The Conservatives, the party for the manly man? Hardly.

Scott Gilmore grew up learning that real men voted Tory

Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander, second from right, speaks with a resident through an interpreter about Afghanistan's upcoming elections in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Tuesday Aug. 16, 2005. (Terry Pedwell/CP)

Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander, second from right, speaks with a resident through an interpreter about Afghanistan’s upcoming elections in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Tuesday Aug. 16, 2005. (Terry Pedwell/CP)

I grew up surrounded by masculine archetypes: bush pilots, farmers, roughnecks and prospectors. To them, the “Marlboro Man” wasn’t some idealized version of manhood; he was a silly model in a clean shirt. These were tough men, worn and scarred, but scared of nothing. And they all voted Conservative.

There really wasn’t much choice. How could you support the other guys? The NDP were effete socialists and the Liberals were equally craven urbanites, frightened of their own shadows. Real men voted Tory.

This was part of a much older and wider convention. In the United Kingdom, the conservative ideals of strength and fortitude were epitomized by Winston Churchill, whose entire persona could be summed up in one line of a speech he gave in Ottawa: “Fear no foe. All will be well.” Later, Margaret Thatcher reinforced this belief that a true conservative was “not for turning.”

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Likewise, Republicans in the United States constantly tied the ideals of masculinity, fortitude and courage to their brand. Consider how they characterized Ronald Reagan versus Jimmy Carter: the tough cowboy versus the sweater-wearing wimp.

For decades, and across the English-speaking world, political conservatism was explicitly associated with undaunted masculinity. But not anymore.

    Now, conservatives are scared of everyone and everything. A skinny brown kid brings a homemade clock to a Texas school. A woman wears a niqab to her Canadian citizenship ceremony. An Alberta mother tries to treat her child’s severe epilepsy with medical marijuana. Everywhere they look, the political right is frightened. While they once imagined themselves as the barrel-chested man’s man, they’ve now become the clichéd housewife standing on a chair, shrieking at a mouse.

    I thought about this after listening to Chris Alexander speak last week. I knew Alexander before he was a Conservative politician. We worked together while he was our ambassador in Afghanistan. I was once instructed to chastise him for his habit of going for daily jogs through central Kabul. His close-protection team would surround him on these runs, but they were no defence against car bombs and lone gunmen. Another time, I sat in his office, a few days after a large explosion had blown all the windows out of the Embassy, and listened to him literally laugh at the danger. Fear no foe. All will be well.

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    That was a long time ago. Now, safely back in Canada, in his suburban riding of Ajax–Pickering, Alexander is frightened. In response to wide public support to increase the number of refugees we accept, the Conservative party grudgingly agreed to accelerate their very modest plan. But their announcement did not emphasize the generous instinct of Canadians, nor the unprecedented humanitarian need. It stressed how scared we should be. “Security screening will remain the top priority,” Alexander assured us.

    Implicit in that statement was the message that we should fear refugees, and the disease and terror and instability they can bring to our country. In fact, every message from the Conservative party highlights something that frightens them. The global economy. Justin Trudeau’s age. Mulcair’s budget. Crime.

    Consider that last danger. Stephen Harper is regularly warning that more must be done to keep us safe, by imposing longer sentences, building bigger prisons, reducing parole. But crime rates in Canada have been declining for decades. There are fewer property crimes now than there were in the 1960s. So why is he so scared?

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    Perhaps it was inevitable. Conservatives everywhere have been campaigning for years on the proposition that they are the strongest and bravest. But, for that to matter, there must be a counter-threat, something that requires a real man like Stephen Harper in office, not a wet academic like Stéphane Dion or a mincing toff like Michael Ignatieff.

    So they talk up the threat. It used to be the commies. Now it’s the terrorists. And the drug dealers. And the brown people. And the reckless spenders. And the environmental activists. And the census takers. Everyone and everything. They’ve spent so long warning us to be constantly afraid, they’ve internalized it. They have literally frightened themselves.

    And now, ironically, the Conservative party is whom you vote for if you are timid and emasculated, if you go to bed scared and wake up worried.

    And what of Chris Alexander, who used to strap on body armour and helicopter into hostile districts to stare down warlords? He’s scared of a young woman in a niqab and a homeless family in Turkey.

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    The Conservatives, the party for the manly man? Hardly.

    1. I enjoyed this…..thank you.

    2. This is by far the best article to describe what a conservative has become. hahaha. Description of Conservative, a person who is timid and emasculated.

      • Oppose it with counter-arguments, sure. To ban it? Aside from the obvious s. 2 Charter problems that would raise – how is forcing someone not to wear something (that she herself says she chooses to wear) any less oppressive than requiring her to wear it? Doesn’t that then make us the oppressor?

        • When immigrants make the choice to come here, they choose to adopt our values and leave their backwards customs that are incompatible with our values at the door. That’s part of the deal. No one is forcing them to do this; they are completely free to turn around and go back home. We should not welcome blatantly oppressive and discriminatory practices into our land with open arms under the idiotic principle of tolerance for all.

          Let me ask you a question. Should we be tolerant of white supremacists running around town wearing KKK hoods and sporting swastikas? Suddenly the absurdity of your “tolerance for all” position becomes apparent.

          Immigrants must be held to the exact same standards as everyone else, and the fact is that the vast majority of our Muslim immigrants seem to have no problem at all with this.

          • KKK are legal in Canada. So are Nazis. We have a Communist party.

            Which values were you referring to again?

            • Do yo ever fact check anything you post? KKK is not legal in Canada, nor are any nazi organizations. Anyone waving a nazi flag or wearing a klan hood in public in Canada – unlike the US – risks being charged under various statutes. Also, members of white supremacist groups in the us are often stopped and turned back at the border. I know cbsa officers who have done just that. You’re free to make things up, just as I am free to point out your obvious fibs.

            • Goat….socially unacceptable yes, illegal no.

              Speaking of sources…….

          • Should we be tolerant of white supremacists running around town wearing KKK hoods and sporting swastikas? … sounds like harper in his Northern Foundation days and you seem to be all over his racist ways

            • Yiou realize that isn’t true right? That you’re just making a fool of yourself by repeating an Internet Hoax? Not one reputable journalist has ever made such a connection.

          • Couldn’t have said it better myself.

            Wipe your feet at the door.

      • Citing a right-wing-biased news site like Latin Post doesn’t exactly bolster your argument. Besides, that very article you quote contains this:
        “Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said Texas teenager Ahmed Mohamed and his parents >>may have<< committed a "purposeful hoax" when they claimed the 14-year-old boy had invented a clock that was mistaken for a bomb by his high school."…
        You're quoting speculation from a Fox News talking head about Ahmed Mohamed as a way to prove that other people are "behind the story"? Stop wasting everyone's time.

        • This is the quality analysis we’ve come to expect from macleans. With its knee jerk progressivist response to every contemporary issue, it has become the magazine version of the Globe and Mail. It is hardly surprising that thinking columnists like Colby Cosh and Andrew Coyne left. They’re a much better fit at the National Post. I don’t know how an incisive, thoughtful columnist like Paul Wells can stick around.

          Progressives spent years telling us how “scary” Stephen Harper is. They openly admitted to being terrified of him. That hasn’t worked, so they took the opposite tack – telling us Conservatives are scared of everything. We don’t fear our enemies – we actively work to defeat them. And yes, this response can be just as knee jerk and ham-fisted as so-called progressive responses to various issues. Unlike progressives, most of us are aware of this weakness in some of our fellow travellers, and simply chose to live with it. Sometimes we go overboard and sometimes we lose – we are not afraid of defeat either.

          • well i hope you are ready for defeat oct 19

            • More than ready. You’re the same clown who made the idiotic Northern Foundation comment above. How does it feel to be to realize you were mindlessly repeating an Internet hoax? I’d love to hear your views on 9/11 and the moon landing.

    3. Remind me, which party is the one telling us that the climate is going to destroy the world unless we do something?

      Go take a look in the mirror.

      • The previous 2 posts are a prime example of timid frightened Cons.

        They’re even scared of a little piece of cloth….which btw is pre-Islamic

        • Go back to telling us how scary Harper is, coward.

          • Harper is scared, not scary…..and his polls are meaninglless

        • emilyone- As a Conservative ,the main thing I am scared of is that there may be more biased non-thinking People just like you.

          • I was PC for 30 years, dude…..even in the Reform party

            Then you went all Donald Trump on me….crackpot city….so I left.

            • No doubt it didn’t take the Reform Party long to purge the likes of you. That is to their credit.

            • Goat….actually I was riding president, and they were upset when I left.

              I went back when they became the CCRAP party……but they hadn’t changed anything….and when Day got in…..I left permanently.

            • Sure you were. You told us you were in the Royal Canadian Airforce a few years back too. I also believe that.

            • Goat….yes, I joined the air force in 1968

              Long before Reform existed.

              At my age there’s a list of things I’ve done.

              Can’t finish the argument, eh?

      • Who’s telling us climate change is going to destroy the world? Nobody.

        Scientists are telling us that climate change will effectively make the world uninhabitable to the human species. The world will still be around, just not people.

        Oh, and before you say “not all scientists”. 97% of scientists say climate change is real and 3% does not. Put another way, if 97% of people say the pill you are about to swallow is poisonous, while 3% say it is perfectly fine, are you going to go with the 3%?

    4. Oddly enough, in rural Newfoundland, where I was born and raised, “real men” don’t vote Tory; never have. Whether fisherman, farmer, miner, or woodsman, they vote Liberal. I doubt it’ll change in this election. Only the “Townies” (people from St. John’s) vote Tory… and even that Conservative bastion is weakening. I’ve long believed that the key difference is that Conservatives try to force an opinion on people, while Liberals allow people to chose for themselves. So, real men don’t let tie-wearing, glad-handing political wannabes make up their minds for them; real men are independent and intelligent enough to be able to think for themselves and to make up their own minds. And if you don’t think fishermen are intelligent thinkers, see how long you’d last out at sea if you can’t think on your feet.

      • Don’t delude yourself, all partisans try to force their views on others with equal zeal. Neither the left nor the right has a monopoly on thought control (both historically and in the present). The irony of speaking about independent thought whilst applauding group-think and partisan politics is palpable.

      • You are the typical progressive in your lack of self-awareness. You think progressives don’t force their opinion on others? I recently witnessed a respected scientist forced to resign his university position because of a comment he made about women in science. This same university accepts massive donations from Saudi Aarabian royalty and has for 30 years. That is but one tiny example. Go read the macleans column written by a food columnist about getting mobbed on Twitter for being “culturally insensitive”. It wasn’t conservatives who invented the concept of “cultural sensitivity” and it isn’t conservatives who use it to bludgeon others into silence. Yes, conservatives can often be bullying, belligerent and ham-fisted. So can progressives. Get over yourselves.

    5. I was ten years old in 1970 when I heard and sawq PET on the telly say “Just watch me.” I got the pin stripes on my ass and the watch chain to hold my cheeks together that minute. What provokes a visceral reaction in a boy in whose town Paul Martin Jr. grew up and dad would drive past the Martin Sr. abode on Sunday after church. My town had Herb Gray, Mark MacGuigan and my friend’s dad would have Eugene Whelan over for dinner. Could never stand the 2 timin’, bait and switch liars, the Liberals. Now those were formidable politicians and they had class. Not even Jean Chretien can hold a candle to those giants. Don’t think Jean and the Honorable Mark MacGuigan got along well, As for fear, the fearsome ones are those afraid of losing the government teat. Hey, this guy is a conservative: Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden vocalist, 57 years old, PhD in Music, Commercial pilot, screenwriter, Professor of History, Writer, Businessman, Fencer. We in our family look to examples like these rather than Range Rover Liberals like Justin. Now, if Justin really knew what liberalism and individual rights and liberties were, I would take a peek at him. Scott, ask the Conservatives why they don’t have a youth wing or campus wings; it’s so the younger generation step up wear big pants and work with the women and the men of the party all together! Manly men?!!! Ever see the Liberal and NDP youth wings on campus? the Nerds of the Nerds movies wouldn’t let them join their fraternity.

    6. This article is so utterly unthinking (silly really) that I am astonished that MacLeans actually chose to publish it. Mr. Gilmore thinks he can win his argument by smearing those on the other side. He stereotypes Conservative views in the most banal and simplistic fashion, as though any one of the issues he chooses to highlight is not even worth discussing.
      This is EXACTLY the reason there is so much political divisiveness these days. If you cannot even fathom that there are valid arguments on both sides of any given issue, I am afraid there is no hope for dialogue about anything in Canada. The “fear” metaphor vs. the manly “Maroboro Man” is evidence of Gilmore’s shallow understanding of the political realm. I do not know any Conservatives who would claim to have identified with the “Maroboro Man” even when macho was in vogue. The Maroboro Man is a stereotype and people (apart from Gilmore) are not that simple minded. Every one of the issues Gilmore identifies — refugees, terrorist threats, wearing a niqab while ostensibly embracing Canadian citizenship, tough on crime legislation, etc. — are all issues worthy of discussion. Not everyone will view these in the same way. But to treat these important policy discussions as not much more than a test of the masculinity of Conservatives is grossly ignorant. Because this article is so off-the-mark in terms of serious political analysis, I am not sure why Gilmore wrote it, nor why MacCleans would publish something so insulting to reader’s intelligence. I was going to subscribe to MacCleans. I will be reconsidering.

      • I am not astonished at all. This is what macleans has become.

      • I think you missed the point of the “marlborough man ” reference. To the real “conservative” oldtimers M.M. was a phoney. Churchhill switched parties at least three times, and, ironically, was the greatest success in a non-partisan war-time coalition. He was an utter failure as a partisan politician.

    7. This article is pretty lousy. Using Mr. Gilmore’s logic, I could suggest that any platform championed by any of the parties is routed in fear. Liberals want to run deficits because they are afraid of the economy. The NDP want subsidized daycare because they are afraid people will stop having children. It’s a juvenile take on politics and I am not sure what the author was trying to achieve with it, aside from a dumbing down of Maclean’s readers.

      • How exactly is one “afraid of the economy”. Subsidized daycare to promote childbirth, how old school is that? Subsidized childcare boosts the work force and increases government tax intake. You certainly have a juvenile take on politics.

    8. There is a great line in “Yes Minister” that is applicable here. It is about going for the man and not the ball. That is what people who fear to debate the issues do. They attack the person, in this case conservatives, because they do not wish to, fear to, cannot or are intellectually too shallow to debate the issues. The proclivity of the Scott Gilmores of the world to act as if the issues they believe are beyond debate is what makes the current political climate so strident. As a Maclean’s subscriber of longstanding I say that articles like this demean and cheapen the seriousness of the weekly.

    9. … but the editors and liberal writers and leftist readers of Macleans sure seem scared of cartoons of a certain prophet, and terrified of a tiny granny whose quiet, calm sign-holding near abortion clinics gets her jailed, and hysterical about conservative speakers at universities, etc., etc.

      The argument so easily goes both ways. What a shallow article.

      • Disagree with someone’s point of view? Call him a lefty. End of argument. Must be nice to be so certain.

    10. Not to worry Canada – there are a lot of us here in Ajax who are working hard to shine a light on the conduct of Chris Alexander and the Harper Cons to help get them defeated. The fact that Alexander has brought in two tier citizenship and policies that unilaterally revoked the voting rights of certain Canadian citizens, as well as underspending his Immigration budget (by a reported $350 million that was returned to assist with the faux budget half election year surplus) are enough reasons for Ajax voters to vote in an evidence based thinker.

    11. Mr. Gilmore, I most certainly admire your expert use of statistics and semantics when constructing both columns and replies to commentors. Your prestigious background is overwhelmingly impressive. May I ask that at which point does your background arbitrarily nullify the opinion of, let us say, a “factory workin’ high school drop out”. As polarized as both (loosely) described personages are on the surface, who of the two ( if any) warrants microscopical observance when it comes down to “issue clarification” for MaCleans’ readership? Do we say that having been a Diplomat are the “scissors” to that factory workers’ “paper”? Or do we say that the factory worker is unable to ever have their finger on the pulse of larger issues both domestic and of the International type?