He Sowed the Dragon’s Teeth, II
The reason that I raised the myths of Orpheus and Cadmus in the last post, and addressed the themes of these myths as being topical in relation to contemporary politics — the politics of concord or the politics of discord — is to pave the way for a discussion of what is called a “Cadmean victory”. A “Cadmean victory” is a victory that brings about the victor’s ruin.
And the reason I want to address the irony that is a Cadmean victory in the present context, is because of how uncannily familiar it is in the politics in Canada (and beyond in fact), and in relation to the irony that is Mr. Stephen Harper, present Prime Minister of Canada.
A “Cadmean victory” belongs to that class of phenomena I’ve broadly referred to as “ironic reversal”: unintended consequence, perverse outcome, revenge effect, blowback, reversal of fortune, and so on. Another term for this is “enantiodromia” — reversal at the extremity. All pertain to the karmic law of action and reaction, or what was called “hybris” followed by Nemesis amongst the ancient Greeks, Nemesis being the name of the goddess of retribution for acts of hybris or excess. There’s a fine example of this dynamic presently unfolding in the political campaigns during Canada’s 42nd general election.
I’m sorry, but a little bit of maybe boring background information is necessary before speaking to this currently unfolding dynamic.
In Canada, up until a decade ago, the Tory banner was carried by the Progressive Conservative Party (PC). It suffered a devastating loss in a general election over a decade ago, and the membership voted after a bruising and contentious internal battle between the “progressive” and the “conservative” wings, to dissolve the party and merge with an upstart right-wing party called “The Canadian Alliance” (or “Reform Party”). The “progressive” faction — the so-called “Red Tories” — were purged from the new party or took flight from it, and even the name “Progressive” was dropped from the name of the new Conservative Party of Canada. For all practical purposes, the new Conservative Party is the party of neo-conservatism, as distinct from what is dismissively referred to as “paleo-conservatism”.
The leader of the new Conservative Party, Mr. Stephen Harper, was accused of having a “hidden agenda” that he wasn’t sharing with the public. But actually, it wasn’t so hidden. Mr. Harper’s ambition was to transform Canada into a “more conservative country” and to establish the new Conservative Party as “the natural governing party of Canada” in perpetuity. To accomplish that he set about attempting to, not just defeat, but to totally annihilate the Liberal Party of Canada as a political force. It is the steps that Mr. Harper has taken to accomplish those goals that have raised the accusation of “fascism”.
And to a very large measure, that is true. Having purged the new Conservative Party of its progressives, it also removed the restraints represented by the progressives on the more reactionary elements inside the Conservative Party. So for all practical purposes, the “new Conservative Party” is a party of the unbridled political reactionary.
For having fairly succeeded in driving a wedge between the “progressive” and the “conservative” factions, Mr. Harper then turned his attention to annihilating the Liberal Party as the chief obstacle to making the CPC Canada’s “natural governing party”. In that, he has also been somewhat successful in diminishing it, in a lot of cases through “dirty tricks” and negative-style attack ads and character assassination, redefining political opposition as “internal enemies”, and pursuing this through wedge politics — the politics of discord and diversion.
The irony of all this is, that it is now the Social Democrats (the New Democratic Party) who have taken a surprisingly strong lead in the public opinion polls, and the more destructive Mr. Harper becomes the stronger becomes the NDP, which once languished in perpetually minor third place. Mr. Harper’s weakening of the Liberal Party and of liberal democracy removed one of the chief obstacles to the Social Democrats coming to power. So, far from making Canada a more “conservative country”, Mr. Harper has inadvertently accomplished just the opposite, it would seem.
The progressive element in the old Progressive Conservative party, having been made homeless by Mr. Harper’s reactionary and wedge politics, moved towards the Social Democrats, bolstering their ranks. This has also had the effect, though, of significantly and reciprocally diluting the socialist platform of the New Democratic Party, so that its current leader, Thomas Mulcair, sounds distinctly like a small-c conservative in his policies — the policy emphasis on “the family”, on “the middle class”, on boosting the RCMP by 2500 new officers (pre-empting and co-opting Mr. Harper’s “Law & Order” meme), and reducing taxes for small business, amongst other things.
The irony is that Mr. Harper shot his own party in the foot when he drove the progressives from its ranks, and maintained a rump of reactionary conservatives. The “progressives” moved to the Social Democrats and are now largely setting the agenda for the Social Democrats as well. And at this stage of the game, it looks as if they will succeed in driving Mr. Harper and his Conservative Party from power. Revenge effect.
What has gone AWOL from the policies of the Social Democrats are precisely those things that define the party as being “democratic socialist” — not a peep about socioeconomic inequality, or the attendant problem of “the democratic deficit”, or very much at all about environmental degradation, or the state of the commonwealth in general. In that sense, it seems that the NDP has become the vehicle for the visitation of revenge by the Red Tories upon Mr. Harper and his party. Not much else can account for the sudden rise of a party perpetually stuck around 23% in the polls to suddenly leading at 34% popular support, and much of that support has come from self-identified “progressive conservatives” who have become estranged and alienated from Harper’s Conservative Party.
And the more vituperative the rhetoric of Mr. Harper and his supporters about “progressives”, the more they drive the progressives into the NDP camp. A poll only a few days ago noted that 63% of the electorate wanted a change in government. Yesterday, it jumped to 71%. Mr. Harper’s politics of discord is quite self-defeating, even though few seem to have noted it with any degree of clarity. Some polls even have the “new Conservative Party” now running in third place itself. But it fully reminds of a Biblical saying, too: “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”.