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Stephen Harper’s End Times

October 14, 2008

Tomorrow is election day and it’s looking like that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will once again win. And once again, they’ll be prevented from reaching majority territory.

Oh Sure, He Looks Like a Decent Guy, But What Lurks Beneath?

Oh Sure, He Looks Like a Decent Guy, But What Lurks Beneath?

The rise and fall of Conservative fortunes after a public backlash has been a consistent theme ever since the Alliance and Progressive Conservatives merged a few years ago.

In 2004, Paul Martin and the Liberals held onto power and became the first in a succession of minority governments. When the Conservatives began to gain in the polls, Martin began to warn of the imminent threat of Harper’s socially conservative agenda (particularly the implementation of religiously-motivated beliefs). Harper tanked in the polls and Martin was handed a minority government.

In 2006, Martin once again brought out his tried-and-tested warning, but the tactic had worn thin. Martin’s minority became Harper’s minority, more because of Liberal exhaustion than anything else. The Liberal brand had sagged under the sponsorship scandal. Martin was branded an indecisive ditherer. And frankly, Harper looked more like a prime minister than Martin.

This year, there’s been a slightly different version of the same story. The Conservatives looked invincible. They were close to majority territory in the polls (40%). They had proven themselves as the kings of bite-sized election promises and well-managed campaigns. Plus the Liberals looked unprepared to govern, with an unpopular leader and poorly run campaign.

And then something happened. The Danny Williams ABC message, “Anything But Conservative,” finally took hold. It’s unlikely that the Newfoundland and Labrador premier really had much to do with the fall of the Conservatives, as much as he might have wanted. There were other factors: Stephen Harper’s sweater, a series of high profile blunders, the new place of environment in public consciousness, an impotent Conservative environmental platform, and of course, the recent economic armageddon.

But could it also be that people remember Paul Martin’s dire warnings?

Let a right-wing kook run the country unhindered, Martin might say, and we will have another George W. Bush (or a new evangelical warrior, Sarah Palin).

I think that this message is in the back of many minds, although the Liberals don’t seem to be prospering because of it. And while the connection of Harper and Bush hasn’t gotten too much mileage, the ideological link between Harper and Palin has occasionally popped up.

Once example is in Vancouver Sun columnist Douglas Todd’s blog. Todd is an award-winning religion journalist who has commented frequently and passionately about the upcoming U.S. elections. He is an excellent mind and his blog is well worth following. In one of his recent posts, however, he argues that Harper and Palin might hold the same scary beliefs about the End Times. The post is complimented by a description of the conservative Christian theology known as “dispensationalism.” A link is made between Palin’s pentecostalism and Harper’s participation in the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination.

Anyway, if you read the post, you’ll see that I commented on it.

As someone with evangelical credentials, I don’t buy the Harper-Palin connection because it’s too easy, too sexy, and too conspiratorial. I’m glad that Harper will only get a minority, because quite frankly, I think he has shirked his duty on climate change. I don’t think, however, that Harper’s religious convictions are that germane to his political credibility, because everybody has beliefs, values, ethics, and ways of understanding the world. And in the political climate of Canada, we’re all aware that other people have different values and beliefs, and it doesn’t need to be part of most election platforms.

So let’s put the religious kook thing to rest… unless Harper starts claiming his policy is God’s will.

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