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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 2 October 2015

Why the Bloc Should Love Lynton Crosby

There's no magic in what Crosby does - it's just math.  What makes him stand out is his simple, calculated way of using wedge-politics on the "what matters to them" piece.  With political manipulators like Crosby, what matters is as much about what you fear as what you believe in.

Hence, the niqab thing.

It's blown up of late to become the latest defining issue in a campaign that's gone through several (Duffy, the Syrian Refugee crisis, etc).  It's also one of the least significant issues in Canadian politics right now - things like, I dunno, youth employment, the silver surge, mental health, our economy, etc. are kinda more crucial to the big picture.

Winning elections isn't about solving problems, though - it's about motivating people to vote for you and not vote for the other guy, with a sub-set of divide-and-conquer of the other parties and community groups.

People like Lynton Crosby aren't paid to worry about the big picture - their job is to get their people across the finish line with the most seats, period.

So, while the niqab issue is a tempest in a teapot impacting a fraction of a fraction of the population, the Harper Conservatives have managed to spin it into a fundamental test of Canadian values and whatnot.  It's demonstrably working for them.

The basic frame is this - covering one's face during a swearing-in ceremony is the moral equivalent of wrapping baby Jesus in the Canadian flag along with your passport, lighting everything on fire, putting the flaming bundle into a car with a cup of pee and driving that car into the War Memorial.

Shocking, ghastly stuff that stands against everything Canada stands for.

What people are really taking away from it, of course, is simpler and more emotional - them people that think differently and dress differently have something to hide, a secret agenda, and that's dangerous.  We need to push back.

It's firewall mentality; it's pure laine mentality.  It implies there is a set old stock Canada that people are yearning to desecrate; the only ones who can stop this tide and keep troubles from lapping at our shores are, you guessed it, Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney and the CPC.

There's clearly an appetite for this kind of message.  If the Tories can keep it up, they will effectively wash away the taint of the Senate Scandal and broader criticism of Harper's increasingly authoritarian rule.

Yay for Crosby; job well done, pay his fee and pour the Scotch.  His reputation as a campaign wizard remains intact.

The spin-off repercussions of this play aren't his problem; he collects his cheque and goes home.

Meanwhile, the pushing of ethnic/cultural issues to the fore of the election for wedge-political gain is pouring gas on already-existing xenophobic sentiment in this country.  CSIS itself has clearly stated that ISIS presents less of a threat to Canada than White Supremacists, yet pushing this button helps them to push their agenda as well.

Meanwhile, Quebec has a history of seeing itself as a culture and value-set under threat; language laws, religious garb bans, etc. have defined its relationship with Canadians as much as the separatist movement has.

By pushing the niqab issue into the limelight, Crosby and co. have reinforced the emotional narrative of values and community under threat by culture-usurping outsiders that clearly has some appeal inside Quebec.

That probably has something to do with the Bloc's bump in popularity, as they frame themselves as protectors of traditional Quebec in much the same way Harper presents himself as champion of Old Stock Canada.

If the Bloc sees this is working, they may very well double-down on Crosby's position to stir up more support for themselves.  For their part, Crosby and Team Harper should be delighted by this - a stronger Bloc in Quebec bleeds support potential from the Liberals and/or NDP, strengthening their lead.

It's a numbers game, remember.

What does a resurgent Bloc bolstered on a xenophobic message of foreign values and customs threatening traditional culture mean for Canada - especially with a wave of Syrian refugees, many who might end up in Montreal, on the way?

Who else might seize upon this carefully-constructed wedge-issue to push their own agendas which may not align with what most see as traditional Canadian-ness?

Again, none of this is Crosby's problem; he's just a hired gun.

It's the rest of us that will have to deal with the consequences of these short-sighted moves.

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