Stephen Harper’s lessons in strategery

To run a disastrous election campaign, it’s important to get things off on the wrong foot as quickly as possible. Maybe stand outside Rideau Hall and ensure that potential voters see you as inexplicably angry and, frankly, kind of paranoid. That should do the trick. Elect me or the sinister coalition will put fluoride in our precious bodily fluids! Try to sound vaguely unhinged.

You’re off and flailing. But you’re going to want to build on that by making sure your flagship policy announcement – the first thing you put in the window for Canadians – won’t take effect for several years, and only if a bunch of other stuff happens. This is crucial. You want to lure people in with a tempting-sounding tax change, and then you hit them with the “… see you in 2016ish. Psyche!” This will keep the opposition off guard – they’ll never know what you’re going to promise to which generation of future Canadians.

With the policy miscue out of the way, it’s important to instill in your campaign a pervasive sense of listlessness – you know, really send the message that you’ve got nothing. Make sure the theme of each day is clear – Day 3: Coalition. Day 4: COALITION. Day 5: Coal. Ition. Day 6: CoalITION!! That kind of thing.

At this point, you should get down to the hard work of alienating the media. I mean, really rub it in their faces. Limit them to just a few questions a day – they’ll hate that. Then (and this is key) refuse to answer questions about why they’re allowed so few questions. Oh, man, they’re going to freak! Hammer home the message by penning them in behind a metal fence at least 40 feet from where you’re standing. It’s called symbolism. Don’t worry – they’ll get it.

Before I go any further, here’s some hard truth for you: no matter how hard you try, no one individual can fully bone up a federal election campaign all on his or her own. I know you won’t want to admit it, but you need help. Maybe get a dimwitted Senator to refer to reporters as “attack dogs” and “pathetic” for having the gall to ask questions of a politician. Or encourage a notoriously intolerant MP to publicly refer to your main rival as “Igaffi.” I’m telling you: Everyone enjoys a hilarious gag in which one’s political opponent is likened to a savage tyrant  because both names are “foreign sounding.” It’s a terrific way to instantly undo years of hard work toward winning over the immigrant vote.

So you’re well on your way to a dismal, uninspired start that leaves people questioning your capability, your mindset and your sense of judgment. Congratulations. But now’s no time to rest on your brickbats. Double down with a major gaffe of your own! This is just personal preference, but I always like to challenge my opponent to a one-on-one debate – and then almost instantly chicken out. It’s a classic, I know: but the classics work! With a single stroke, you portray yourself as weak, uncertain and vewy, vewy afwaid. Plus, it ensures some four-eyed asshat will go on Twitter to suggest your campaign plane should be named Chicken Wings.

So there you go. Follow this advice and you should be limping to the end of the first week of a potentially disastrous election campaign. Nice work so far! I’d tell you what to do during the second week, but frankly I’m kind of making this up as I go along.

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