- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press (Aug. 24 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0773532986
- ISBN-13: 978-0773532984
- Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 612 g
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #276,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Harper's Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power Hardcover – Aug 24 2007
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"The best book written to date about the new Conservatives." The Literary Review of Canada "If you want a window onto what is going on in Ottawa, look to Tom Flanagan." The Toronto Star "Hits the sweet spot for political junkies of all stripes ... a crisply written behind the scenes lesson in winning power." Policy Options "Readers are likely to learn more here about the man who leads our government and the way he thinks than from any other book to date." The Montreal Gazette "This is an excellent insider's account of a seminal era in Canadian conservative history." Graeme Voyer, Winnipeg Free Press "Flanagan has been Mr. Harper's main strategist for years, and his new book - which I've just finished - should be required reading for all Canadians worried about honesty and truth in government." Garth Turner, MP --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Tom Flanagan is professor of political science at the University of Calgary, former director of research for the Reform Party, and former campaign manager for Stephen Harper's Conservative Party.
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In concept, the basic principles of successful campaigning are simple. First, a ground war is fought which uses technology to identify sympathetic voters, and then maintains regular contact with them to build empathy and develop fund raising. Secondly, an air war is fought which involves relentless control and delivery of party messaging, to ensure the domination of one's position in the media. This is the most crucial factor in the winning of any election.
If the concept is simple, the implementation is extremely difficult and requires enormous amounts of energy, discipline,and money. From attack ads to day to day delivery of party platform, absolutely everything is preplanned well before the election period starts. The fine line between success and failure is so close that any kind of add hoc action normally leads to disaster. I was amazed at how detailed and mechanical this operation is, and how everything is related to spin, spin, spin. Forget about idealism and spontaneity! Its all about the polls and positioning.
I am well familiar with Flanagan's style and character. He is a right wing propagandist and a loose cannon to boot. Although he tries to take a moderate tone in this book, with his descriptions of "the leader," Harper, and his own actions and contributions to the campaign, one also sees him condoning the distortion of the truth, the breaking of election rules, and the accelerated use of attack ads and wedge issues. (I found it hilarious how he kept referring to his conservative attack ads as fact-based ads.) Perhaps this is the nature of the game, and of course he blames the Liberals as the initiators, but it is easy for me see how his cavalier attitude of no holes barred has led us to the robocall disaster of the 2011 election, and the cynicism and passivity of the Canadian electorate. It may be electioneering, but it has little to do with real democracy.
Finally, I thought the most revealing element in the book was Flanagan's statement that the neo-conservative's target audiences were the lower middle class and working class elements of the population. Obviously, the party was not interested in the upper class elements as they felt this group was was too well educated to be responsive to their message. Instead, they hoped to play on the prejudices and fears of the most vulnerable elements of the population in the hopes of gaining power. Its called populism and demagoguery.
Ultimately, by pitting social class against social class, special interest groups against special interest groups, and region against region, the neo-conservative's well organized minority has been able to override the values and interests of the majority of the country. For a fragile country as Canada the resulting polarization is profoundly dangerous and may lead to the break up of the country. Ironically, those who have the most to lose from such a disaster are the very social classes that the neo-conservatives have targeted. Flanagan and Harper, no matter what happens, will still be collecting their pensions and living in their ivory, ideological towers. Such is life.
I have read Johnson's biography on Harper, and Wells' Right Side Up, and this is a great addition to the collection. Where Wells' book offers a valuable outsider perspective on the 2006 election, Flanagan offers the insider story on Team Harper and its bid to unseat the Liberal government.
The book is in the truest sense a behind the scenes look on the four leadership campaigns undertaken by Stephen Harper. That is to say, Harper himself is not discussed in great depth - Johnson's book covers that. Rather, the book focuses strongly on campaign strategy and analysis produced by Harper's team from the Canadian Alliance days all the way up to the 2006 election.
I must say I was greatly intrigued by the sections discussing the merger between the Reform/CA and the PCs. Flanagan did a great job highlighting the difficulties of merging two completely different political cultures. It really is quite amazing that the CPC came together the way it did in such a short period of time. Flanagan speaks very highly of the contributions made by PC members of the party.
Being an insider, Flanagan seems to have a pretty solid grasp on the strengths and weaknesses of the Conservative Party. He readily points out the party' limitations with certain voting blocs and electoral regions. I do wish he would have gone into more detail on the 2006 election victory. The book builds up for a big finish, but then he barely discusses the election results. Bummer.
But overall, he does a great job of illustrating just how far the CPC has come in the last five years, showing in very simple terms how the party finally broke through to victory.
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