Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Conservative scandals and the authoritarian impulse

For a party that rose out of the Reform Party movement which made an ideological fetish out of being grass-roots oriented and driven by the will of the electorate, the Conservatives flipped over to top down authoritarian machine politics awfully quickly.

Of course the righteous rhetoric about the will of the people was always a bit of a sham as we discovered in my riding of Calgary Centre. Social moderate Jim Silye, a little out of place in the rabid pirhana pool that was the Alberta Reform Party polled his riding. He found out we were overwhelmingly socially moderate to progressive on issues like choice and gay rights. Accordingly he broke with the party and voted for Liberal Government gay rights legislation. He was quickly booted out and replaced by far right social reactionary Eric Lowther who was then beaten three years later by Joe Clark when progressives and gays held their noses and supported him against the then Alliance candidate. Ironically Silye would probably fit in fine now with the mutant center right thing Harper has out of expediency carved the Reform/Alliance/Conservatives into.

Now the Conservatives face a plethora of scandals from the Rob Anders debacle to the Jim Hart Fax and skulduggery in Ontario civic politics that all stem from a single source: Top down control over local riding politics that mirrors a top down dictatorship of the PM's office that makes the famously centralized Paul Martin Liberal government look like an anarchist debate club.

The Pay Day scandal and it's echoes in the Ottawa Mayor's office are the inevitable manifestation of the deep strains of authoritarianism that underlay the thin pseudo-intellectual veneer of faux libertarianism in the Canadian Conservative Party.

There are really only vestiges left of any kind of grass-roots control over what is now called the Conservative Party. Harper doesn't trust his supporters, his staff or his MPs. He certainly doesn't trust his grass-roots. His control is too overt though. As Andrew Sullivan recently said of Karl Rove, if people think of you as a Machivillian schemer that just means you aren't one.

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