Weekend reading: On the subject of fear
Most political junkies got their fill of Harper-government retrospectives last weekend, on the fifth anniversary of the Conservatives taking power. But there's one more must-read viewpoint out there this weekend, penned by Andrew Coyne in Macleans. It's headlined: "The Damage Done By Doing So Little," if that helps as a summary.
What's good about this piece, in my view, is that it punctures a myth I kept hearing repeated all last weekend from the punditocracy -- specifically that this government "got the big things right" in the past five years. Coyne, at essence a contrarian, forces us to examine what those "big things" are, beyond a ballooning deficit, which is big indeed.
And if you're still in the mood for some assumption-rattling, then Susan Riley's column in today's Ottawa Citizen serves the same function. Riley, though, is looking ahead rather than backward, laying out the broad scope of a future election campaign, whenever that does come. Specifically, she's talking about the axis of fear:
The ballot question may be what voters fear most: illegal immigrants, rampant crime, Russian bombers and the census taker, or growing income inequality, deteriorating social services and stagnating middle-class incomes.
It's good to see a couple of columnists stepping out from behind the wall of assumptions/talking points in federal politics, which blithely assert that whenever the current government is doing something -- negative ads, spending wildly -- it's doing it from a position of strength. Those silly ads this week, in violation of every private-sector advertising standard (and now pulled), told me something different. Strong, confident political parties don't go on the attack for the sheer joy of it. (Well, maybe political parties composed of 14-year-olds in their basements do, but presumably there are adults in the room somewhere in Conservative Ottawa.)
Every party has attack ads -- true. Liberals had some nasty ones held in reserve always through the campaigns of the 1990s and up to this day. But I think we're forgetting a cardinal rule of politicking -- attack ads are desperate measures, used when absolutely necessary to chip away at an opponent's advantage. If they're being released now, what exactly is the Conservative party seeing to fear out there? And that takes us back to Coyne's column: if your government is all about keeping power, then your biggest fear must revolve around losing it.