Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Death Penalty and Not-So-Hidden Agendas. . . .

Predictably, the blogosphere lit up over night with Harper's admission that he favours the death penalty. Obviously we all knew this and it was hardly a surprising revelation. Besides being a conservative (supposedly) Harper is an evangelical Christian and most Christian sects have a long history of loving revenge killing and retribution regardless of the shocking degree to which this contradicts the most basic ethics of their supposed founder.

And since it is not surprising that Harper likes the idea of killing people, the only real question on the blogosphere should be whether he is being honest about his claim that he wouldn't make an issue out of it regardless of what the next government looked like. Now, given Harper's fairly straightforward record of misrepresenting what he will do in office, the question is begged; should we believe him? He said he wouldn't appoint senators. Oops! False. He said he wouldn't tax income trusts. Oops! False. He said he would make the government more open and accountable. Oops! False. He said he would have more free votes. Oops! False. He told us he would never run a deficit. Oops! False. He said he would never raise taxes. Oops! False on several counts. He assured us that he would run government in a more respectful fashion. Oops! False. He said he would abide by fixed election dates. Oops! False. He said he would respect the will of the House. Oops! False.

I don't care what your political sympathies, if you go around claiming that Harper has been honest or consistent, you are blindly partisan or simply misinformed. You may still support him based upon a kind of pragmatic formula, but it is demonstrably fallacious to claim that he has been honest about what he would do. So, what would Harper do if he won a majority? Would he revisit the issues of Capital Punishment and\or abortion? I don't know. I suspect we would soon find that a couple of his MPs would bring forward Private Member's Bills attempting to bring back the death penalty and outlaw abortion just as he did with the gun registry law. Then he would make a lot of noise about how they were private members bills, and the chips would fall where they would. This would allow the blind partisans of the CP to claim that these issues were not part of a 'secret agenda.'

And through all of this, where do 'most' Canadians stand on these issues? Well, to be totally honest, in the case of the death penalty, I don't think it is a strong argument to say that the 'majority' supports it and therefore we should reinstate it. First of all, recent stats suggest that the population is now fairly evenly split on the question of capital punishment. But I also think that if the majority support the death penalty, they are simply wrong about the issue. Besides the ethical issues, there are international issues at stake as more and more countries that once used the death penalty are abandoning it and lobbying for others to do likewise. Furthermore, there are some seminal issues in which the legislative bodies have to be ahead of the curve from the population in general. This was certainly the case in relation to civil rights in the US where the majority of the southern population supported segregation and Johnson used federal power to override those in favor of racist policies. Let's not forget that not that long ago the 'majority' of people thought interracial marriage should be illegal and that homosexuality should be outlawed.

Despite the rhetoric, I don't think the so-called 'hidden' agenda of Harper has ever been very hidden. Years ago Harper gave various public speeches saying that the right-wing needed to change the agenda in Canada slowly, making us the proverbial frog in the slowly heating water. If you have paid attention, it should have been fairly clear that Harper's political goals were not related to any particular legislative policies but related to overall goals of changing the system as a whole. Therefore,  Harper was really seeking to create less accountable government, to undermine the judicial system, to pick away at civil rights, and undermine many basic tenets of democracy. These issues were never hidden and have all unfolded in a fairly straightforward and predictable way. Harper has always sought a less democratic system in which the wealthy and corporations have a lot more power, the people have little ability to challenge the arbitrary power of government, and those with money call the tune. It is these parts of Haper's political goals about which he has been consistent rather than any one particular policy. If he were to win a majority will he pursue the policies of reinstating  the death penalty and outlawing abortion. I don't know, but I hope we never have to find out.

No comments: