While they are, sadly, all-too-often successful, cynical political maneuvers do sometimes come back to bite their practitioners in the ass. And that is exactly what has happened this week to Stephen Harper and the Conservative reelection campaign.
Hoping to take advantage of deeper Conservative pockets, Harper called what was by far the longest election in modern Canadian political history and at the halfway mark, in a campaign that during a normal length election would have already ended, is beginning to be deluged by one damaging revelation or action after another by Conservative candidates or people associated with them.
This is especially ironic as the Conservatives charged out of the gate using "gotcha" political tactics by, for example, taking the quotes of opponent's candidates out of context or using comments they made as teenagers against them.
The wheels have come off the Conservative bus -- prompting some clever person out there on the internet to even fake a widely shared and very funny picture purporting to show literally that!
Among the avalanche of bad news is:
- Scarborough candidate Jerry Bance, who had owned a home renovation business, turning out to have been caught on hidden camera urinating in a client's coffee mug while on the job and in their house
- Toronto candidate Tim Dutaud who turns out to have been behind You Tube videos that involved pranks that were sexist and that mocked people with learning disabilities
- An Ontario Conservative riding association director and campaigner who was dismissed after having been found to have made comments calling native people "self-loathing" and saying of them that "They’re allowed to break every law we have and bankrupt the country”, in addition to making disparaging comments about the new Mrs. Universe who is Cree
- Another Toronto area candidate, Konstantin Toubis, who shared a variety of Facebook posts in Russian that are full of sophomoric sexist and homophobic "advice" and who did so after becoming the candidate
- The surfacing of a very clear "pattern of anti-First Nations racism" in the actions and comments of two Conservative candidates as well as some Conservative staff
- Just today, Conservative candidate Larry Miller, already notorious for some past dog-whistle comments about the niqab, tweeted a farcical set of supposed "Communist rules for revolution" so obviously fake that not even a member of the John Birch Society would be likely to take them at face value
This series of actions and comments that are some combination of crude, ugly, idiotic, racist, sexist or homophobic also serves to reinforce the picture of the Conservative mentality that came into focus during the same week that saw the Syrian refugee crisis explode onto the Canadian election scene after the death of toddler Alan Kurdi.
The Conservative response, from Chris Alexander's disastrous interview with Rosemary Barton, to Conservative efforts to obfuscate and distort what has, in fact, been their appalling record with regards to helping Syrian refugees find safety in Canada, to the almost unbelievably vile cry of "How many kids drowned in pools in Canada since last summer? Do you blame the government for that?" from a Conservative heckler trying to drown out a reporter's questions, has truly laid bare what the party and the government is really all about and what types of mindsets and mentalities can be rather easily found in abundance among its MPs, candidates and supporters.
As a result of all of these factors the Conservative campaign, despite originally being so tightly scripted and managed and despite its fear-mongering, has begun to tank and the odds of its re-election are becoming smaller everyday.
It should, then. come as no surprise that to help reinvigorate his slumping campaign Harper has turned to an Australian strategist, Lynton Crosby, who "Joan Bryden of the Canadian Press labelled...a master of "dog whistle politics,""
Of course he would. And we can anticipate that the rhetoric of fear, loathing and division will be ramped up to an ever higher fever pitch as election day approaches.