Back in February I commented on an essay by Robert Kaplan that I suggested should be a nightmare situation for isolationists, like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Barak Obama, who just want to “make the world go away” and leave America and Canada alone. The Obamas and Trudeaus, and their followers, really do want the weight of the world off America’s (and, by extension, Canada’s) shoulders … they want the world to love us, like it used to. But did it really love us, or was there, for 50 years after 1945, just fear, envy and even hate behind the smiles and handshakes?
I also commented, in May, about the interconnections between: American economic problems (irresponsibility?); the weakening of Europe which I believe will be exacerbated by the Brexit; Chinese bullying in the East Asian region; and Russian opportunistic adventurism in Eastern Europe.
I think Americans are starting to come to grips with the fact ~ and I assert that it is a fact ~ that America is no longer the world’s sole, indispensable, responsible superpower. The (brief) era of American hyper-puissance, which so worried the French in the 1990s is gone … but we are not quite sure what can or should replace it.
A bit of history and economics
We had 50 years of (relative) peace in the second half of the 20th century, guaranteed by the nihilistic doctrine of MAD: Mutual Assured Destruction. Back in the mid 1950s the Russians (Khrushchev) were courting the nations of the “non-aligned movement” and they made an implicit commitment to “no first use” of nuclear weapons. It was a promise that America (Eisenhower) refused to make. In fact Eisenhower was looking for ways to reign in US defence spending and he hit upon the doctrine of massive retaliation which would allow American to scale back it military expenditures on conventional forces and, instead, rely upon (much cheaper) nuclear weapons, thus freeing up financial capacity to build the consumer society that American wanted and that would, as I have explained, win the “cold war” in 1959 ~ years before we actually understood it was won. The impact of unleashing the American economy ~ something the Russians could not do because they had to maintain both huge, and hugely expensive conventional forces and comparable nuclear forces, too ~ was critical to America’s success and dominance and, I think, to the growing envy of and hatred towards America. But, by the 1980s industrial America had become too expensive to sustain with purely domestic supply and demand … the well paid, unionized, “metal bending” jobs in, especially, the American North East began to “migrate” to Europe, first, and then, massively, to Asia when steel and ships and cars and TV sets and computers could all be produced more cheaply. In order to sustain their lifestyles Americans and America began to borrow more and more and more, especially from the nouveau riche Asians.
By about 2000 it was obvious to all but the most obtuse that Marist-Leninist-Stalinist communism was an abysmal failure: socially and economically. But it is, or should be, equally obvious that one cannot borrow one’s way out of debt. The modern, Western welfare state is firmly entrenched but how to fund it is less obvious. Using OECD data, some analysts show how some countries spend …
… while others, with very effective social services, do not. But the politics are pretty clear: we, in the Euro-America West, expect a lavish, publicly funded, social safety net while some, especially in the Confucian East, understand that, eventually, there is only one source of every single “public” dollar and cent, and “we,” individually, end up paying for everything, one way or another. The Germans can, for the moment, afford to spend 27+% of GDP on social services … as long as the Chinese keep buying BMWs. The Koreans (at 5.7%) and Singaporeans (at about 6.5%) provide social and health services that Italians and Greeks would, I suspect, find fully acceptable, in a more liberal (individual responsibility) and much more economical (affordable) manner. The Chinese are much, much more like the Koreans and Singaporeans than they are like the Swedes or French which means that they have greater capacity to cope with fiscal/economic shocks.
Which brings me to “Trumpism” which the Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente describes as, “the nativist, anti-establishment revolt that has swept the United States,” and which, she asserts “is here to stay,” because the “roots of Trumpism lie in a social malaise and a fundamental economic shift that have been building for decades.“
I assert that Trumpism is also rife and rampant in Europe. The Brexit vote was both “nativist” and an “anti-establishment revolt.” It was, mainly, against Brussels, not for Britain. And it is not confined to America and Britain. I would suggest that Rob Ford was a Canadian expression of “nativist, anti-establishment” Trumpism. The fascination that some Conservatives have with the notion of Kevin O’Leary or Doug Ford as potential party leaders may be a similar expression of “anti-establishment” sentiment. We are looking for someone who shares our fears and our hopes, even if neither we nor they can articulate them.
I share Margaret Wente’s fear that against the backdrop of irrational, uninformed, fear and hope, “Donald Trump, or someone like him, was inevitable. The greatest danger in his defeat would be if both Republicans and Democrats decide they were right all along, and don’t need to change. Because if they don’t, another Trump will come along. And the next one might not be crazy.” The solution to America’s problems, to Europe’s problems and to Canada’s problems, too, lies in governments being focused on those (relatively few) things that governments must do and, in some cases, do very well, while people are focused on taking responsibility for themselves and their futures and the future of their communities. That’s the solution to Trumpism and also to the Clintonesque vision of the sort of big, intrusive, inefficient governments that are so beloved of the Laurentian Elites.
One frightening aspect of both Trumpism and Clintonesque protectionism is that both threaten a helpful push, over the last few decades, towards free(er) trade. The rise of globalism has been, unreservedly, a good thing for most people but it is opposed by the “nativists” and by the “anti-establishment” conservatives, most of whom “feel” (because they refuse to deal in facts, to think) that the “other” is to blame for their own self-inflicted socio-economic woes.
Free(er) trade is, historically, the most successful form of peacekeeping ever devised. But free(er) trade is under threat from the very people, the Americans, who it has benefitted most in recent history. The anti-trade forces are led by some of the most conservative elements in America: Big Business and Big Labour, which support the Liberal Party of Canada, too, and are diametrically opposed to the “main street” values of the Conservative Party.
Of course, there are always some short-term “losers” in free(er) trade deals: deals are like that, we give something to get something. It’s easy to understand why Big Business and Big Labour oppose free(r) trade but their objections ~ which seem to be taken on board by the Trudeau regime and the Clinton campaign ~ are about the short term pains of adjustment.
Like Margaret Wente, I do not want to regress back to the 1950s, much as I might wish that America had an Eisenhower and Canada had a St Laurent at the helm, instead of lightweights, crooks or buffoons. But we must understand that the “world order” which served America, Britain, Canada and Europe so well, for so long, was put in place by real leaders who were committed to peace, because they had seen too much war, and who knew that real peace means e.g. accepting and accommodating the rise of China and the “browning” of our society as we enrich our priceless Anglo-Saxon socio-political and economic heritage with some aspects of other cultures … those that can compete in the “marketplace of ideas.” Those leaders faced a much more dangerous world than we have in 2015: the prospect of a nuclear armageddon was real; the world was chaotic as it tried to adapt to a new system in which a few did not rule the many. Leaders had to be astute in both policy and politics, resolute in their defence of liberty and democracy, and skilled in diplomacy and strategy ~ they had to be, in other words, grown ups. It appears we have decided that we longer need grown ups … that is a decision we will come to regret.
We, Conservatives, need to stand up against conservative nativism and anti-establishment fear and anger.
Last things first: the “establishment” we want to defend is that composed of our friends and neighbours who operate or work in small and medium sized, “main street” businesses. We need to be the party that defends the rights of all Canadians, and we need to be the party than pursues policies that will, in the mid to long term, create wealth and jobs for them and their children … for all them, not just for those who conform to an obsolete, 1950s nativist model of what some conservatives believe that Canada should look like. The “establishment” is us, and our neighbours whether we work on Main Street or on bay Street, whether we live in a small town or in an urban high-rise. Good, Conservative Canadians wear turbans and worship in mosques: they are straight Buddhists and gay Christians and they are everything else on the spectrum. They are hard working, law abiding and want what’s best for their families … however their families look. They are young and old, married and single, a few a rich, too many are poor or struggle from pay-cheque to pay-cheque ~ but that later group want a chance to succeed on their own merits rather than long term dependency on the nanny-state. We are (almost) all Canadians and many of us, probably well over half of us, share at least some of the core values of the Conservative Party ~ it’s that bell curve thing, again: 55 to over 85% of us can be defined as “moderate” in our political, social and economic views and we are, mostly, looking for good, sound, honest, moderate governments that provide them with safety, security, equality of opportunity and an affordable social safety net.
The really frightening prospect is that the extremes in America, in Britain, in Canada and China and in France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Jordan and Korea, all driven by irrational and unfocused fear and anger, will seize the political “stage” and drive the less motivated “moderates” away from the process. The extremists will empower the opportunists and the madmen, alike …
… and one or more of them, provoked, perhaps, by economic woes, a rising tide of protectionism, domestic political unrest or simple adventurism, will start a war that ~ with unpredictable results ~ no one needs and we will all regret. Good leaders are conscious of the need for a good, strong military because they have a grand strategy that aims to prevent wars.
To protect Canada from that frightening prospect we need a new Conservative leader who will give us:
- Good, responsible, limited government ~ not by slashing and burning the social safety net but, rather, by constraining its growth and putting resources where they do the greatest good for the greatest number who need help;
- A principled foreign policy;
- A strong enough, efficient and effective military to give weight to our foreign policy;
- Free(er) trade with Europe, especially, now, Britain, and Asia and with Africa, too; and
- Social harmony a home by pursuing moderate social policies and striving to reconcile First Nations to working for a prosperous future, rather than handouts, within Canada.