We can pick apart Donald Trump’s acceptance speech but it won’t get us very far.
Trump is getting smarter in how he presents “the facts”. For example:
- He uses anecdotal stories about three children killed by illegal Mexican immigrants (murdered and in car accidents) as proof that illegal immigration is out of control notwithstanding the fact that border crossing statistics show that illegal immigration is at its lowest point since 1969.
- He cherry picks crime statistics (murders are up by 50% in Washington DC) to demonstrate America is in the middle of a crime wave when America is experiencing its lowest crime rates in 25 years.
He sends contradictory messages to Big Business and wingnuts:
- He promises to rip up NAFTA and the TPP but his Vice Presidential nominee, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, voted in favour of both
- He showcased Peter Thiel (the billionaire co-founder of PayPal who went on stage to declare he was proudly gay) but laps up support from evangelical preachers like Jerry Falwell who blamed 9/11 on homosexuals, pro-choice supporters, secular schools and courts
- He says he’ll bring back off-shored jobs by penalizing corporations who refuse to stop off-shoring while ignoring the reality that corporations that employ Bangladeshi workers will treat the penalty as part of the cost of doing business overseas
And if none of that convinces voters to vote for Trump he’ll just chant USA! USA! USA!
The point here is that it really doesn’t matter what Trump says as long as he promises to annihilate Hillary Clinton and destroy those evil interlopers who’ve stolen America’s economy, security and peace of mind.
Only in America?
Many Canadians are watching the rise of Trumpism with a sense of smug superiority, confident that it would never happen here in the land of peace, order and good government.
They may be right—in the short term.
Justin Trudeau swept into power partly because Canadians grew tired of the autocratic “fix the economy/maintain law and order/watch out there’s a terrorist!” policies of Stephen Harper. Trudeau has a solid majority and the opposition parties are in disarray.
Rachel Notley’s NDP won a majority because Albertans were fed up with the PCs failure to deliver on their promise that unfettered corporate power, particularly in the oilsands, was the key to prosperity. Rampant cronyism didn’t help.
However, both Trudeau and Notley are vulnerable given the country’s dependence on a strong energy sector. Economic recovery is years away and Canadians, particularly Albertans, are feeling the strain.
And the leaders and potential leaders of the conservative parties know it.
They’ve augmented their “low taxes, less government” message with a message of loss. Jason Kenney’s slogan “Working to Bring Back the Alberta Advantage” isn’t that different from Trump’s “Make America Great Again”. Both yearn for something that was there in the Father Knows Best years before the progressives snuck into power.
So here’s the problem. When a government, especially a progressive government, fails to meet the economic expectations of the people it becomes unstable even if those expectations are unreasonable. The Liberals and the NDP really can’t increase oil prices.
History Prof Margaret MacMillan says we may be entering “a period of destabilization” which started with 9/11 and continued through the “war on terror” and the invasion of Iraq. It was exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis which proved to the little people that the bright lights running the economy were in it for themselves.
MacMillan says destabilization creates a dangerous mood in the population and when things go wrong they go wrong very quickly.
MacMillan’s comments were made in the global context but they apply equally well at the national and provincial level.
Canadians and Albertans are fortunate to have a prime minister and a premier who preach hope not fear, however the current climate of uncertainty could see both of them out the door if an opportunistic politician exploits the destabilization created by economic and political forces beyond their control.
This presents Canadians and Albertans with a unique opportunity to demonstrate that Trumpism will never gain a foothold north of the 49th parallel.
Go ahead, earn the right to be smugly superior!