One of the real problems of keeping silent about your ambitions is that worthwhile objectives get mislaid or fall into the hands of lesser men and women.
Fretful pieties about Harper’s “hidden agenda” may help brand the man as not one of us—but they are misplaced.
Canada’s parliamentary-representative system elects leaders to lead, not merely to work their way down a list of highly edited election promises. Indeed, the suspicion that a prime minister has a dream or two that aren’t on the agenda and haven’t been shaped by his pollsters offers the promise of greatness. Change is usually contentious because it almost never enjoys a clear mandate from the people. Free trade, the GST, the HST, the abolition of capital punishment and prairie freight rate subsidies, and the decontrol of domestic oil and natural gas prices are good examples. (Harper too has successfully taken chances on taxing Income Trusts and “Quebecois Nation,” for example.) Nevertheless, those who continue to succeed in persuading others to risk significant change must help others feel comfortable with what makes them tick.
Other political aspirants aren’t sitting still while Harper minds the business-cycle 24-7. He doesn’t lose face when Maxime Bernier, other Quebec conservative thinkers, and the Wildrose Alliance Party of Alberta take public stands on further steps to advance a conservative agenda. Conservative thought is too diverse, and the powers of any prime minister are too limited for Harper to orchestrate its public utterances. Harper does, however, risk becoming a bore and, as important, may not be completely trusted when he has something difficult and important to say.
In literature, the reticent outsider is immortalized, but not for his success. Cynics believe Harper will never get a majority if he says what he truly thinks. History, however, suggests he won’t accomplish much more if he doesn’t keep taking risks.