I’ve been rethinking my post from the 11th. That’s the one where I proposed three explanations for why Harper’s campaign has flown off the rails. I concluded then that it most likely has to do with the Conservatives losing their top fixer, Dimitri Soudas.
I was wrong.
In hindsight, I realize that my second theory — the one I dismissed as paranoid nonsense — is the most plausible: Harper is campaigning like a callous, indifferent, comic book dictator because he knows he’s going to win and doesn’t give a shit what you think about his campaign.
And Harper is right.
The Conservatives are going to win the election on October 19. And they’re going to win a huge majority.
Hate on the messenger all you like. My reasons are sound and they’re after the jump…
First off, I’m not saying, “Oh, woe unto us, the Conservatives have slipped into the top spot in this morning’s Poll Tracker. All is lost!”¹
There’s still plenty of time for the NDP to retake the lead or for the Liberals finally to shoot out in front. A lot can happen in four weeks. There are still plenty of gaffes and attack ads to throw onto the pile. In past elections, four weeks was more than enough time to flip Liberal fortunes from shoe-in to shit-canned.
I fully acknowledge the polls could shift dramatically between now and mid-October. But what I’m saying is, the polls we’re seeing don’t frickin’ matter…
Harper has a new fixer
Apparently, the Conservative Party hired Australian campaign manager, Lynton Crosby, months, possibly years ago. And he’s in Canada now, being more hands-on with Harper’s campaign than before.
The news was breaking around the same time I was writing my Sept 11 post saying that Harper’s crap campaign might relegate him to third place. I’m pretty dim so it took me a few days to grasp the significance of the Crosby revelation.
Crosby is the genius behind huge wins by conservative parties in Australia and the United Kingdom. In charitable terms, his key tactic is to use wedge politics to boost his client’s chances. In more honest terms, he uses dirty tricks to win elections, his favourite being stoking racism. He reportedly told the mayor of London to not seek votes from “fucking Muslims.” And he’s also believed to have been somehow entwined with rumours — maybe he started them, maybe he just exploited them — that came out during the 2001 Australian election that alleged, falsely, that refugees on the ship the Tampa tried to blackmail their way into the country by threatening to throw children overboard.
The Tampa incident is a thing that did not happen. It was a vile falsehood. But Crosby’s client, John Howard, was able to sweep into power on the back of the slogan, “We will decide who comes into this country.”
Lynton Crosby is a scumbag, basically. And considering the collection of malefactors, convicts and shitheels that already crowd the Conservative upper echelons, no one should be surprised Harper chose to welcome this kind of evil into his inner circle. And now that Crosby’s name is attached to this campaign, it’s best to assume that any disparaging news that comes out about immigrants or refugees is nothing more than a Crosby talking point.
Lessons from the UK election
But while Crosby’s despicable tactics are worry enough, of even more concern is the fact that he’s known for running stealth campaigns where his clients spend much of the election cycle running low in the polls and then surge ahead in the final days to win surprise victories and leave the pollsters scratching their heads.
This is exactly what happened in the UK election from earlier this year where David Cameron’s Conservative Party won a 12-seat majority despite the fact that the polls had the Conservatives and Labour Party running neck-and-neck and were predicting another hung parliament.
Turns out every single pollster had grossly underestimated the size of the Conservative voter base.
Sure, Canada is very different from the UK — not the least distinction being that we currently have a neck-and-neck-and-neck race, which makes a minority parliament seem that much more likely.
But we’re only in that three-way tie if you assume the pollsters are accurately calculating the parties’ voting bases. If Canada’s pollsters are grossly underestimating Conservative support the way they did in the UK, then Harper isn’t facing a massive 40-seat shortfall from a majority government. He’s either much closer to his goal or already over the top.
And regardless, by Crosby’s calculations, this is exactly where he wants the Conservatives to be this far out from voting day. Close enough that a majority isn’t out of the question. But far enough away that supporters of the NDP and Liberals won’t notice that, in trying to eke out a minority win for Their Guy, they’re squandering a shot at taking Harper down by beating the shit out of each other.
There isn’t going to be any strategic voting or last-minute swapping of sides between the Liberal and NDP supporters as long as they think they have a shot at winning and as long as they don’t see a Conservative majority as a viable threat.
Little do they know but Harper and Crosby aren’t goofing around hoping for a minority win. They’re gunning for the whole shebang.
And under that scenario, a three-way tie is the place to be.
“No way can Harper win a majority out of a three-way tie.”
Sure. Math says split the electorate three ways and the best you can hope for is a minority parliament. But what if, in reality (the real reality as opposed to the “reality” that’s reflected in the polls), there is no three-way tie?
After David Cameron’s surprise majority win for UK Conservative’s, that country’s pollsters were left humiliated.
During the election, when they went out and asked people who they’d vote for, the nation seemed evenly split by voting intention. And this is after polling firms had spent years honing their methods so that they could correctly weight mobile phone users, different age groups, all that. These were the most scientifically accurate polls in UK history.
But turns out they were asking the wrong questions.
And Harper’s new fixer, Lynton Crosby knows this. He isn’t just famous for playing on the electorate’s fears and racism (and racist fears) to win elections. He’s also known for ignoring polls.
Or, at least, he ignores the kinds of polls you and I get to see.
Crosby, and other initiates into the sinister secrets of political campaigning, have their own internal polls that dig a lot deeper than merely, “If the election were held today, which party would you vote for.”
When they poll the electorate, they ask questions about people’s preferences and biases, their concerns and their fears. They recognize that expressing an attitude to a pollster is very different from making a decision on a ballot. And only by breaking down how the electorate feels more generally can the polls accurately reflect the way people are likely to vote.
As Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, one of the UK’s humiliated polling firms, put it, “[Voters] honestly express an anti-Tory attitude to us [the pollsters] but in the polling station they make a different choice.”
Personally, I’m not at all surprised to find out that the part of a person’s brain that controls what they say to someone else — the part of the brain that thinks, “I want people to think I’m the kind of person who’s concerned about the environment and the world’s less fortunates” — would be very different from the part of the brain in charge of a person’s hand when they’re marking a ballot in private. That would be the part of the brain that thinks, “My job depends on the health of the resource extraction sector so go fuck the rest of the planet.”
Harper and Crosby are only concerned about the chunk of the brain that controls the private you. If the public you that’s worried about poor people, climate change and the welfare of puppies were in charge of your voting hand, then they wouldn’t be campaigning the way they are.
Dollars for donuts, they have a mountain of internal data that tells them that when you adjust polling data for voters’ attitudes, they know they’ve already got a majority locked down by doing things the way they’ve been doing them.
If they didn’t, Harper wouldn’t be campaigning like such an autocratic dink, playing on your fears of terrorism, turning Syrian refugees away and promising to burn oil from under the prairies until the arctic melts.
“Canadians are nice. We won’t be suckered by wedge politics.”
As much as the national myth is that Canadians are a compassionate people who care deeply about nature and high ideals, the national reality is that in private we’re the same fearful, selfish, duplicitous shit-heels that everybody else on the planet is.
I actually thought for a few hours that an awareness of the horror of the Syrian refugee crisis — and the poverty of our government’s response to it — would finally be the thing to turn voters against Harper. His callous attitude in the face of that crisis was an affront to every high ideal the human brain has concocted. It should have tipped the polls massively against him. Every Christian Conservative who takes their faith seriously, every small-business, small-c conservative who still has a heart should have fled from Harper like he had the plague.
But they didn’t. Instead, Harper ticked up in the polls. And he continues to tick up despite the fact that when asked, people say they want Canada to better help Syrian refugees.
But the thing is, I no longer think Canadians want to help Syrian refugees. (And I don’t think they’re worried about letting in Islamic State fifth columnists. They’re worried about losing their jobs.)
I think Canadians want Canada to be known for letting in refugees without actually having to take the risks and do the work of letting them in. They want to believe that we, as Harper pretends, admit the most refugees in the world even if we’re nowhere near the top of that list.
Why go to the trouble of being something when you can believe you’re that already and no one around you will say otherwise because they want to live in the same fantasy?
Canadians want things to stay exactly the way they are right now, and to hell with all the people fleeing for their lives overseas.
But they don’t want to be caught saying anything like that.
So they’re going to vote for Harper because they know he’ll say it for them.
Harper wins. The Left is a chimera.
Holy shit. That got dark. I must have had a worse week than I thought.
But that’s where I’m at. That majority block of Canadians who are compassionate and reasonable and will rise up to overwhelm Harper’s foul army of greed and fear? Doesn’t exist.
Of course, like I wrote at the start of this piece, there’s still a lot of election to go. Plenty of time for people to prove me wrong. Plenty of time for Mulcair and/or Trudeau to stop campaigning like lame dipshits. And plenty of time for their supporters to start talking common cause — coalition, strategic voting, fuck… merger — instead of continuing this idiotic internecine war for the not-Harper vote. But today, I see no sign of any of that happening.
As it stands now, come October 20, Harper will be sitting atop his throne of ruination and hypocrisy, more powerful with Dark Side than ever before, Darth Crosby breathing heavily at his right hand.
You got a problem with that, rebel fighter?
¹ For the record, I shifted to this much more pessimistic opinion about the election almost immediately after that last piece I did for the blog. In fact, I started writing this blog post on September 12 while the NDP were still leading in the polls. I put off finishing it because it’s just so fucking depressing.