Political strategies are, I think, subject to 'sell-by' dates and the whims of fashion. Though some elements of strategy are perennially useful, others change from decade to decade or era to era. What works in one time and place may not work in another.
Many people are now realizing that Prime Minister Harper's political 'sell-by' date is itself fast approaching. Up until now Harper's strategy has been fairly straightforward - disenfranchise as many people as possible (through fraud or demonizing opponents or generally destroying the faith in the political system) and then maintain a core support who would vote for him under any conditions. This has been effective for a while, in part due to a voting system that in no way reflects the will of the people and to a sympathetic media and a troubled period for the opposition. Harper hasn't needed to be personally appealing or sympathetic until now (traits often very important for political success on a large scale) because circumstance has played into his basic divide and conquer strategy. But even the most die-hard conservative (if they possess any real political analysis) would have to admit that times are slowly changing. Prolonged and deepening economic and social crisis begs for sympathetic leaders with a human touch and Harper is severely lacking in this area. I have always said a successful politician is a flexible one. This means as circumstances change a successful politician has the ability to adapt with them. The problem is that Harper and his cronies are adaptability-challenged. Harper appears to be a petty, tyrannical, dictator because he is one and he won't veer from this not only because he can't but because like all petty, tyrannical, dictators he simply thinks he is right 100% of the time.
The new times that are emerging are going to demand, at least for a few years, leaders who can make discourse and consultation a central pillar of their mode of operation. And as the looming First Ministers' Meeting demonstrates, discourse is completely foreign to Harper's political being. For a man like Harper discourse and democracy simply get in the way of his agenda. The problem is that when people feel that their lives and futures are adrift they want to feel not only that their leaders are competent but that they are sympathetic to the crises in their lives. But a Prime Minister who is so isolated that he won't talk to the Premiers let alone to the average people is going to quickly wear out his welcome even with his core voters. This, coupled with a growing sense that Harper is not nearly as fiscally adept as he has tried to portray himself, spells big trouble for the man.
Politics is a bit like parenting - sometimes you need to be strong and aloof, and at other times you need to be a sympathetic shoulder on which to cry. A parent who is incapable of taking on that latter role will not only alienate their children but will eventually end up with a household in crisis. And in the final analysis, the sympathetic/empathetic role is considerably more important because though it may not necessarily promote a-type, over-acheiving kids - it will instil the kinds of values that are, in the long run, most important to a good and happy life - and a society with proper values.
As the economic and social times darken Harper is a bit like a parent who faces an injured child but only knows the methods of harsh discipline. When your son or daughter is lying in bed with a fever and you have nothing to offer them but a raised voice from the other room telling them they are lazy and they should get their ass out of bed - you have failed as a parent. When your country is in social and economic crisis and people feel as though their futures are threatened and you, as a leader, have nothing to offer but the claim that everyone who opposes you is a terrorist financed by foreigners - you have failed as a leader and your number is up.
This is the way a political career ends - not with a bang but a whimper.