Noted American entrepreneur, executive and philanthropist Kenneth Langore, is a significant voice in the “Stop Trump, but No! to Hillary Clinton” movement (he just recently moved his (considerable) support from Governor Christie to Ohio Governor John Kasich) and he has, in an interview with CNBC, correctly, in my opinion, analyzed the source, the “root causes” of the unfolding American nightmare:
“Something is radically wrong [with the nation] and this is what’s happened,” Langone said. “It’s got nothing to do with Trump. It’s got everything to do with the American people, saying, ‘Wait a minute. Bring me to the party. What about me? Let me have a future. Let my kids have a future.’“
One huge issue is local inequality.
On a global level we have never, in all of recorded human history, been more equal: between China and India they have/are, since about 1990, raised/raising over 1 Billion of the earth’s 7 Billion people from poverty to the lower middle class … nothing like that, nothing on that scale, has ever happened before. 18th and 19th century Britain and 19th and 20th century America (and Germany) did in providing stupendous growth for quite small numbers of people, a few million in each case, but each of China and India is raising the living standard for hundreds of millions, eventually, possibly, most likely a billion in each country. In that respect, the world has never been better. Greater prosperity for greater numbers has been shown, historically, to reduce the chances of wars.
But, here, in the West, in America, and Britain, in Canada and Denmark, the story is different. Inequality is growing and it has become both a real, measurable problem and a bit of a cause célèbre too. The poor are not getting poorer, in fact, they’re “keeping up” with the general, and real, rate of economic “betterment” in Canada. The rich are getting richer and the data I have seen suggests that the very, very rich are getting much richer much faster than anyone else. The group that is lagging behind is the middle of the middle class. As the Statistics Canada data shows, over a full generation (35 years) the income of the middle 20% has barely grown at all (to about 105 from a base of 100) while the (relatively) poor are about 15% better off and the top 20% (the rich and the upper-middle-class professionals) are, on average, more than 30% better off. That’s not how many (most?) economist think the model should look. (Now, in fact, China has a worse “trend” when one looks at cities, where only a few of the desperately poor people live vs. the rural areas where almost everyone is, still, both relatively and absolutely poor. And one of the greatest migrations in human history has taken place, is still taking place, now, as Chinese people move from real poverty in the villages to only relative poverty in the cities. The problem is not the “gap” between urban and rural, it is the rate at which the gap is growing, even if it is, slightly, offset by an absolute decline in the rural population.) Anyway, our problem is not Chinese inequality, it is the impact of inequality here, in America and Canada, especially, on our political choices.
I believe one of the reasons that Prime Minister Trudeau was able to (1) bring out many, many new, young voters, and (2) “grow” his vote to the requisite (for a workable majority) 40% was that he promised to spend money in ways that would directly benefit the “middle of the middle class.” Phrases like “invest in our future” and “help the middle class” were designed to elicit an almost Pavlovian response … it really was about “hope” and it really was about “change,” even if neither was especially well or clearly explained (or even understood by the Liberal campaign team) and even if neither can be provided in any economically sound manner. The facts didn’t matter the promises of “hope” and “change” did; they mattered to a large group (maybe 60% of the population, in the middle,* whose incomes and, therefore, whose “hopes” have stagnated for 35 years. It was brilliant campaigning, even though it will lead to bad governing. In fairness to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, this is a campaign technique that originated in the USA but has been used here, too, by both Conservatives and Liberals, with the expected effects: we believe the “comforting lies” and then we “throw the rascals out” when we must, inevitably, confront the “unpleasant truths” that “hope” and “change” require real leadership, some risk and considerable hard work, none of which have been popular campaign themes for more than a half century.
Which brings us back to Mr Langore’s thesis: it’s not about Donald Trump, even though he may be absolutely destructive to America and, indeed, to the whole of the US-led West because he is “a promoter of paranoid fantasies, a xenophobe and an ignoramus.” Part of the problem is that his presumptive opponent is no better. Hillary Clinton may not be as bombastic or paranoid as Mr Trump but she is, undeniably, a liar and possibly worse. She’s running for office because she feels “entitled,” not to serve her nation. She, like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is a “limousine liberal” or “silk stocking socialist,” who is, for all practical purposes, on the payroll of the “redistributive left” of the modern political spectrum. It is not absolutely clear that Donald Trump is worse than Ms Clinton: horrible in many, many ways, but not necessarily worse. And that’s the American nightmare: we, those of us who bother to vote at all, have decided, in the ever-repeating triumph of hope over experience, that there is, indeed, a “free lunch,” either effortless wealth and success or a “return to national greatness.” We, enough of us, nearly 40% of 70% os us here in Canada, believe the “comforting lies” in our hearts, even though our brains tell us that the “unpleasant truths” are the certain outcome … it’s why lottery tickets sell so well.
What can we do?
The answer is simple, albeit unpleasant for campaign teams: we, Conservatives, can tell the truth, we can offer the principled, focused, prudent conservatism of, say, a John Robarts against the false hopes and facile campaigning of Justin Trudeau and his ilk. It is not that we lack good conservative role models: they are there, in our past, and here, right now, in the present. We know that some policies work and others do not. The campaign “logic” tells us that we must appeal to the lowest common intellectual level and, therefore, offer “comforting lies” rather than “unpleasant truths,” but I believe (just hope?) that we have Conservative campaign tacticians who can package the “truths” in “comforting” wrappers … we must have learned some lessons from “short term pain for long term, gain!”
We can offer fiscal prudence, real rewards for hard work, and some political freedom for provinces to improve their balance sheets. We can offer moderate social policies that will appeal to young, hip, even gay urban voters and will mean that we need not concede 100 seats to the Liberals and NDP. We can reach out to communities that, traditionally, give us a pass. We can offer a principled foreign and defence policy that serves Canada’s vital interests.
What we must not do, and it is what many people who call themselves Conservatives (but are, really, just lazy, stupid people who want to believe another sort of “comforting lies”) want to do, is to follow Donald Trump down the drain into his version of the American nightmare.
* Remember that bell curve of mine … the one that says that 70% of us are somewhere in the “middle?”