Jen Gerson: Advice to Erin O'Toole — save your party by curb stomping the fringe.
Don't purge the radicals and distance yourself from the far right to appease your enemies. Do these things to save yourself.
One of the most infamous Conservative MPs was kicked out of that party's caucus this week. Derek Sloan, perhaps best known for insinuating that Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam was somehow being controlled by "The UN, the WHO, and Chinese Communist propaganda" has promised to make trouble on his way out.
Although he was booted when it was revealed that a well-known white supremacist donated to his campaign, leader Erin O'Toole said the departure was thanks to a long history of problematic behaviour. In fact, Sloan himself admits that he was organizing for trouble at the party's upcoming convention and recently said that the Conservatives ousted him because "They were scared."
There is a lesson here.
The insurrection LARPing at the Capitol building in Washington D.C. earlier this month has made it abundantly clear to conservatives — if not the tribal conservative edgelords who populate WhateverChan has yet to be purged by fire — that radicals inside your own movement will grow and eat you. Kill and eat them while they are still small and weak.
The storming of Washington offered conservatives around the world an opportunity, and they should take it. We at The Line here are biased as all hell, but we are strictly non-partisan. So believe me when I say that I’m offering this advice to the CPC not because I have a stake in the party, but rather because a Conservative party beholden to conspiracy theorists and wingnuts is bad for the country. That should be obvious to everybody by now.
Last week, after the Capitol attack but before Sloan’s deadly donation was reported, O'Toole sent out a lengthy statement disavowing the far-right. "The Conservatives are a moderate, pragmatic, mainstream party — as old as Confederation — that sits squarely in the centre of Canadian politics," O'Toole wrote. "My singular focus is to get Canada's economy back on track as quickly as possible to create jobs and secure a strong future for all Canadians. There is no place for the far right in our party."
It's a good start, but he shouldn't stop there. O’Toole needs to purge the party of the wingnut fringe and use their skulls as paving stones (Metaphorically speaking, of course.) If anyone doesn't like it, welcome them to take the bone-strewn path to the Christian Heritage Party, the People's Party of Canada, or Kekistan as they see fit.
Make it ugly. Make a point of it. Be merciless. And get it all done at once. Now.
There will be the usual reluctance to do this, of course, and I can already hear the objections. "The Progressives are inflating the problem!" some will claim. They'll insist that the left-wing screaming is just the same old opportunistic play to paint all conservatives as Nazis. "They'll call you 'far right' no matter how many statements you put out, or how many you purge. Nothing you do will ever be enough for them, anyway."
To some extent, this is absolutely correct. There is no action and no statement that will make the CPC palatable to those who have a vested interest in encouraging voters to vote for a party that is not the CPC. Such people are always going to try to paint the conservatives as irredeemably racist because O'Toole doesn't want to knock down John A. Macdonald statues; or because he used rhetoric like "Take Canada Back."
They're going to continue to do this because it works. And it works because it speaks to a grain of truth: there is a base of nutters within the ranks of the CPC.
Some of the critiques levelled against the party are fair. Former leader Andrew Scheer did make a ridiculous error in judgement to align the party with the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory, for example. Y'all deserve to eat a little shit for that.
But you don't purge the ranks of radicals and distance yourself from the far right in order to appease your enemies. You do these things to save yourself.
A party that allows itself to grow beholden to conspiracy theorists, fringe loonies, racists and wingnuts has only one way to go — deeper into the rabbit hole of collective unreality and despair, its leaders cowed into contributing to its own disunifying madness.
You will be consumed by the dragons you choose to ride. Don't ride this one.
Sloan was a good start. Take a few more MAGA-behatted heads pour décourager les autres.
Now is the time to do it. If such folk really are the fringe, as so many Conservatives are convinced, then there really is nothing to be lost in curb stomping the lot, while memories of the Capitol attack are fresh.
And if there is a cost in votes, so be it. Maybe a purge will put a majority government out of reach if an election is called this year; but that's what sacrifices are, and what they entail. Without true sacrifice, a gesture is meaningless. In the long run, the Conservatives will be better off for it, and Canada by extension.
One day, the left may have to come to terms with radicals in their own ranks, and if that day ever comes, whoo boy it will be something to see. But today is your day, Conservatives. Set an example.
The Line is Canada’s last, best hope for irreverent commentary. We reject bullshit. We love lively writing. Please consider supporting us by subscribing. Follow us on Twitter @the_lineca. Fight with us on Facebook. Pitch us something: email@example.com
Please be careful about libel, dear commenters. Comments deemed potentially libelous will be deleted.
I've often wondered how populism will play out in Canada. In most of the rest of the work its usually a mix of anti immigrantion anti foreigner tough on crime rhetoric along with a nice mix leftist give money to people approach (thinking here of Jair Bolsonareo Brazil's Trump). But it seems Canada has chosen to make the unique approach open borders (irregular border crossers here's to you) more crime (Toronto and mayor John Tory) along with printing money and giving it to people. Throw in a good bit of vaccine incompetence and volia made in Canada populism.
No wonder the Conservatives can't gain any traction!