I haven't watched the thursday political panel on The National for a while but I caught it yesterday and was somewhat surprised by what I heard. The conversation was further evidence that the political mood is changing. Chantal Hébert said that it seems clear now that even Harper and Flaherty can no longer believe that their government is in anyway transparent, and that they must surely understand that their cabal is considerably more opaque that any previous government. Andrew Coyne took up the conversation from there and suggested essentially that Harper is gradually becoming something of a liability to the Conservatives as he paints himself further and further into a corner. Coyne said that there is a core of support of about 30% below which Harper probably can't drop and an upper level of about 40% above which he could never go. Now, while Coyne is correct that Harper, like most autocrates, has a core of support below which he can't drop, I am fairly certain that it is considerably lower than 30%. I believe that it is probably closer to 20% than 30%. In fact, the latest Nanos survey puts Harper's government very close to 30% and if one follows the graph he is still dropping. But wherever you put the core support of Harper and his cabal, Coyne is correct that there is growing voter fatigue with what, even Conservative supporters must understand, is the most secretive and nefarious government in our history. Furthermore Coyne is correct that this voter fatigue is on the upswing and it will eventually become an insurmountable problem for Harper and the Conservative Party if he continues down this path of secretiveness and aggressive attacks of everything and everyone that opposes them.
I am fairly certain that even a few months ago we would not have heard this kind of matter of fact talk from a guy like Andrew Coyne. This change has come about, I believe, because like Christy Clark's Liberal government in BC, Harper's government is on that downward swing towards unpopularity. And while Harper's stonewalling, secretive style has been relatively effective while he was not perceived to be the leader of a corrupt government of patronage and pork, now that his government is in fact becoming associated with exactly this, his style is becoming counter productive. In other words, a secretive, aloof personality might be perceived as strength in a righteous leader, but in a corrupt one such traits are bound to be perceived as weak paranoia. And though Coyne didn't use these words, it was exactly this phenomenon to which he was pointing.
In a case like that of Christy Clark, it is probably too late. It dosen't matter what she does at this point because everything she does will be perceived as a desperate effort to cling to power. But Coyne was suggesting that Harper still has a chance to recover if he changes his tune now. The problem is that one surely has to doubt if Harper could change this basic MO of his entire political life. To believe that such a change is possible one would have to believe that Harper's secretive, aloof, and aggressive style is a political affectation adopted for strategic reasons. However, most of us are convinced that these traits are central to Harper's very identity and that as he slowly loses support and an election loss looks to be inevitable. Harper will only get worse as his paranoia takes over his political life.
It is this very point which seems to have motivated Steve Pakin's latest article in which he suggests that Harper might soon resign rather than face a gradual decline into ignominy. While I appreciate Pakin's thoughts on this subject, I think he is overlooking the degree of darkness in Stephen Harper's soul. I am not convinced that Harper has the ability to favor the interest of his Party over his own interests. Niether am I convinced that Harper will ever willingly give up power, even if he lost an election I suspect that Harper and his cabal would seek to keep power through some illegal move, particularly if he lost to someone whose last name is Trudeau.