Trumpism: A Wake Up Call

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!


Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump

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.


Premier Notley with Prime Minister Trudeau

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!     

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28 Responses to Trumpism: A Wake Up Call

  1. ABCanuck says:

    Five stars, Ms. Soapbox!

    And let’s not forget Jack Layton’s “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

    • Thanks ABCanuck! Prof MacMillan is a highly respected historian. She said in times of instability people turn inward (our tribe is good) and demonize others (our misfortune is the outsider’s fault, get rid of the outsider and everything will be fine). She points to Germany in the late 1920s and 1930s as an example and said it took all of five weeks in the summer of 1914 for Europe to go from a “fairly stable peace to all-out war”. So here we sit, watching helplessly as Trump sets up the same dichotomy–us vs them (with “them” being everyone from Muslims to Mexicans and anyone else you think “stole” your job and your future).
      Canadians need to hold on to the words of Jack Layton and others like him if we want to avoid going down the very same destructive path in the future.

  2. ronmac says:

    There’s a sizeable body of opinion out there in the “progressive left” who think Hilary Clinton is a greater danger to world peace than Donald Trump.

    The gang that lied the US into invading Iraq back in ’03 with false claims of WMD’s have coalesced behind Hilary Clinton, their War Goddess, and are pushing for a confrontation with Russia.

    Have these people lost their f**ckin minds? A conflict could spin out of control and end with a nuclear exchange.

    Donald Trump and the people around him have made it clear they don’t want any conflict with Russia.

    Is this is a good reason to pull for him in November? What do you think?

    • I agree, Clinton would be nuts to trigger a confrontation with Russia, but here’s my problem with Trump’s kinder gentler approach. It appears to be driven by the fact the Trump empire is heavily dependent on Russian capital. Trump’s bankruptcy made it difficult for him to get financing from US banks and he turned to Russia. We learn snippets of how extensive that reliance might be through litigation and investor conferences where Donald Trump Jr says things like “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” (2008). The Dems are going to make a big deal of this relationship. Trump needs to be completely transparent on the extent of his dependence on Russian capital in order to put to bed the suspicion that his foreign policy will be guided by what’s best for his personal business interests. Here’s a link. It’s not definitive but this question needs to be put to bed. ttp://

      • Thanks for the link Ronmac. I’m not saying Trump is Putin’s Puppet. My focus is whether Trump’s empire is overly leveraged to Russian financial sources. Stephen Cohen doesn’t address this concern. He said the fact Trump’s campaign consultant has Russian business associates is overblown because no one fusses about Exxon or MacDonalds doing business in Russia. There’s a huge difference between doing business in Russia and depending on Russian financial institutions/businessmen for the ongoing success of your business. If the Russians make it difficult for American companies to do business in Russia they can leave, but if the Russians call their loans on Trump’s empire it may fall apart. And while it’s true that Russian businesses are independent of Putin, Bloomberg reported last year that Russian businessmen are loath to buck Putin because they’re afraid he’ll destroy their fortunes. Until Trump discloses who is financing his empire and by how much (publicly traded companies do this all the time) there will always be the suspicion that Trump will tread softly when it comes to foreign policy involving Russia. This isn’t neo-McCarthyism. I’d have the same concern if the Trump empire was overly leveraged to the Koch brothers.

  3. WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: A UNIQUE & PRESENT DANGER | The party’s failure of judgment leaves the nation’s future where it belongs, in the hands of voters. Many Americans do not like either candidate this year. We have criticized the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the past and will do so again when warranted. But we do not believe that she (or the Libertarian and Green party candidates, for that matter) represents a threat to the Constitution. Mr. Trump is a unique and present danger. – Washington Post Editorial © 2016 |

    • Communitynetworks: Thanks for this link. Not surprisingly I agree with all the concerns laid out in the editorial. One sentence in particular struck me. “The Trump litany of victimization has resonated with many Americans whose economic prospects have stagnated. They deserve a serious champion, and the challenges of inequality and slow wage growth deserve a serious response.” Everyone everywhere who has been damaged by the unbridled free market deserves a serious champion. Trump isn’t it and it’s debatable whether Hillary is it, but if she’s learned anything from Bernie Sanders and his millions of supporters it’s that she’d better put her mind to this problem pretty darn quick.

  4. OMG! Confucius’ curse of ‘interesting times’ is worse than I could ever have imagined. Please, someone, pass a magic wand that gets us past this horrific time and we can wake up with evidence of peace in the world and wisdom and compassion in the White House! ….. sigh …

    • Jane, one thing Trump’s acceptance speech made crystal clear was his fundamental message to Americans: “I am your voice”. This is frightening because that “voice” is at times angry, emotional, dishonest, illogical, xenophobic, racist and inconsistent. Many of his supporters love him because he’s not politically correct but when you consider all the things people say we are “politically correct” about (racism, homophobia, feminism, etc) you realize the members of certain groups in society need a strong consistent voice to protect them from those who’d do away with their rights in a nano second. The fact that a candidate for the highest political office in the land can be the voice for people who dismiss these rights as just political correctness is very disturbing.

      • GoinFawr says:

        Trumpism to me:
        “Hey kids! You wanna soundtrack that’s gonna make you feel tense? Let you express your frustration? Make ya scared; wanna run out and buy a gun? You’re looking for another rock’n’roll record that’ll make you feel like a victim. You’re like a victim; you love to be a victim. You love the United States prime time victim show. Hey! Bells! Gila copters! Machine guns! Listen to that! Listen to that: kill for Allah, kill for Jesus! 1980’s s**t – turn it down. Tone it down.” Dennis Leary (from RevCo’s “Gilacopter”)

  5. Julie Ali says:

    It is curious how everyone ignored the danger that Mr. Trump presented until it was too late.

    In a similar way, albeit at the provincial level in Alberta, we have our own Trump in Mr. Kenney who will probably become the next premier of Alberta even though he isn’t our first choice–because there are a lot of unhappy voters like myself who don’t see any reason for the failure of the NDP to act on issues that are important to us such as continuing care. How does an amendment to the Trespass to Premises legislation that requires an appeal mechanism depend on the poor state of the economy in Alberta? It doesn’t depend on the economy; it depends on the political will of the NDP folks we hired to government who have abysmally failed to do their jobs in evolving continuing care in Alberta.

    Mr. Trump can become the next President of the USA because of fed up voters.
    Mr. Kenney could become the next premier of Alberta because of fed up voters.
    This has got nothing to do with the state of the economy.
    It has everything to do with the failure of democracy.
    We’re fed up and we’re not going to take it any more.
    This may not be good for the world and certainly in the end, our choice to vote for Mr. Kenney in Alberta may return us to the dinosaur error in Alberta but until the progressive governments we hire do the work we require (represent us), we either vote for our own Trump in Mr. Kenney and unite the right or we vote Liberal. I think most Albertans will go for our own Trump.

    • Julie | Many among as have been rising the alarm about this character for a while | I know I have, for I know what a proto-fascist entity looks like – I survived one … Having said that, I hope Democrats do some serious healing, be accountable for errors & poor judgements, take a good pulse of the zeitgeist of the nation/world, and get it unequivocally together this week – this is their moment to shine for good …

    • Julie you raise a legitimate point. The ND’s ability to improve continuing care (and healthcare and education for that matter) is not entirely dependent on the state of the economy. It requires political will to reorganize government bureaucracies and reshape institutional cultures that became calcified over decades of PC rule. One government insider described the process as trying to turn the Titanic. OK, we get that it’s hard, but we expect the government to do it anyway because without their direct intervention nothing is going to change.
      Where you and I differ is whether Albertans will flock to Jason Kenney. I don’t think he’ll become premier because progressive conservatives will not vote for him and hard right conservatives won’t abandon the WR which reflects their values. If Jason Kenney had any brains he’d be plotting to take over of the WR; that’s where he belongs.

    • Gord Lackie says:

      Notley became premier because of fed up voters. Alberta still tends to think of themselves as conservative until somebody removes their subsidies, tax cuts etc. And I’m no fan of Kenney, but it’s a stretch to call him a Trump.

  6. jvandervlugt says:

    Hi Susan. I can’t stand the sight of the Trumpster. I despise him so much for his disrespect and bigotry I don’t want his face anywhere on any of my social media feeds. I can’t say anymore. He evokes such a distasteful reaction in me. Greed and violence is destroying the US but they don’t want to look at themselves but place blame elsewhere. They will never be “great again.”

    I know your blog dealt with more issues than just the Trumpster but like I said, when I see that man’s face….shudder. Three times I just about deleted my comment.

    • Joanna, I’m glad you didn’t delete your comment. I think we’ll see Trump working hard to be less “in your face” and more “presidential” as the campaign grinds on. Geoffrey Smith, a history professor, was interviewed on The Current. He said everyone underestimated Trump in the beginning and then voila Trump vanquished 16 rivals. Now Trump’s challenge will be to bring the anti-Clinton voters and the can’t-be-bothered-to-vote voters into his campaign. He also said Trump will continue to use fear to get into the Oval Office and that we shouldn’t ignore the fact that fear will propel awful candidates into office. Bottom line: it’s a mistake to underestimate The Donald. All in all a dismal outlook.

  7. Brent McFadyen says:

    The media should have ignored Trump, but news is news and Trump got billions of free exposure. Bernie Sanders had a huge movement behind him and was it covered, barely. Did the DNC pay attention to Bernie’s message and support, well they sure tried stifle his campaign and the media fell in line with them. The fifth estate has a responsibility to keep the public informed and to a certain extent make their opinions matter as they are on the front line. I have not seen this happen in the press as of late. Where do we get the facts in a balanced way, where are the publishers with true integrity.

    We often get the government we deserve and often to our peril.

  8. Brent you’ve put your finger on why so many voters are disillusioned with the political process. Clinton pulled in roughly 20% more delegates and had the super delegates in her pocket so Sanders had to step out of the race but one can’t help but wonder whether Sanders’ support would have been much higher had his campaign received the media coverage it deserved. No wonder many Sanders’ supporters are digging in their heels and refusing to switch their votes to Hillary.
    The media has a lot to answer for.

  9. GoinFawr says:

    oooer.. correction: that Gilacopter quote was Timothy Leary’s, not Dennis’… totally different Leary, totally. I might as well have attributed it to Kevin O’Leary

    • GoinFawr: I agree. That quote could just as easily be attributed to Kevin O’Leary. I suspect Kevin is going to sit back and see how the American public responds to Donald Trump before he decides whether to throw his hat in the ring. If Trump is elected O’Leary will likely follow suit on the basis that (as a letter writer in the Herald said the other day) Trump/O’Leary is a great CEO and the USA/Canada is just another huge business venture.

  10. Carlos Beca says:

    Great post as always.
    I agree with Margaret Macmillan that things can go wrong very quickly. I have enjoyed her books especially 1919 which will be part of our historical collection forever.
    After the invasion of Iraq, very quickly we witnessed the total destabilization of Syria and Libya and recently Turkey. Refugees are now changing Europe and we should not stick our heads in the sand because things can indeed change very quickly here as well.
    All it takes is for Donald Trump to be elected and we could see major shifts in power plays around the world. Just 1 year ago Turkey was as solid as a rock. They are now in a power struggle between secular and Islamic factions that could very easily turn very dangerous not only for Turkey but also NATO. One by one countries even in Europe are adjusting to what is so far small shifts. This could change very quickly indeed. German elections are coming soon and we could see gains from parties that want those 1 million Syrians out of there as soon as possible. France is being challenged with terrorist attacks that could get worse and more frequent. It is starting to have political consequences as well. François Hollande is already under attack and France is a power keg due to their very old and accepted policy of using immigrants for cheap labour and then dump them when not needed. By the way this is a common policy but certainly at very disturbing levels in Europe especially France, Britain and Germany. Now the consequences could become impossible to control.
    Interesting times indeed, scary at the same time. I am concerned with the snowball effect.

  11. Carlos, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I too am concerned about the snowball effect. Many see Trump’s “America First” campaign plus his attacks on Muslims and Mexicans as setting the stage for white supremacists to expel minorities. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune describes a white supremacist who calls for the “removal” of all Afro-Americans, Hispanics and Jews from the US. He says he would do this “rationally”. One wonders whether he’s applied his “rationale” mind to the fact that this means he has to remove roughly 33% of all the doctors and god knows how many lawyers, bankers, realtors, musicians, movie stars, etc.
    If voters allow Donald Trump to be the Voice of America, he will join the chorus of similar voices in France, Britain and Germany. It will not end well.
    Here’s the link to the Tribune article

  12. David Grant says:

    Well I think the closest thing to Donald Trump was the late Rob Ford. The slavish devotion of Trump’s followers is similar to Ford Nation, and the fact that people relate to him is also similar. The good news is that even if Rod Ford had a great deal of difficulty winning even before his revelations of his cancer became public and I think Mr. Trump is finding his chances of winning are becoming harder and harder. It is true that the forces of globalization have given rise to Trump and that is something that to take very seriously. It is the reason that Trump, Le Pen, and other fascists have some power in North America and Europe. To change the subject, I want to honour the memory of Mel Hurtig who died yesterday. He was a critic of these policies and he was a great champion to Canadians to stand up against these forces and seize control of our destiny. He was very intelligent and knew what the facts were when it came to these issues and was able to destroy the empty arguments of the defenders of neo-liberalism and globalization. He will be missed.

  13. david says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful and timely – historic – perspective on ‘Trummpism’. Rare it is for governments of any stripe to be able to address public fears with historic lessons and vision that goes beyond an election cycle. But this is precisely what is needed in a complex and deeply interdependent world. It’s increasingly clear that we will only succeed – in even basic stability and needs – when we work with a global and comprehensive analysis including cultural, social, economic and environmental realities.
    As our own Ruben Nelson has indicated repeatedly we continue to think in the same ways that allowed the short-sighted decisions – and crises – to dominate. Canadians can have little evidential basis to be smug on the basis of our own fickle democratic engagement.

    • David, you’ve been “under the Dome” for over a decade, I’m sure you’ve seen more than your share of short-sighted election-cycle thinking impeding a government’s ability to make policy that delivers positive change which won’t take effect for years down the road. Interestingly, the corporate world has finally figured this out and is starting to advocate for more of a long term view and less of a short term focus on quarterly results. One can only hope that governments will follow suit.
      PS I hope you’re having a relaxing summer!

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