[Iveson] Former PM Stephen Harper's weighs in on populism with 'Right Here, Right Now'

REVIEW: Former PM Stephen Harper’s weighs in on populism with ‘Right Here, Right Now’

Opinion
[National Post] At one point in Right Here, Right Now, Stephen Harper writes that he does not want his new book to focus on Donald Trump. Nor does he want it to focus on himself.

VIDEO: [Newsmax] Interview with the former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper about his new book ‘Right Here, Right Now’ [Oct. 9, 2018]


Inevitably, it does both.

The book’s subtitle is Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption. The agitator in this case is Trump, and Harper has set himself the task of understanding the disruption of the populist age and penning a “manual for conservative statecraft” to help political leaders respond.

It is not a memoir but it leans heavily on Harper’s policy experience as Canada’s 22nd prime minister during a decade that included the turbulence of the Great Recession.

Harper sets up his own government like a North Star for conservatives in the United States and the United Kingdom to follow — jurisdictions where conservatism has, he deems, failed.

It is slight volume — a mere 171 pages — but it achieves its primary goal of forcing the conservative or non-aligned reader to reevaluate his or her assumptions.

(Harper suffers the same flaw as Justin Trudeau and other progressive partisans — namely that people from an opposing ideology are not just in error, they are iniquitous and beyond redemption. There’s not much here for the progressive reader, except scorn, with added vitriol, about the “danger” of “intellectually adolescent” left-liberalism.)

Harper’s analysis is that many Americans voted for Trump because they are not doing well — and that they are not doing well in part because of some of the policies conservatives advocate, such as free markets, free trade and free movement.

The result has been the creation of a large number of so-called losers — U.S. labour participation rates are at a 30-year low.

This pent-up desire for change from the status quo, and the rejection of establishment figures like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, created the ideal conditions for outsiders like Trump and Bernie Sanders.

As Harper describes, Trump articulated a drive to bring back jobs to America; to offer protection to the industrial heartland from trade deals; to put “America First,” ahead of global priorities; and to reject low-skill immigration.

While he professes not to admire Trump’s erratic behaviour or scandal-prone governance style, Harper suggests the conditions that brought the president to power are not going away, and that if the conservative movement does not adapt to populism it will be a left-wing iconoclast who next rides its wave.

Harper tries to detoxify the label by defining as populist any movement that puts “the wider interests of the common people ahead of special interests of the privileged few.” He uses the taxonomy of “anywheres” and “somewheres” coined by British journalist David Goodhart in writing about the fault lines around Brexit.

This article continues at [National Post] John Ivison: Look who’s back! In his new book, a vigilant Stephen Harper offers advice for the age of Trump

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