Something has happened to the Harper government over the past few weeks and it must be deeply upsetting to those few caucus members who are not infected with the blind sense of self divinity that affects Harper and ministers. You can feel it in the subtle shift in the discorse in the blogosphere and other media. It is a change that will be felt more and more over time.
Despite being deeply unpopular with a large portion of the population, Harper has managed to eek out election victories by gaining just enough voters above his conservative core support. He has mostly done this thanks to a significantly divided opposition and by creating the illusion (through governing by stealth) that he is in fact occupying the political middle ground. But this political shift that we are seeing is going to rob Harper and his cabal of that little extra that has kept them in power.
The shift that I am talking about is that moment in so many longterm governments in which there grows a general perception that they have become nothing more than swine feeding at the government, pork-barrel trough. Once this perception is generalized among voters it is very difficult, if not impossible to shake loose. With the "scandal" in the Senate concerning a Prime Minister who said he would never appoint a Senator, we have, I believe, reached this point. To see the once "Reform Party" type Stephen Harper, who one authored an article entitled "Our Benign Dictatorship" which suggested that the only reason that the Liberal Party was in power was because of a dysfunctional political system, stand up in Parliament and, without blushing, defend his patronage appointments, was truly a moment to behold. It was the moment of full-circle, monumental irony. For years Harper has taken advantage of our "dysfunctional" political system to enact his every whim. Now he has become the essence of what he and his supporters have always claimed to despise - a patronage loving, pork-barrel Prime Minister whose partisan corruption has now, finally, become part of our accepted political discourse.
It is ironic, of course. Because for those of use who really understand what is going on, it is the terrible anti-democratic, pro-war, ultra-secretive, fiscally irresponsible, system-destroying tendencies of this government that has made them unfit to govern. But the sad truth is that if the past seven years have taught us anything it is that a significant swath of Canadian voters don't actually understand their own political system or pay attention to what their government is doing. It is only when the government tips over the point of pork-barrel perception that that important swing group of lazy voters finally abandon a government.
The Senate has always been an overpriced do-nothing organization that costs us many millions of dollars. Oh yea, Harper has made some of the worst, most blindly partizan appointments to that body. But even if Senator Duffy is (sorry about this) the ideal poster boy for pork barrel, there is really nothing new here. This story is as old as the Senate. But all that doesn't matter because what really matters is that without even realizing it, Haper has tipped that balance and has reached that moment when he has gone from being a "maligned but committed" Prime Minister to just another pig waddling up to the trough.
Watch it, the centre has now spun out of control.