Christian Conservative Christian "Independent"

I'm an evangelical Christian, member of the CPC, but presently & unjustly exiled to wander the political wilderness.
All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Harper - the Conservative Trudeau?

Take a look at some the descriptions used of Trudeau in this article...
"Now Trudeau felt deeply about certain political issues, but he never betrayed emotion unless it was on rare occasions, such as the murder of Pierre Laporte. Then you felt his anger. Normally, however, Trudeau approached controversy with a certain calm, as if he were slightly amused and above it all.

"Trudeau was a master of television," says Peter Donolo, former director of communications for Jean Chrétien. "He understood the intimate nature of the medium. His voice rarely rose in television. He was very quiet. He had this kind of charm – there was something inscrutable about it."

McLuhan early perceived that certain types of personalities were more adapted to the television screen than others. "Cool" personalities were good on the tube. "Hot" personalities were not. His definition of "hot" and "cool" was not always clear, but basically hot meant high definition.

"TV is a medium that rejects the sharp personality," McLuhan wrote.

Trudeau's inscrutability, his quiet, elusive persona, made him a natural for an intimate medium.

"You don't talk on television the way you would in a cavernous hall," says Donolo.

"With television, you're invited into people's living rooms and you're having a conversation with them. It's as if you're having 20 million one-on-one conversations, as opposed to addressing 20 million people."
The article was written about Iggy's image vs. Trudeau, but many of the same things can be applied to Mr. Harper. Warren was contacted for this article, and shares some thoughts...
In the hurly-burly of a leadership race, however, he couldn't get away from his favourite mode of self-presentation, which was the lecture hall. There he was superb. But those 20 million people into whose living rooms he was entering via television did not want to be lectured.

The repeated sight of an intense Ignatieff, gripping the podium, with a look in his eyes that was almost scary – a look intensified by his occasional breaking into a toothy, mirthless smile – was far too hot for their television screens.

Trudeau, by contrast, was often playful, especially when introducing variations on the theme of his sex appeal. The rose on his lapel was an iconic image of that playfulness and a kind of imaginative daring, along with the pirouettes behind the Queen and the cape he wore to the Grey Cup game.

"The rose was clearly a deliberate ploy on the part of Keith Davey and his other campaign strategists, who understood the power of the image and traded on it," says Warren Kinsella, former aide to Chrétien and now a political consultant.

Same thing with the cape, which made Trudeau look like a dandy. "That again was deliberate," Kinsella comments. "It's not as if the guys in the stands loved Trudeau when they saw that cape, but they probably admired his balls in wearing it. That's using the image almost in a counter-intuitive way."

Political campaigns, Kinsella knows – and McLuhan understood – are wars of images. Kinsella's own use of Barney the Dinosaur to mock Stockwell Day's alleged Creationist beliefs is a famous instance."
He goes on to point out some of the mistakes made by Iggy during the race, and points out a few things that we could/should/MUST learn from. TVO's Wodek Szemberg contribues with some similar lessons from the 2000 US Election between Al Gore and George W. Bush... lessons that could very well apply to the upcoming battle between Mr. Harper and Mr. Dion...
"What Ignatieff clearly needed was a defining image. 'The suspicion was forming during the leadership race that he was out of touch, a foreigner who had never used public transit and was completely disconnected with the lives of Canadians,' Kinsella recalls. 'He needed something iconic to counter that suspicion.'

Ignatieff failed to come up with that iconic image for the same reason, probably, that he could never come across on the television screen as relaxed and comfortable in his own skin. In McLuhan's terms, he could never cool down.

Instead he gave the impression of living completely in his head, with his faintly unreal alarm over the rift between rural and urban Canada – all the while secretly regarding the whole leadership race as a trial.

"It's a crazy business, politics," comments Kinsella.

"People who submit themselves to it should have their heads read. So you've at least got to have fun."

Ignatieff clearly did not have fun. It may have been because he felt, running in this leadership race, that he was violating his inner nature. TVO producer Wodek Szemberg recalls a recent conference in Boston in which Al Gore appeared, and in the course of his address mentioned Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School, among other high intellectual references. "I understood why he lost the election in 2000," Szemberg comments. "Gore likes being smart much more than he likes being popular."

In that case, you can expect to be beaten by George W. Bush. Ignatieff has a similar problem. He may not yet be reconciled to the role of political campaigner, to the reality of saying things to a television audience that he would never think of saying in the lecture hall. This may also explain his well-publicized gaffes.

"There's a case to be made for some sort of self sabotage on Ignatieff's part," Szemberg comments. "He began by telling himself, `I will sacrifice my freedom to speak my mind for the possibility of landing a powerful position that will allow me to accomplish things in other ways.' Perhaps in the end he was not certain that he was willing to make that trade."

One thing you can count on: If Ignatieff ever does reconcile himself to the role of politician, he had better take another look at McLuhan.
There's a LOT of really good stuff in this article... stuff that we in the CPC ignore at our own peril.

That's what we need... the quintessential, regular "Joe Canadian" image of Mr. Harper that we can push and push and push and push, right up until next election day.

Maybe we can line up a couple of photo ops or announcments at Tim Horton's...

Anyway, any thoughts about my title? Could Mr. Harper be the long-awaited answer to Trudeau? Having read a fair bit on both men, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Harper, the similarities are striking. Their ideological differences are, of course, just about as far apart as you can get, but where Trudeau was brilliant regarding bread and butter Liberal issues, so too is Harper on bread and butter Conservative issues.

Fire away... comments, please.


  • At Mon. Jan. 29, 02:54:00 p.m. EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just a quick bug in the ear of Laureen. Please, for the love of God, do not let Steven wear a cape!

  • At Mon. Jan. 29, 03:39:00 p.m. EST, Blogger Christian Conservative said…


    (but I prefer "for the good of the nation" or "for the love of Pete")

  • At Tue. Jan. 30, 12:14:00 p.m. EST, Blogger vicki said…

    Harper is a keen leader, and I sense that he has a real grasp of the media games, hence the 'irritation' of the PPG because Harper does not play their games, nor does he use them for his benefit.He doesnt need them. I don't recall Trudeaus 'relationship' with the PPG (wasn't tuned in to politics back then), but I do recall an arrogance that he portrayed. The PPG and media are trying to stick 'arrogance' on Harper, but that again is because they are offended by his aloofness toward them.Media also try to pin the 'control freak' label on him. I perceive the disciplined media relations and lack of 'comment' from MP's as respect for his leadership. We really have no idea what goes on in caucas(now that Garth is out) and that is ok with me. Media will spin and distort the least situation, so I'll assume that the MP's have had a course on 'Media Relations 101'. Do you not think that if there was any bitterness or lack of respect from caucas(for being 'stifled' as media like to project)that it would have been out in the open by now...if there were others beside Garth we would have known.Comparing Trudeau and Harper is an interesting task. I see your points, and I'm very glad you clarified the differences in ideals and principles...'as far as east is from west'...
    Warren sounds like he misses being the media middle man...he played the game so well...
    Kind of lengthy...sorry.


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