Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Who ARE those guys?

A squib in the newspaper caught my eye this a.m. An apologist for the New Conservatives (party co-chair John Baird it was) jumped nimbly on the new party line, agreeing with the pundits and pooh-poohers who claim their loss was solely due to "the Liberal party’s fear campaign and the missteps of a handful of rogue Conservative candidates".
Personally, I don’t agree (but then I wouldn’t would I?) because I believe that anyone who was daft enough to base their vote solely on the campaign commercials was just as likely to be turned off - or even on - by the Conservative message. Or possibly deserved what they got…
That, plus, I further believe that the Conservatives do have a secret agenda; the coyness and obfuscation offered up by Steven Harper in response to questions about his plans for use of the Notwithstanding Clause (for instance) made interpreting his answers an exercise in ambiguity.
(Folks whose religious views - of any type or stripe - inform their opinions make me mighty nervous, and Steven Harper, let me tell you, makes me very, very nervous indeed.)
But it was Baird’s comments eschewing the scattered nutterguff spouted by Conservatives such as Randy White (“To heck with the courts, eh?”) and MPs Rob Merrifield and Cheryl Gallant (anti-abortion mutterings) that struck a sour note.
“Randy White and Cheryl Gallant do not speak for the party on these social issues,” said Baird. “Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris had the right formula; you can be a solid Conservative while staying away from social issues.”
You can?
Baird, MPP for Nepean-Carleton and former Harris cabinet minister presumably believes this – but why? The fact that he isn’t aware that many of the New Conservative party members – particularly those whose votes delivered the ridings of the Bible Belt west, and therefore the majority of new seats - are there specifically because of the party’s (sotto voce during the run up to election) take on social issues like same sex marriage and abortion rights is worrying in the extreme. Or perhaps he like many other blue Tories would rather live in a Cloud Cuckooland where those whose fundamentalist views differ from the opinions of the disgruntled Liberals they'd like to attract would somehow magically disappear – their usefulness and their votes no longer wanted on the journey.
So who do these people represent, and more importantly, who represents them?
I may disagree (vehemently) with them, may unfairly stereotype them, or describe them in terms neither they nor their families would find flattering (nattering nutbars of negativism or somesuch) even be nervous of their fundamentalist beliefs and prefer not to be seated next to them at a revival meeting, but I do sincerely believe that they deserve representation, particularly when they had every reason to believe they were represented – that their opinions were valued – and that their votes actually counted for something.
If anyone deserved to be really mad about their leadership, feel they’d been lied to, used and thrown carelessly aside, it’s the grass roots of a party who are now being used as an excuse for why their candidates didn’t do better.
Is it possible now to get some straight answers? Now that the votes – for the time being anyway - have been made and counted? Does the Conservative party represent Tories of all stripes, leaning heavily toward these solidly ‘uninterested-in-social-issues-just-the-economy-stupid' members, or do they in fact also represent and value the people whose red necks made unwelcome the party’s former proud tradition of red Toriedom?
There's something unutterably hypocritical about a group of people using another for the benefits a short term alliance with them can bring. But now that the New Conservatives are properly established, they really don't need the people who all but brought them there. And it looks as though they don't want them; they're an embarrassment - a reminder of their fundamentalist wacky right wing genesis. Like a homely girl used and abused, then discarded when someone more attractive comes along, these new New Conservatives have caught a glimpse of the mainstream and with just the right cutting and pruning they believe it can be theirs.
Can they do it? Can they lure back the red Tories and toss their far right wing supporters over the side?
I don’t really know – it’s all rather murky still. But if I remember anything from my Sunday school classes it’s that betrayal and denial was central to the creation of Christianity – which may ironically represent the sole nod to the Christian wing of the party as the fundamental truth about the New Conservatives continues to evolve.
Post Script @5:55 p.m....
Jim Flaherty announces his candidacy for leadership of the provinicial Conservatives and describes the party thusly:
"There are two wings in the Conservative party - the red Tories and the mainstream..."

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