The united right's delusions of grandeur will land it in neverland
Like all the recent corporate mergers and convergences that have burned billions of investors’ dollars over the past several years, the merger of the Progressive Conservatives and Alliance pays tribute to the logical error known as “the fallacy of composition.” That’s when two rights make a wrong, or two correct premises lead to a false conclusion. It’s one of many reasons why the new organization will come to be known as Dead Ducks Unlimited.
Premise one in false composition is that two organizations are spending a lot of energy competing against each other even though they have many things in common, especially anger at the third organization that’s doing better than either of them. Premise two is that the third organization doesn’t do as well as the other two when their shares are added up.
The false conclusion is that Loblaws and the Bay should merge to head off Wal-Mart, or that loose cannons from the West should be put in one remainder bin with odds and sods from the East in an effort to win bargain hunters from central Canada.
The unity assumption comes from the silly belief that both the Progressive Conservatives and the Alliance had a small-c conservative heritage or voter base to start with. The old PCs were the people who created the nationalized Canadian National Railways and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, not to mention publicly owned Ontario Hydro, Ontario Place, the Ontario Science Centre and TVOntario, and let’s not forget that social and environmental funding by Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney was much to the left of anything defunded by the Chretien and Martin Liberals. Not much there that corresponds with what the new Conservative Party of Canada will ever call conservative.
The old Alliance borrowed a lot of economic ideas from 18th-century liberals, but there wasn’t a lot of conservatism behind the central platforms of an elected Senate and holding MPs directly accountable to their voters – both old populist and farm movement standbys.
Then there’s the even sillier notion that people vote for a political party on the basis of its pure political philosophy. Only geeks vote on this basis.
Back in the 80s, there was hope linked to a California trend known as as Atari Democrats (note the identification with a failed computer company) that neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism – same difference – could survive on the strength of free market values without any of the embarrassing bigotry usually associated with far-right social views.
Logically possible, except that the law of the jungle is a tough sell to all but lions. To go down in Jerk Falls or Smashed Elbow, the stiff drink of law-of-the-jungle economics needs to be swilled back with a resentment-laced chaser. Think anti-Easterner, anti-immigrant, anti-gay. No group of extreme economic conservatives has been able to withstand this bigotry pressure for long, even though giving in to it means instant political death in mainstream Canada.
That’s why the new Conservative Party of Canada is damned if it does stick with pure conservative economics and damned if it doesn’t.
On top of that, none of the supports for social conservatism in the United States are available to conservative politicians in Canada. In place of evangelical Protestants who combine pagan worship of a warlike diety who blesses America, with private prayer to a personal saviour and verbal devotion to sexual chastity, the dominant churches in Canada have long preached social equity. There’s no one rolling in the aisles here and speaking in tongues in favour of throwing the poor to the wolves.
Canada is more urban and less rural and suburban than the U.S., which explains why Wal-Mart has less influence here, as well as the far right. Our high rate of unionization, almost double that in the U.S. and uniform across the country, means no large area is dominated by voters prone to race- and ethnic-based political appeals, again distinctively different from the U.S.
As well, this country has one national and several provincial publicly owned electronic news outlets, which means that something approaching information is available to all, a seldom-recognized pillar of informed dialogue that marginalizes the rage associated with talk radio and other ditto-head centres of influence.
Canada has Quebec, a fortress against any notion that the market, and no other public or collective value, should monopolize politics.
And Canada is multicultural, with close to half its urban population made up of recent immigrants, legal immigrants at that. There’s no grand-scale history of slavery or race riots to fuel exclusion, bitterness or fear. Slim pickings there for the evangelical Protestantism that only ever sank roots in Alberta, or for any notion that public-funded transit, education or medicine should be cut back.
Sometimes we know very early how a movie will end. In this one, the newly united couple will ride off into the western sunset and that will be the end of it.