These morsels are, of course, just the appetizers of the meal from hell that Harper has been dishing up for five years. It gets depressing listing them all -- over and over again -- hoping that at some point there will be a critical mass of vicious, autocratic, hyper-partisan actions that will finally create the outrage which will liberate us from this man and his un-government.
Have people adjusted to this new normal in Canadian national politics to the extent that they don't even recognize the newest outrage? Do they -- and I realize that most Canadians still do reject this government and its mean little dictator -- simply ratchet down their expectations of what kind of behaviour is to be expected of politicians? Is there a limit to bad political news beyond which people experience a numbing effect -- like soldiers and other experience during war time? I know friends of mine who were political junkies now avoid the news and political conversations.
One of the successes of the political right over the past 25 years has been its lowering of people's expectations of what is possible -- that is, what is possible from government. Campaigns focused on the deficit in the early 1990s, huge cuts to social spending by Paul Martin as finance minister, the relentless propaganda that we can't afford anything any more (despite the fact that we are twice as wealthy per capital today as when Medicare was established) and the general demonization of government and government employees, has had a terrible impact on people's trust in government. And of course when you cut funding to services they do inevitably deteriorate and further convince people that government just can't do it any more.
It's only a matter of time that those lowered expectations begin to erode participation in elections -- the process that creates government. If you believe that government won't deliver the goods no matter who you vote for it could get harder and harder to convince yourself that it's worth voting. Then add in Harper's importation of the hateful political tactics of the U.S. Republican Party and you have what may be, for many people, the last straw.
But if Canadians succumb to this political malaise they will be engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Harper gets a majority because another five per cent of Canadians stay away from the polls (a disproportionate number of absentees are Liberal and NDP voters) we really will have a situation in which government will not deliver -- because Harper will dismantle much of what is left.
Perhaps if people realized that their distaste for politics is no accident but the result of a 25 year campaign to lower their expectations, and their democratic participation, they would not give up so easily. I hope that is the case as we get closer to a possible election. As people again try to apply strategic voting in close ridings, it seems to me that one strategy that we haven't pushed at all is simply this: don't even think about not voting.
While Canadian politics may seem at its lowest ebb possible things can change anywhere with amazing speed (think Egypt). But if we abandon politics and the civil society foundation it rests on, we are contributing to our own demise. Remember, Harper is like a mild depression: you think it's going to last forever. But it doesn't -- eventually it goes away.