallen by the wayside.

There are also complaints about Ms. Byrne staffing the campaign primarily more with loyalists than with those valued for their expertise, something that is said to afflict the party’s war room in particular.

The Rot is Deep:

With six weeks to go in the election, the leaks by insiders, some of which were quoted above, reveal that the rot within the vaunted Machine is deep, dangerous and spreading.

The Machine is not functioning like a well-oiled, well-managed, and well-staffed election machine should. It seems locked into a stolid, do what we’ve always done, directionless organization.

There ain’t no cure:

I do not think that even a Wizard of Oz could repair the rot in the Machine in time for the Conservatives to regain 10% of voter support (that would amount to a 33% increase in support from its base now of around 30%, to the 40% it would need for a majority government).

And if Harper cannot win a majority government, he will be brushed aside by the massive desire among voters for a change in Ottawa.


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