“The Economy, Stupid” was actually not James Carvilles’s main war-room slogan in 1992. The first of three mottos hand-written on a piece of paper in the Clinton campaign headquarters was “Change Vs. More of the Same.” (“Don’t Forget Health Care” was third.)
Clinton/Carville/Begala ’92 is not one of the history-making campaigns Stephen Harper’s brain trust likes to study for clues, but it is instructive for our purposes this morning, because the Prime Minister made it clear at Rideau Hall that he, too, plans to run on Change vs. More of the Same. Except Harper is the incumbent, so he’s running as hard as he can against change. This campaign will, in some small way, seek to be the Revenge of Bush 41.
You know how Canadians are a bold nation of risk-takers and entrepreneurs? Yeah, forget that. For Harper ’08, risk and change are the enemy. Fear the enemy. Master the enemy. “Canada cannot afford risky experiments at a time of uncertainty,” says the splash page on the New, Sober, Responsible conservative.ca website. And the Prime Minister’s message was cut from the same grey-flannel cloth (or was it sweater-vest fabric? You think it’s easy to make metaphors?) at Rideau Hall.
For two elections in a row, the Paul Martin Liberals deployed the formidable resources of the state and the then-still-healthy-ish Liberal Party to portray Stephen Harper as a reckless insurgent. Now he launches his first campaign as Prime Minister by portraying himself as the only thing keeping Canadians from the abyss. My publisher wanted the title of my book to be Topsy Turvy, and every once in a long while I think he may have had a point.
More later. I’m off to an airport to fly around with the Prime Minister for much of the week. The Conservatives are very competitive, so I’m told they will not take off until they can stock their plane with one of the features of the Liberal campaign jet: throat singers.