Saturday, October 24, 2015

The impracticality of pragmatism

Canada's voters taught the political pragmatists the same lesson I've been telling Republicans for over a decade: pragmatism in politics is ultimately self-defeating:
Unless the culture (of the Conservative party) changes, it should not count on being returned to power any time soon. We should be clear where the roots of that culture lie. The nastiness of Tory politics under Harper, the mindless partisanship, the throttling of backbench MPs, are not outgrowths of conservatism. They were born, rather, of its repudiation: of the decision to sterilize the new party of any ideological convictions, the better (it was supposed) to remove any obstacle to its electability.

Politics fills a vacuum: in the absence of substantive differences with your opponents, partisanship takes its place. If, what is more, a party no longer stands for much as a party, then its policies will default to whatever the leader decides. And the leader, having been given that power and that assignment — win at all costs — can tolerate no deviations from MPs still under the impression that the party harbors some lingering principles.

There has been much talk of how Red Tories were made to feel unwelcome in the party. But the truth is no sort of conservative could really feel the Harper government represented them: not fiscal conservatives, $150 billion in debt later; not social conservatives, forbidden even to say the word “abortion”; certainly not old-time Reformers, the sort of people who went into politics to make governments and leaders more accountable, not less.

The only party faction that was really served was the yahoo faction, the “toxic Tories” as a friend calls them, to whom this government truckled and whose loyalty was rewarded in turn. MPs who were willing to say the opposite of what they believed, or believe the opposite of the facts, were promoted; those who were not found themselves out of cabinet, or indeed out of the party.

The people around Harper, always convinced of their own cleverness, grew drunk on their own cynicism. Having made the initial compromise with their principles — on policy — they found the next much easier, and the next, until they became contemptuous of anything resembling a principle, or anyone still able to discern a line — political, personal, ethical — he would not cross.
Ideological principle is the lifesblood of a political party. The more a party focuses on "electability" and "pragmatism", the more it cuts its own wrists and drains its own blood. Eventually, the point is reached that the party exists for no reason but to profit the party elite, which is understandably not of interest to anyone outside that elite.

What do the Republicans stand for today?

Pragmatism in politics is like cocaine. A little bit goes a long ways. You not only win, but you feel like an all-conquering tiger. But gradually, you start needing more and more to achieve the same affect, until finally, you overdose and your heart stops.



Blogger Cecil Henry October 24, 2015 8:07 AM  

Of course what is true of the conservatives in Canada is also true of the Liberals even more.

The stifling of any dissent, particularly on immigration, White Genocide and multiculturalism is ever present and draconian. All behind smiles.


Canada's Political Parties Purge Own Candidates

I hate this entity called Canada. It has almost nothing to do with my nation.

Blogger Cataline Sergius October 24, 2015 8:13 AM  

What do the Republicans stand for today?

They stand for office.

That's it, really.

Blogger Alexander Thompson October 24, 2015 8:19 AM  

Sounds like Bohener or future speaker Ryan. They demand any obstacles be removed from their total rule.

Blogger Phillip George October 24, 2015 8:28 AM  

It's also a matter of patience. Enoch Powell only had to wait till he was 103 and he would have been a shoe in for prime minister. Infact, even now I think he is still electable; as even in death being more animate than the current leadership in response to a crisis.

VeteransToday are running a quote from Edmund Burke: “It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free,” and that “Their passions forge their fetters"

A politician whose only passion is self interest; well look around you.

How telling a current affairs forum has to go back several hundred years for evidence of a statesman - or to look to a foreign leader, Putin quoting Tolstoy, for some signs of candor.

[what's wrong with Islam? It's untrue. That should offend anyone of sound disposition.]

Blogger Robert Coble October 24, 2015 8:29 AM  

What do the Republicans stand for today?

Government Over Principles

Blogger fisher man October 24, 2015 8:56 AM  

Harper was always about power.

I smile at the role the Senate played in his downfall. If he stuck to his old reform party principles, that mess never would have happened. This one issue proves the point vox is making. It played out over 25 years in a slow motion train wreck.

Blogger James Dixon October 24, 2015 8:56 AM  

> If, what is more, a party no longer stands for much as a party, then its policies will default to whatever the leader decides. And the leader, having been given that power and that assignment — win at all costs — can tolerate no deviations from MPs still under the impression that the party harbors some lingering principles.

A perfect description of Romney and his actions.

OpenID culdesachero October 24, 2015 9:01 AM  

Conservatives of principle in Canada have a choice: Stand for your principles, lose every election and let socialists in the guise of Liberals run roughshod over the justice system and destroy personal liberty or try to play the game that the Liberals have created.
The media and education systems have completely poisoned any truly conservative idea as either racist or mean-evil-greedy-selfish. The populace is successively dumbed down with each generation. Any sense of the fierce individualism that built this country was erased, replaced by an identity that focuses on anti-Americanism, hockey, beer and Tim Hortons coffee.
There is no base for conservatism to stand on. Appealing to conservative ideas is a death sentence. They're considered old ideas for closed-minded grumps. No politician is interested in truth. There are only platitudes. Liberal platitudes appealing to kindness, "open mindedness" and generosity always win out because people want to think of themselves as good.
We are much farther down the road than the U.S. because our frontier spirit is not as ingrained in our culture. It was amazing that Canada actually ever elected Harper in the first place.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan October 24, 2015 9:05 AM  

It's funny reading the defense establishment pragmatists moan and groan about Harper own goaling himself and the F-35 thunderjug, too bad it's their fault any way

Blogger Michael October 24, 2015 9:07 AM  

"Eventually, the point is reached that the party exists for no reason but to profit the party elite, which is understandably not of interest to anyone outside that elite."

Interesting how this is an application of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy in a different venue:

Blogger Laguna Beach Fogey October 24, 2015 9:08 AM  

Less pragmatism, more conviction.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan October 24, 2015 9:08 AM  

Reading the sore lamentation post above mine I wonder why in God's name won't conservatives use the tactics of disqualify against the Left's authority. Maybe Noble Loser syndrome

Blogger Laguna Beach Fogey October 24, 2015 9:08 AM  

Less pragmatism, more conviction.

Blogger Geoff October 24, 2015 9:25 AM  

Culdesashero @8

I feel your pain. Even the diversity problem is in some ways further along in Canada than in the USA. Toronto is known as the most "diverse" city in the world after all.

But there is reason to be optimistic. The recent Liberal win notwithstanding, I think the pendulum has already begun to swing the other way. Just look at the success of Ezra Levant and

The Liberal reign will be short lived. Just a minor blip before the conservative trend resumes.

OpenID Steve October 24, 2015 10:55 AM  

October 24th is the anniversary of the firing squad execution of Norwegian traitor Vidkun Quisling, in 1945. His ignominious place in history was to have his surname become a noun. “Quisling” is now a moniker synonymous with treason and alliance with an invading army. Something tells me that the popularity of “Vidkun” as a boys’ natal name in Scandinavia dropped precipitously after about 1942. Ditto for “Adolf” in Germany and “Benito” in Italy, after 1944

- Good Timing

Blogger Derek Kite October 24, 2015 11:12 AM  

Well someone found a sucker to buy their story. If Canadian conservatives buy this trash they will be as successful as the idiotarians that make up the Ontario conservatives. Seriously. Harper lost because he acted like a jacka$$ to everyone including the party stalwarts, and left a hollow shell behind. It will take someone as brilliant a tactician as he to rebuild. Luck will be on whoever's side gets the job; the Liberals elected a vacuous twit.

The reality is that eastern Canada is something akin to Rhode island, deeply Liberal and a place to leave when you are of age. I looked to move there years ago, I said that I wasn't interested in seasonal work and unemployment insurance; I was looked at like a Martian. Conservative principles will be accepted as long as there is a check attached.

Quebec either votes for a guy with a cane, a socialist or a thief. They usually get one. Last time conservatives got the seats from that province was when a local boy ran and promised (and delivered) the loot. That ended when the toys ran out and they, including almost all the members of parliament elected conservative, went separatist.

Ontario is the largest province and pretty well determines who wins. The provincial Liberals have created something akin to New York state where the major city is doing OK, sucking in tax revenues from everywhere else for baubles, but if you aren't connected you have three part time jobs. The blame was effectively shifted to Harper, and he couldn't or wouldn't place the blame squarely where it belonged.

The prairie provinces and BC are either Conservative or socialist with the Liberals winning seats from the enlightened in the cities. Alberta was up till recently the source of opportunity for young people, good paying jobs and people were commuting from across Canada to work there. A mixture of thievery and lower commodity prices has changed that situation, and with it the dissolution of the core Conservative power base.

Harper got a bit more than a third of the votes when he won, Liberals got the same this time.

Liberals historically won by running soft left and governing soft right. Running right, even soft right just plain loses. Governing right works, but Harper tried to out Liberal the Liberals and came out stinking.

The Reform, if anyone actually remembered, running hard right guaranteed the decade long Chretien prime minister term.

Making an issue of the hijab didn't win the election for him. Probably lost some seats as a result.

I honestly think the younger generation on both sides is barking mad and has the extremism of someone who has never had anything on the line. The glut of politicians with experience represent the postwar consensus with all it's contradiction and laziness. The fight was between a pot smoking halfwit new agey non producer and a tired boomer worn out from a decades long fight against the postwar soft socialism. One promised to bring back the glory days of his youth that never existed, the other promised the hard reality of global turmoil, uncompetitive economy, resource development. The easy choice won, and the country will rue the day.

Blogger Maple Curtain October 24, 2015 11:15 AM  

@8: there's a lot of truth in what you write. However, Trudeau the Idiot will likely have to preside over an economic depression, and that just might make real policy options more palatable to the populace.

For those Americans reading this, Trudeau the Younger has all of his daddy's arrogance and all of his mummy's brains - the combination makes Obama look intelligent, experienced, and qualified in comparison.

Blogger Maple Curtain October 24, 2015 11:18 AM  

@16: well said.

Blogger Geoff October 24, 2015 11:34 AM  

Considering the voter fatigue after a decade in office, and the massive mainstream media campaign against him, Harper still managed to capture more than 30% of the popular vote and almost 100 seats in parliament. Not bad in my book.

OpenID eidolon1109 October 24, 2015 11:47 AM  

Reminds me of this:

When everything about a people is for the time growing weak and ineffective, it begins to talk about efficiency. So it is that when a man's body is a wreck he begins, for the first time, to talk about health. Vigorous organisms talk not about their processes, but about their aims. There cannot be any better proof of the physical efficiency of a man than that he talks cheerfully of a journey to the end of the world.
And there cannot be any better proof of the practical efficiency of a nation than that it talks constantly of a journey to the end of the world, a journey to the Judgment Day and the New Jerusalem. There can be no stronger sign of a coarse material health than the tendency to run after high and wild ideals; it is in the first exuberance of infancy that we cry for the moon. None of the strong men in the strong ages would have understood what you meant by working for efficiency. ...

But assuredly there has been no ideal in practice so moonstruck and misleading as the ideal of practicality. Nothing has lost so many opportunities as the opportunism of Lord Rosebery. He is, indeed, a standing symbol of this epoch--the man who is theoretically a practical man, and practically more unpractical than any theorist. Nothing in this universe is so unwise as that kind of worship of worldly wisdom. A man who is perpetually thinking of whether this race or that race is strong, of whether this cause or that cause is promising, is the man who will never believe in anything long enough to make it succeed. The opportunist politician is like a man who should abandon billiards because he was beaten at billiards, and abandon golf because he was beaten at golf. There is nothing which is so weak for working purposes as this enormous importance attached to immediate victory. There is nothing that fails like success.

And having discovered that opportunism does fail, I have been induced to look at it more largely, and in consequence to see that it must fail. I perceive that it is far more practical to begin at the beginning and discuss theories. I see that the men who killed each other about the orthodoxy of the Homoousion were far more sensible than the people who are quarrelling about the Education Act. For the Christian dogmatists were trying to establish a reign of holiness, and trying to get defined, first of all, what was really holy. But our modern educationists are trying to bring about a religious liberty without attempting to settle what is religion or what is liberty. If the old priests forced a statement on mankind, at least they previously took some trouble to make it lucid. It has been left for the modern mobs of Anglicans and Nonconformists to persecute for a doctrine without even stating it.

-G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

Blogger LES October 24, 2015 12:24 PM  

What is the difference between ideology and principle? I quit listening to the ideologue Rush Limbaugh in 2002 because with half his brain tied behind his back he only told half-truths.

Blogger n.y.k. October 24, 2015 2:09 PM  

Conservatives attracted more voters this time than when they originally took power in 2006.

The real difference was Liberals taking virtually all of the 3 million new voters that have been added since then.

As a result, the proportion of Canadians voting Conservative has actually shrunken during the Harper era. It only looked liked they were ascending because low voter turnout created the illusion of success.

I have yet to see ANYONE in the Conservative party acknowledge this, let alone suggest how this problem might be solved.

Hint: complaining about Trudeau, his dad, his hair or his age doesn't cut it.

Blogger Maple Curtain October 24, 2015 2:17 PM  

@22: and Harper, like the RINOs down south, was happily importing all of those new Liberal voters (excepting the zombies leaving our educational system and gaining the vote at 18).

Blogger n.y.k. October 24, 2015 2:25 PM  

@23 Oh man, don't even get me started on the way citizenship has been handled in this country. It's criminal that these so-called "temporary" foreign workers have been brought in to compete with us during a period of elevated unemployment. And then they send all the money off to their families in foreign lands. How the hell does that help Canada?!

And if you visit any campus in B.C. you'll see the are packed with foreign students using our education system so they can go back home and compete against Canada.

Blogger n.y.k. October 24, 2015 2:41 PM  

I see there are a number of articles in the Canadian Press now blaming Harper's campaign manager for the loss.

In other words, they can't believe their policies were unappealing or that the way they governed made voters angry. And of course they won't consider that the opposition parties are more aligned with public opinion than Conservatives.

Nope, it was totally winnable except for that darned campaign manager. She should have bought bigger flags to wave at the campaign rallies...or something. All her fault!

It's gonna be a long 4 years.

Blogger Thordaddy October 24, 2015 2:52 PM  

Canada seems a great place for a little imperial wS...

Blogger RobertT October 24, 2015 3:56 PM  

I've always had the impression that the United States followed Europe's lead and Canada followed ours. So now they're embarking on their Obama experiment just as we are escaping ours and getting set to kick off the chains of progressivism. Once again following Europe's lead.

Blogger Joshua Sinistar October 24, 2015 5:24 PM  

What's pragmatic about betraying your voters? That's not pragmatic. He couldn't have thought he would get their support after betraying them, and now he's gone. He probably has another job lined up though. He sold out. Its corruption not pragmatism. These leaders have no real power. They're all whores.

Blogger John Wright October 24, 2015 6:11 PM  

"Pragmatism in politics is like cocaine. A little bit goes a long ways. You not only win, but you feel like an all-conquering tiger. But gradually, you start needing more and more to achieve the same affect, until finally, you overdose and your heart stops."

Truer words were never spoken. It is like suddenly finding and scratching that exact spot that itches to hear someone put into words an idea that has been nagging at the back of one's mine for a decade or three, as you have done here with this paragraph for me.

Nicely said, sir! Nicely said.

Blogger DSW October 24, 2015 6:38 PM  

I had this argument with some "conservative" friends of mine who backed McRINO because they "wanted to win" and were for other RINOs because they "wanted to win". Then, they threw the Supreme Court at me to which I replied "David Souter - Bush 41. John Roberts Bush 43. How's that working out?" If you don't stand for something, you stand for nothing.

Blogger bearspaw October 24, 2015 9:45 PM  

Comparing Andrew Coyne to Geroge Will should tell you something about what the author knows about Consevative Party politics in Canada...nothing.

Blogger bearspaw October 24, 2015 9:48 PM  

A more accurate comparison would be Andrew Coyne and David Brooks. Both are "conservative" when it suits them.

Blogger Maple Curtain October 24, 2015 11:03 PM  

@32: Yes. Andrew Coyne - just another privileged son of the Establishment elite.

Blogger vandelay October 25, 2015 12:54 PM  

An ideologically solid conservative party is impossible in Canada, assuming that it actually wants to wield power. Even with all its ideological compromises the CPC can't at its best get more than 40 per cent of the vote.
The Canadian electorate is significantly to the left of America's. Many if not most Conservative MPs (of the previous parliament, at least) would find their natural home in the Democratic Party.
It's a grim place for a conservative.

Blogger Joshua Sinistar October 25, 2015 4:02 PM  

Vandelay, the problem with people like you is obvious to us. You start off with the premise of compromising your principles and end up by compromising all your principles. The Left starts off as hard-liners who won't budge, and they get everything they want. Which side are you on? With friends like you, we don't need enemies.
Why don't we try the hard-line approach that works for the other side. what do we have to lose? You already lost everything anyway with compromise. They have everything they want and you have nothing. Do us all a favor and join the other side. They could use voices of compromise weakening their position. We don't want you on our side anymore OK?

OpenID jerry October 26, 2015 3:14 AM  

I read an interesting book on Quisling. Michael Walsh wrote Heroes Hang when Traitors Triumph. He calls firing squad democracy the slaying of a Viking. Quisling may be a lost cause along with Amelia Earhart as the poster child for black ops.

Blogger Blaster October 28, 2015 5:30 PM  

Winning elections is the entire point of political parties. Factions have ideologies. The only reason parties exist is to enable otherwise competing factions to compromise and cooperate for mutual benefit.

What the article describes, assuming it is fair and truthful, seems to me more like a failure of the party to properly broker compromises between its factions, not a problem with the party's role in itself.

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