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Team Harper: Is it neo-conservative or not?

Olaf of the Prairie Wrangler and I recently debated whether Harper and his government could be defined as being neo-conservative in their views or not. (or “neo-cons” as they are known in the US) While I agreed with Olaf that the original meaning behind the definition of what it is to be called a neo-conservative has been lost, it seems I’m not the only one who thinks that Harper may fit this term.

James Travers of the Star (who I dont think has been any great friend of the Liberals), looks at that in his column today, and while he states that they aren’t totally neo-conservative, they’re pretty close:

While sharing distinctive neo-con characteristics – paternal queasiness with social permissiveness and a willingness to rev up big government machinery – these Conservatives also have other traits – individualism over group responsibility and occasional bouts of ideological purity — that are more common among classical conservatives and even libertarians… But in politics perception passes for reality. So it’s no great surprise that Prime Minister Harper is now trying so hard to convince the country that his government is new and not so much neo-conservative.

He goes through a list of policies that to him fit into the neo-=conservative mould, and his conclusion is:

There’s nothing new in playing politics with policy. There is, however, something neo-conservative in those now distancing this government from its predecessors, urban voters and civil service.

I agree,and its up to us to highlight that now and in the next election campaign. This government is far right of mainstream Canadian politics, and we need to hammer that home.


12 comments to Team Harper: Is it neo-conservative or not?

  • lrC

    >ideologically right wing and well to the right of the political mainstream

    That description fits several variations of “conservative”, as well as “libertarian”. You haven’t provided anything to distinguish Harper as a “neo-con”, which leaves us back at “Harper” = “neo-con” = “Bush”, ie. calling names.

  • scott

    well harper uses the same advisors as the republicans in the states so this has a bearing on his policies even through they might be watered down harper is trying to slowly get Canadians to accepts his right wing ideologies

  • I think they are Republican rather than neo-con. Certainly their intellectual inspirations and heroes come from the Republican Party.

  • I think Harper in the strictest definition is not a neo-conservative since the very strict definition refers to a group of Democrats at the University of Chicago who switched to the Republicans in the 60s over disagreements on the Vietnam War. However, Stephen Harper is most definitely a neo-conservative in the modern day definition. Today neo-conservative simply refers to someone who is ideologically right wing and well to the right of the political mainstream. Like many political labels they have different meanings in different time periods. Liberal use to mean for much smaller government a 100 years ago, while today Liberal generally means being centrist, socially liberal, and supporting the welfare state.

  • lrC

    This constant quest to write the equation “Harper” = “neo-con” = “Bush” = “scary monster” by fitting the data to the curve reminds me of Terry Jones guiding ignorant villagers in their quest to burn a duck … I mean, witch.

  • Scott,

    I was kind of disappointed with Travers column (as I often am), but this time just because he didn’t really talk about the Harper government being neo-con or not as I expected from your post. I don’t doubt that you could draw some similarities with neo-conservatives, as you really could with most centre/ centre-right/ right-wing governments.

    Sure, you could speculate all day long that “deep down” he’s a neo-con, however this isn’t borne out by his performance in government and opposition. He has just too many conflicting policy positions to brand him as if he somehow fit nicely within a neo-con mold.

    I think Harper has some neo-conservative tendencies, some libertarian, some neo-liberal (which I think most people are referring to when they call him a neo-conservative), some classical conservative, and even some contemporary liberal viewpoints and positions (eg. Medicare). And at the same time, he’s seems to be willing to toss any of these out of the window where politically expedient. To try to peg him as one of these exclusively, let alone principally, is folly, methinks.

    Using the neo-con label is a useful (and disingenuous) political tool in evoking scary images of Bush, and pandering to anti-American (or if you prefer, anti-Bush) sentiment. I see little other value in it.

    I had one more thought… what was it? Oh… right… :em36:

  • you should read the rest of the article

    I will, I will, I just have to recover first from the idea that Travers isn’t really a Liberal. *grin*

    if you’re referring to me as being the “Liberal parrot” and that Travers does it more eloquently

    Um…no. Just saying that Travers takes talking points created by the Liberal party, and turns them into something more eloquent.

  • Neo Conservatives??? I am using the phrase neo Reformers because that is Harper’s roots and the roots of his closet friends and advisers. Look at the loyalty shown to incompetent former Reform MP’s like Rob Anders, who couldn’t win his nomination in Calgary so Harper simply confirmed him.

    The old Atlantic red tories are not very influential in Harper’s Caucus.

    NeoCon simply does not apply to what these folks are all about.

  • Olaf: link fixed to reflect your column.

  • Scott,

    Thanks for the shout-out. I’m glad you brought this up – I’ll read the Travers article and respond here. However, if you want to change my link to the specific post where I argue that Harper’s no neo-con, here it is, aptly entitled, Harper’s no neo-con.

    Sincerely, :em36:

  • Idealistic Pragmatist:

    I guess I’m looking at it from the standpoint that first he was a Martin schill (who I had no great love for) and I’ve not seem him be particularly kind to Dion in his writings.

    Perhaps a Liberal writer, but not a member of the Liberal wing that I affiliate with politically.

    And really IP, I thought you NDPer’s were open-minded – you should read the rest of the article 🙂 .. even to see if you agree with his assessment or not.

    Also.. if you’re referring to me as being the “Liberal parrot” and that Travers does it more eloquently, leaving aside the first part of that (which I dispute that I am), Travers is paid to be a new journalist.. he SHOULD be more eloquent in any point he makes then I.

  • James Travers of the Star (who I dont think has been any great friend of the Liberals)


    I’m sorry, the rest of this post is probably very good, but I’m far too dumbfounded by this part to read any further. Travers parrots Liberal talking points on a regular basis (though more eloquently). He more or less openly campaigned for Bob Rae during the leadership campaign. The man’s not only a friend of the Liberals, he is a Liberal.

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