Stephen Harper and his operatives in the Conservative War Room have determined exactly who they want to show up at the polls on May 2. They don't want YOU.
In 2008, only 59 per cent of those eligible to vote did so. The Conservatives hope the turnout will fall further still. And they are doing everything they can to get 40 per cent of those who do vote to vote Conservative. That 40 per cent needs to be carefully spread out across the country, with particular attention to several dozen ridings that are up for grabs in the lower mainland of B.C. and on Vancouver Island, in suburban Manitoba, on the edges of the Greater Toronto Area donut, in southwestern Ontario, in the region around Quebec City, and in targeted locations in the Atlantic Provinces.
Here's the profile of those they'd like to see at the polls: white men over fifty, especially those who don't spend much time in city centres; Christian fundamentalists; those in "ethnic" communities who have been vetted by Jason Kenney (a leaked memo exposed the Conservative plan to harvest votes from those they depict as "ethnics"); gun owners; youngish neo-cons who want to grow up to be like David Frum (not a large demographic); and, of course the rich, as well as those who think they will be rich. Women are generally unreliable; and the young are a downright menace. If you're under twenty-five, Harper almost certainly wants you to pass on voting. Look what happened to the nineteen-year-old woman who was muscled out of a Harper rally because Conservative spooks found a picture of her on Facebook side-by-side with Michael Ignatieff.
If all goes according to the War Room plan, the Conservatives should win a bare majority of seats in the House of Commons. With 59 per cent of Canadians voting and 40 per cent of those who do vote choosing Conservative candidates, the planners are counting on winning a majority of seats with the support on election day of 23.6 per cent of Canadians who are eligible to vote.
This is no old-time Canadian election in which party leaders use the biggest megaphone they can find to reach the largest number of Canadians through newspapers and the television networks. In those old-time elections, about 75 per cent of those eligible actually voted.
For Harper's War Roomers, the idea is to keep the various bits of the message as narrowly focused as possible to hit those who are targeted without riling up those not intended to hear parts of the message that are not for them. Take the Conservative pledge -- I don't use the term Tory to depict these Reformers-Without-Stetsons -- to kill the long-gun registry as an example. The Harperites have selected the ridings they believe Conservatives can pick up from other parties by focusing on the gun registry -- the NDP-held seat in Welland in Southern Ontario is a case in point.
There, Harper hammers home the pledge to eliminate the gun registry. But it's not a message he wants people in the GTA, not too far away from Welland, to hear. People in the GTA generally support the gun registry. In the GTA, Harper would rather talk about the benefits of "stability" that supposedly flow from majority government, as he recently did, to a selected group of influential representatives of those described by the Conservatives as "ethnic" media organizations, mostly newspaper publishers.
For every target audience, there is a message. For corporate Canada, the message is the lowest corporate taxes on offer. For high-income families, the message is tax cuts through income splitting, although not until the deficit has been eliminated (don't hold your breath). For the oil patch, the message is full speed ahead with the oil sands, the environment be damned. For communities close to military bases, the message is that austerity applies to everybody but the military.
Lower voter turnout is not just a lucky break for the Conservatives. Right-wing political parties have been assiduously working to lower voter turnout in Canada, the U.S. and Europe for several decades. While running for office, the leaders of these parties denigrate government, those who work for governments and the benefits to society that flow from government programs. They promote the idea that politicians are cynics who are "all the same," "in it for themselves" and "not to be trusted." (The rich, who DO vote, know that whatever the ethical merits of those who hold leadership positions of right-wing parties, they can always be counted on to back business against labour and to spend billions bailing out the banks when that is required.)
Negative advertising, it has long been known, has the effect of driving down voter turnout in the electorate at large.
No, Stephen Harper does not want YOU to vote. His plan is to tranquilize the majority of Canadians into a state of torpor while he takes complete control of the instruments of the Canadian state.
This article was originally published on James Laxer's blog.