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Conservative Loathing

Let me just add a little codicil to my previous post and suggest that this phenomenon of what can only be described as a sneering contempt for one’s own party and the vast majority of people who likewise support it (or at least vote for it from time to time) seems to be unique to ideologues and partisans of the Conservative variety. I’m unaware of a similarly conflicted animus of contemptuous self-loathing within the ranks of diehard Liberal or NDP partisans, although I have to confess that I don’t generally mix with such people, so I could be well be wrong about that.

Perhaps in private, some Liberal zealots (almost a contradiction in terms right there) feel that those who vote for the party are somehow insufficiently “big government” or “Statist” and that some might even have dangerous tendencies towards entrepreneurialism and free market economics. Goodness, some of them may even lean too heavily towards fiscal probity and circumspect accounting theories! Some could even be against crime and heretically pro-American!

Similarly, maybe there are some ardent Dippers who feel that the Revolution just isn’t coming along at a fast enough clip, its teaming 17 percent of the electorate simply not working to maximum efficiency as they go about the business of undermining the economy, secularizing everything in sight, creating mountains of stifling government regulations and imposing their rigid materialist dogma on the foundational moral pillars of our society. After all, what with God stubbornly flying in the face of Nietzsche and being not quite dead yet, there’s always a big hill for deterministic heathens to climb in that department!

All kidding aside though, while some Liberals, Dippers, and Greens are unquestionably more passionate about their politics, their ideology (although it’s arguable whether the Liberals actually have one these days, but that’s another discussion) and commitment to their party’s given assortment of “aspirational goals” than the “average” voter is, it’s almost inconceivable to imagine any of their diehards disparaging the majority of those voters from the “mushy middle” who support them from time to time, other than perhaps to deem them as being “soft” in terms of their dependability come election time. And while they might express disappointment (sometimes profoundly so) in their own party, the thought of comparing them to… well, I don’t know what, really seems out of the question. I think it’s fair to say that the three parties of the “Left” (or “progressives” if you prefer) are each, in their own way, reasonably true to their values and beliefs.

The same however it would seem cannot be said of the Conservatives. Their diehards for example have no compunction whatsoever about comparing their largely disinterested, vaguely left-of-centre supporters drawn from the “mushy middle” and even the self-declared Conservative ones in various regions of the country to a party and a group that they
regularly demonize as being the perfidious embodiment of everything that’s wrong with society. Moreover, they apply this same label of scornful derision to their own party establishment!

It’s quite curious really. Is it possible that despite the extensive papering over of various differences within the party and notable ideological rifts that existed up until a very few short years ago, there’s still a roiling identity crisis within the Conservative Party? Is the confident self-assurance of the Big Blue Machine more illusion than reality? Perhaps the only thing holding this rickety contraption together is the bonding glue of power and the “magnetism” of a leader who managed to revive the political fortunes of “conservatives” at a singularly opportune time with a selfishly appealing yet simplistic agenda, but with no real vision. At least not a truly “conservative” one, according to some.

11 comments to Conservative Loathing

  • Deanna

    I’d add a couple of additional conservative types:

    Grassroots populist:  Many of the original reformers were of this breed. They wanted policies and ideas to be pushed from the bottom up, rather than declared by fiat from the top.

    The "West Want In":  Westerners sick and tired of perceiving Ontario and Quebec as driving the country (never mind the huge population disparities between western and central Canada). Not that they don’t have a point about deserving more of a voice,  given the comparative level of representation in the East.

    So, yeah, I agree. There are a lot of different flavours of Conservative looking for a voice. I find it surprising that there is so much talk of schisms inside the Liberal party when it is so obvious to me that there are just as many – or more – in the Conservative one.

  • I don’t know, Martin… between Kate Macmillan reading a comment left by Zorpheous on here in a message thread from a couple of blogposts ago and somehow equating that to being me who left it (and thus responsible for the wrong presumption left), and now Rabbit doing the same thing for your blogpost and presuming I wrote it, I’m beginning to think some of my "conservative" friends (since not all are Blogging Tories, as Kate pointed out) either think I blog in multiple aliases, or else they fail to read the headers of said written stuff to see who actually wrote the thing in question (and it’s highlighted in red, so I don’t know how much more I can highlight it to get their attention).

  • Catelli — Well put! I think you’e hit the nail bang on the head there.

  • Rabbit — Reading is fundamental. First of all, Scott didn’t write the post. And secondly, the statement refers to comparing the average “conservative” voter to, gasp, a “liberal” (i.e., left of centre) and, double-gasp, a U.S. Democrat — both of whom are regularly vilified and demonized by Conservative partisans and ideologues. So you can’t have it both ways. Either their rhetoric about libs and Dems is seriously out of skew, or they have a contemptuous loathing for their own “average” supporters.

  •  WhattheH — Thanks. Just back for a little bit. I have to get back to work now, but Scott’s given me a key to the gate, so I’ll be back to play before too long, I’m sure.
    You were mentioning being a truly non-partisan, quotidian voter (there, that sounds much nicer that “common” doesn’t it?) and one of the things that really surprised me in the CP/Decima poll that sparked my ramblings was the percentages of the people according to the pollster who self-describe themselves as either left or right wing: only 15% each. I suppose one way of looking at that might be to think that it speaks very highly for us as Canadians in that 70% simply don’t think in terms of the conventional left/right paradigm. Either that, or we have a whole lot of terribly indecisive people in this country.

    Three of my kids are voting age now (yikes!) and I suspect that if they were asked if they were left wing, right wing, or neither, two of them would either resent the question or answer “neither” and one of them wouldn’t even have the slightest idea what you were talking about. In any case, none of them can stand Harper or the Conservatives, and no, it’s not because their dad is a “liberal” either because we really don’t discuss politics other than to share a laugh over the previous night’s “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report” — none of them are junkies, by any stretch of the imagination. I haven’t even quizzed them over why they don’t like Harper beyond “he creeps me out.” Good enough for me.  At least I know their radar (or “creepdar”) is working.

  • rabbit

    Their diehards for example have no compunction whatsoever about comparing their largely disinterested, vaguely left-of-centre supporters drawn from the “mushy middle” and even the self-declared Conservative ones in various regions of the country to a party and a group that they regularly demonize as being the perfidious embodiment of everything that’s wrong with society. Moreover, they apply this same label of scornful derision to their own party establishment!

    Don’t know what you’re talking about here, Scott. Do you have examples of this?

    – Edited so the italics properly show up. Some of you folks still haven’t learned to use the graphical editor above the text box. I’ll address the question in a reply – Scott

  • Maybe the Conservative party is attempting to bridge more ideologies than the other parties?  Conservatism (as wwCoffee) points out has many subsets.  

    Whereas on the left, their are more parties to choose from.  Liberal, NDP, Green, and the fringe Marxist, Communist etc.   The Liberal party as a larger block attracts people of an open mind set IMHO.  So it is harder to fracture.  That being said, a liberal mindset doesn’t always make you a Liberal supporter (at least it doesn’t for me), but being liberal, you like to keep your options open.

    Between the parties, there are examples of Liberals hating NDP and the reverse.   So lefties can dislike each other.

    I guess the error here is assuming that conservative=Conservative.  Its just that conservatives don’t have many options to choose from, they’re united out of convenience, not out of a sharing of ideologies.  This then supports the argument in your last post.  That Canadians as a whole are more "lefist" in their thinking, leaving conservatives in a minority.  If the minority fractures its alliance, it has no power at all, leaving the left in charge in perpetuity.  The whole description of the Liberal party as "Canada’s Natural Governing Party" and all that.

  • WhattheH

    Martin aka RT, thank goodness, you are back, albeit on a sporadic basis. I’m just an ordinary, everyday, common variety voter – truly non partisan,. I have to acknowledge that I’ve voted liberal for many years because they reflected my thoughts on health care, and the common good. I was a conservative voter, back in the days of the PCs (before Mulrooney killed them) and had hopes for a Phoenix from the ashes before McKay killed them (darn them both to the furtherest reaches of Tartarus.)

    One thing I have noted in these last few years is the attempt to import American thinking into Canadian politics / movies / ways of life. One other thing I have noted is the failure to implement these attempts, although I’m getting worried. My children who are still quite youthful, are very cognizant of the need to vote (mainly because I lectured them ad infinitum) however, they are receiving mixed messages and do not have the experience to filter the message, as they get most of their information from the internet.

    I do not suspect that they will not fall dupe to Pastor Swank, or whatever he calls himself or any other of those godbags, but I do worry that they will not recognize HMPM Harper’s agenda (or others schooled in the same way). And why should they when I don’t either? Has that man ever been on course? Has he ever been open? Has he ever allowed his ministers to be open? My only response – I don’t trust him (Mulroney was his trusted advisor? he’s a Stausian?) and I will never vote for him. Oh for the days of honest politicians! Yes, I actually voted to try to get Joe Clark over Brian Mulroooooney. (hangs head in defeat).

  • Walkswithcoffee

    "So is there an identity crisis in the CPC?  Perpetually!"

    Some excellent points in this thread (so far).

    To break this down further, consider the main groups that compose the CPoC "coalition" and why they don’t work together for more than an election every 10 years or so.

    Neo-cons: Essentially this is the "me first and only me" group. By defintion they are not community oriented and do not cooperate with others for very long. They want their business and family interested protected and the rest be damned if necessary.

    Socons: They are part of a larger religion perspective that is both "left" and "right". The religious left is better understood as the "social gospel" community. The religious right is better understood as "good government" types. Using governemnt to dictate some narrow view of social norms does not fall into either the "social gospel" or "good government" and the rest of the population does not want to be dictated to… including the religious left, neo-cons, libertarians, liberals, and moderates. The socons are not really part of the picture in Canadian politics. Dispite the fears of the political left.

    Liberatarians: They are people that don’t want power they just want the powerful to either leave them alone or at least ask for consent before inflicting stuff on them. By definition, they are  not power builders so not really "in" with those that want to "pull the leavers of power".

    Preserve, Restore, and Develop Conservatives: They are interested in constructive engagement with the issues of the day via government… not included in the above groups. And at this point in time, not part of the CPoC coalition. They serve no purpose to Harper.

    These groups have little to nothing to do with each other; and they are working to different ends. A coalition is, therefore, only for the purpose of a united front against a common enemy… and that is only "necessary" every decade or so.

    Canadian "conservatism" has been a failing coalition since PM A.M. because the members of the coalition simple don’t believe or want the same things.

  • ALW

    Andrew Coyne wrote this in 2000, and I think it was accurate then and now:

    Opposition parties in Canada are at an automatic disadvantage.
    As they are necessarily coalitions of vastly different groups who, for one reason or another, have been excluded from power, they will be forever beset by fractiousness. They can only be unified by a common enemy, that is by a Liberal party that has become so corrupt, so doctrinaire, so bloated with power as to persuade the opposition’s warring factions to drop their differences long enough to defeat them.

    What Coyne really means is the various strains of conservatism, since they are the only coalition broad enough to challenge the Liberals for power.  So is there an identity crisis in the CPC?  Perpetually!  It is, has been, and always will be a coalition of people who in some cases have polar opposite views (especially with respect to social issues) but who in the aggregate nonetheless find enough common ground to support the same party.  A critical component of keeping this coalition together is a leader that is palatable to the various factions; for whatever reason, Stephen Harper appears to be just such a leader.

    Other than that, I would agree that there is no equivalent to the loathing of fellow partisans that occurs in the CPC among the Liberals, but there most certainly are some of those types among the NDP (though there aren’t as many NDP bloggers who castigate other Dippers as being "softies". I am not sure why.  Perhaps something to do with the medium, similar to why most talk radio call-ins tend to be angry right wingers, rather than angry left wingers?)  I think this may be because the CPC and NDP cover off the radical ends of the spectrum, and it seems that the more one cares about ideological consistency, the more likely one will be to criticize fellow partisans who don’t share the same zeal for principles.

  • Walkswithcoffee

    Yup.

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