Harper playing the role of “bubble boy”

With the latest evidence of Harper cleansing his campaign crowds, scrubbing the rooms, restricting access so only robotic supporters remain, a dangerous theme for the Conservatives is starting to gel. I note an uptick in Conservative supporters whining about the media, which is further anecedotal proof of a campaign coming off the rails.

This frame of a Harper as "bubble boy", restricting the media, not interacting with Canadians, going so far as to check out rally participants and deny access for the most baseless of rationale, it’s all congealing into something of real consequence. Harper likes to portray himself as the anti-elitist, grassroot populist. Students of Canadian politics know it’s a bunch of bunk, but to the busy Canadian, they can be sold, repetitive messaging can offset reality. However, when an election comes people do start to tune in, and now that they are to a certain degree, they are bombarded with countless examples of Harper as anything but the populist, more a man afraid of Canadians than connected to them. Contrasted with Ignatieff, Layton offering diametrically opposed campaign style, and Harper’s predicament becomes more pronounced.

I’m not sure just how much "bubble boy" can resonate, move numbers, but I think it foolish for apologists to dismiss out of hand. People don’t like the idea of a closed off politician, manipulating the optics, it comes off as phoney, it smells artificial, it’s not flattering in the least. Moreover, with each successive example, the frame gains steam and it becomes an election theme. A stark contrast is present, everytime Ignatieff wades into an unscripted event, Harper’s approach is that much more unaccountable, almost undemocratic.

What Canadians are starting to see is the Harper political junkies have seen in Ottawa for some time, all the "under the radar" control freak, paranoid, message management stuff, that is really a hallmark of his reign. You can argue all day long about resonance, but there is no disputing Harper doesn’t look good, these examples aren’t helpful in drawing voters, at best a non factor, at worst a DISTINCT TURNOFF. As well, when you are continually answering questions about your controlling nature, it’s hardly what your war room welcomes, hardly a desirable development. A frame is forming, and it isn’t flattering.

Click HERE to read more from Steve Val.

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