The Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador are politically deaf. They only hear themselves.
Former fisheries minister Trevor Taylor used his Telegram column on Monday to issue a few hypocritical tut tuts about the state of public discussion in the province.
Too negative he whined, sounding for all the world like someone was holding a small dog turd under his nose as he typed. His political pals on da Twitter chimed in as they are programmed to do.
Shortly after 1:30, government house leader Darin King rose in the House on a point of order. He wanted the Speaker to suspend Gerry Rogers from the House of Assembly not for something Rogers said or even endorsed but merely because her name appeared on a group critical of government on which some moron had posted threats against the Premier.
The Tories sealed the triple play when Speaker Ross Wiseman ruled that while there was no evidence on the face of it that Rogers was guilty of endorsing the threats, he would invent a reason to condemn her anyway.
They are blind, too.
They don’t understand that these sorts of political attacks turn people against them. What used to work for them – or more accurately the stuff that seemed to work - when they were at the top of the polls is actually the wrong idea now that they are in the political basement.
The Tories are under political attack these days. Since 2003 they have known only one way to deal with the pressure. It’s got a few aspects to it.
First, they deploy the argument that everyone should place nice and stop being so negative. People who aren’t all that familiar with politics these days will nod approvingly because the principle of civilized debate is what we all support. It’s like motherhood and patridgeberry jam.
What the uninitiated will miss is the Conservative meaning of the words “negative” and “positive” isn’t the same as the meaning for normal people. Positive means anything that supports what the Conservatives are doing. Negative is everything else. Everything.
The federal Conservatives think the same way. Romney and Tea Party Republicans think the same way. There is no room for discussion and dialogue like adults. There can be no compromise or accommodation There is only the way they want to go.
After 2007, this sort of rhetoric hit its megalomaniacal peak. There’s a famous interview with Rex Murphy, the ex-pat turned Torontonian safari journalist in which the Old Man declared himself to be the same thing as the core of the entire society:
“I think I represent in my own heart and soul the hearts and souls of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”
That’s what he said. Word for exact word. That was just one example. The Old Man seemed to confuse Hisself and the Province a lot, as SRBP noted in 2008.
Only a handful of people seemed to think this sort of thinking was peculiar, if not potentially dangerous. It’s the sort of thinking, though, that justified the excesses of the Conservatives in attacking people all over the place for merely voicing an opinion about something other than the Conservative one.
Their position is arrogant.
It is abusive.
And it is fundamentally anti-democratic.
Remember all the talk of traitors in 2008 or dissidents in Stephenville in 2005? Well, that’s a logical extension of thinking that you - individually or collectively - have the right to speak for everyone.
What happened in the House on Tuesday is another aspect of the old Conservative tactic. They’ve attacked Yvonne Jones. They laced into Jim Bennett and called out one of their political servants to join in. Gerry Rogers is just the latest victim. Rogers is probably used to it, though. The Conservatives have been targeting her since she defeated Shawn Skinner in October 2011.
What the Conservatives aren’t is mute and that’s where they really hurt themselves. As one of their last acts in office, the Old Man and his staff broke provincial privacy laws to pursue their vendetta against one local journalist. They fired one political appointee for a joke on facebook that wouldn’t have gotten half as much attention if they hadn’t fired her for the tasteless comment. Jerome Kennedy broke the privacy laws to attack someone during a dispute. Steve Kent, for example piled onto the Rogers smear with the same enthusiasm he displayed last year in smearing a group of lawyers who opposed Muskrat Falls.
This latest attack is so obvious contrived and Wiseman’s ruling is so obviously a biased, partisan travesty that Rogers is enjoying both an unprecedented level of personal attention but the kind of support she hasn’t seen before.
As it is, Rogers has won this encounter already. Criticism of the Conservatives will undoubtedly mount and that is before the House turns to discuss the 2013 budget and the new tax on telephones. The only way they could make it any better for themselves is to call the Cartwright-L’anse au Clair by-election for the middle of May.
Next month CRA will be in the field again. Odds are that even CRA will not be able to miss the further decline of Conservative support in the province. The Conservatives will have no one to blame but themselves.