Then there is the Canadian conservative movement, which seems capable of convincing itself of any number of conflicting ideas without visible discomfort of any kind. Nowhere is this particular case of cognitive dissonance on better display than at the annual Manning Networking Conference, where the movement’s core gathers every year to congratulate itself on two things: the rightness of its beliefs, and the greatness of the government of Stephen Harper.
It seems to me a healthy psyche requires one to choose between the two (or indeed neither). But to spend the better part of a weekend reiterating your profound faith in the policies of conservatism, all the while roaring your approval for the government that has repudiated them at every turn, would seem evidence of some sort of pathology.
Coyne is, as always, a serious thinker, and he deserves occasionally a serious response, because he asks something that bothers me slightly. So the possibilities seem to me to be:
- conservatives in Canada are crazy
- they are not concerned with deviations from ideological purity (even though they ought to be)
- they are not concerned with deviations from ideological purity, and ought not to be so concerned
I favour option 3. Why? The Conservatives offer the least aggravation.
The least aggravation rule is the core of maintaining electoral support once a party has it.
Broadly speaking, most partizans of one party or another feel that the universe is not unfolding as it should as long as the party in power is not theirs. I do not care enough if the Liberals are governing well, or the Democrats are being sensible for a change. I know I should, but long ago I decided that no good could come from the Liberals and no evidence has yet accumulated that I should change my mind. It is not so much how they govern as where they want to take the country.
Take the legions suffering from Harper derangement syndrome. Are they any different from me? It does not matter to them that Harper governs well, that he is moderately committed to environmental protection, that crime is going down, that the economy is well managed. They know; they are convinced, that Harper is leading Canada to a quasi-fascist state where capitalism will run amok and the poor, the gay, the aboriginals, the marginalized, the working class, will be further immiserated. It does not matter what kind of nonsense this is, they are no more concerned with evidence than we are. They know, even when they, like us, are running on their prejudices and inclinations.
Is this an inadequate defence of why I like the Conservatives more than their rivals? By most standards, it fails because it maligns all partizans equally. But those of us who have chosen our political path -conservative – know we will never get a government more congenial to out prejudices and inclinations. We do not have to wake up every morning to some fresh outrage perpetuated by government ministers, as has happened, for instance, in the Ontario Liberal government wrecking the provincial economy with green energy fatuisms and policy disasters.
I would like to suggest to Coyne why government by Conservatives is more pleasant to me than government by Liberals or NDP. It arises from an article by George Will this morning in the same paper. It concerned some boy in a Maryland school who chewed his pastry into the shape of a gun, and went “bang”. He was suspended for all the usual stupid politically correct reasons. It then reviewed a legislative proposal in Minnesota to ban “bullying” in schools, which was rife with badly drafted over-general language that would set more cops and prosecutors onto the educational system and hapless kids who had offended some current hysteria.
If this becomes law, it will further empower the kind of relentless improvers and mindless protectors who panic over Pop-Tart pistols and discern terrorism in Hello Kitty bubble guns. Such people in Minnesota will be deciding what behaviour — speech, usually — damages a “supportive learning environment.” They will be sniffing out how students’ speech or other behaviour has real or perceived — by whom? — effects on the balance of “power” between other students. And school bureaucracies will ponder whether what Sally told Eleanor about Brad’s behaviour with Pam after the prom violated Brad’s, or perhaps Pam’s, “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Government is failing spectacularly at its core functions, such as budgeting and educating. Yet it continues to multiply its peripheral and esoteric responsibilities, tasks that require it to do things for which it has no aptitude, such as thinking and making common-sense judgments. Government nowadays is not just embarrassing, it is — let us not mince words — inappropriate.
In the choice among three political parties to govern Canada, I am absolutely sure that the reaction of Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers to George Will is the same as mine. The core functions of government are what Harper and gang are focusing on. Sometimes they try to move the jello of Canadian political opinion in the right direction, and sometimes they go with it. But I know what their first reactions are to political hysterias, before they have to put on the mask of concern before meeting the press. They are the same as mine. Until I am convinced that they have been taken over by the likes of Alison Redford, I will continue to support them.