Aaron Wherry, who is, usually, a pretty astute political commentator, has taken a crack, in the CBC News, at Conservatives versus the “elites” in an article headlined “What we’re talking about, and not talking about, when we talk about ‘elites.’” His primary target is Dr Kellie Leitch because both the ‘elites’ and the mainstream media are, by and large, all hot and bothered by her very aggressive promotion of “Canadian values.”
“Leitch,” Aaron Wherry writes, “has made the elite the central focus of her campaign for the Conservative Party’s leadership. But her competitors have expressed similar disdain … [for example] … In a speech Thursday, Lisa Raitt took a hard line on the elitists in our midst … [saying] … “If you think it is good fun to look down your nose at the simple folk from other places, like Cape Breton, to traffic in stereotypes, to seal yourself off in a bubble of your own superiority, to declare yourself to be part of the elite and to look down with contempt on those who don’t share your values, well, there is a party for you,” she said. “But it’s not the Conservative Party” … [and] … Maxime Bernier has warned that “political elites” would oppose his views on the telecom sector and he invoked Brexit to explain how his success would send a message to the “bureaucratic elites” in Ottawa … [and, finally] … Brad Trost has suggested that within the Conservative Party there are “party elites” who aren’t willing to sell the CBC … In 2016,” he concludes, “the elite are an easy target for blame, a rallying cry and a handy tool of distraction.“
“Leitch’s reference to the elite,” he explains, “is not to be understood as a measure of status, success, schooling, social circle, power, influence or skill … [because] … If it was, the word would almost certainly have to apply to Leitch, an accomplished doctor and former cabinet minister whose official biography describes her as “among the best of her generation” … Rather, for her, “elite” is a matter of attitude … [as she says] … “I define elite as an individual who is out of touch and seems to think they know better how someone should think.”“
Aaron Wherry goes on to explain that “On a basic level, this seems merely a way for conservatives (those who believe government should have as little involvement as possible in the affairs of man) to criticize progressives (those who tend to think the government can use policies and social programs to have a positive influence) … [and] … As rhetoric, there is an obvious appeal to stand against a domineering class that would impose its tastes on the public and mock any who dare question its judgment … [but] … as a social construct, the suggestion of a divide between elites and non-elites might go to real questions within modern Western societies about identity, class, dislocation, inequality, inclusion, globalization, social and economic change, and the effectiveness of public institutions.” Mr Wherry goes on to warn progressives that they “who want to do more with public resources, might need to be particularly concerned if large numbers of people are feeling alienated or cynical.“
My only real argument with Aaron Wherry is that I think he conflates “progressives” and the “elites” into one, because, I suspect that he thinks, deep down, that most Conservatives, even Dr Leitch who is, generally, regarded as a progressive on most issues, are red necks, lower class, lunch bucket, hicks
Meanwhile, over in The Economist, we find a useful article about the unwelcome return of what the British call Bolshiness, which is someone who is argumentative and who makes things difficult.
“From the dying days of the second world war onwards,” The Economist writes, “Western policy was dedicated to making sure that the problems that had produced authoritarianism, both left and right, could not occur again. The Allies created a triad of global institutions—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations—that were supposed to stabilise the global economy and prevent conflict. Most countries built (or reinforced) welfare states to provide safety nets and ladders of opportunity. America led a policy of containment that first limited the expansion of the Soviet Union and then led to its collapse … [but] … Yet this golden age is coming to an end. This time the first shots are being fired by the right rather than the left, by the Brexiteers in Britain and Donald Trump in America. But the similarities between the collapse of the liberal order in 1917 and today are stark. They start with the fin de siècle atmosphere. The 40 years before the Russian revolution were years of liberal triumphalism. Free trade (led by the British) brought the world together. Liberal democracy triumphed in Britain and America and looked like the coming thing elsewhere. The years from 1980 were a similar period of triumphalism. Globalisation (led by America) advanced relentlessly. The number of countries that qualified as democracies multiplied. Politicians of the right and left competed to demonstrate their fealty to the “Washington consensus”“
The Economist concludes by pointing some fingers and making a prescription:
- “Some of the blame for this,” The Economist says, wagging an accusatory finger, “lies with happenstance. The Democrats might not have lost the election if they hadn’t nominated Hillary Clinton, the embodiment of a decaying establishment, and Britain would not be preparing to leave the EU if David Cameron had not taken the fateful decision to experiment with direct democracy. But the liberal order itself is also to blame … [and] … The global economy has delivered too many of its benefits to the richest: in America, the proportion of after-tax income going to the top 1% doubled from 8% in 1979 to 17% in 2007. And in many ways the future looks worse. Productivity growth has slowed. Unless this can be changed, politics will inevitably become a struggle over dividing up the pie. Tech giants such as Google and Amazon enjoy market shares not seen since the late 19th century, the era of the robber barons.”
- Then The Economist asks itself: “How can liberals save what is left of the liberal order?” (The Economist is liberal like me, in the classical, 19th century tradition, fiscally conservative, socially moderate, and principled in foreign policy, which include global free(er) trade. It believe in equality of opportunity in free, democratic societies.)
- “Part of the solution,” it answers itself, “lies in being more vigorous in its defence – for example, pointing out that globalisation has lifted millions out of poverty and that reversing it will make today’s economic woes much worse. Part of the solution lies in exposing liberalism’s enemies as the paper tigers that they are: Mr Putin, in particular, presides, by fear and fraud, over a country whose economic power is stalling and whose people are plagued by poverty and illness. Other strongmen around the world are far less tough than they claim … [but, it continues] … liberalism’s champions must do more than just repeat tired mantras. They need to take worries about immigration more seriously and check their instinct to ride roughshod over minorities such as evangelical Christians. They also need to redouble their efforts to fix capitalism’s most obvious problems. High levels of inequality are threatening stability. Economic concentration is allowing companies to extract record profits. Overregulation is driving businesspeople to distraction. The revival of bolshiness has already taken a terrible toll. Liberals need to think more clearly, and act more forcefully, to stop the rot.“
It seems to me that The Economist has zeroed in on what bothers Dr Leitch; it’s not liberalism or liberal values, in fact my guess is that Dr Leitch is a moderate liberal; it is the instinct of the Laurentian Elites, those for whom Aaron Wherry is, probably unconsciously, speaking, who want to “ride roughshod” over moderates as they pursue the social flavour of the month. It seems to me that what Dr Leitch is expressing, perhaps in bit over-simplistically, is the worry that millions of Canadians have about the changes that globalization and increased immigration have made to them and their families and their communities.
No one that I can think of is especially worried about this …
.. but a whole lot of people, including me, are concerned about how we must stop this:
Dr Leitch is speaking for millions of Canadians … perhaps it’s not the top of mind issue for most of them, but it is an issue and the Laurentian Elites and the faux-liberal elites in America and Europe and so on need to stop trying to appease some groups, including their own children and grandchildren, and focus, instead on preserving and promoting traditional (but constantly evolving) Canadian values for everyone in our society. Those values include secularism, equality, limited tolerance and unlimited liberal democracy. We do not accept, we must never accept that anyone can impose his god’s holy writ on others … not on his wife and children, not on his neighbours and not on society at large. Orthodox Jewish men must get used to seeing women in yoga pants exercising … or they must avert their eyes from the fitness club windows. Women can wear a headscarf if they wish, but no one may force them to do it.
Kellie Leitch and Lisa Rait and Maxime Bernier are being a bit bolshie, but they’re doing it in a good cause: they’re trying to topple the disconnected Laurentian Elites who cannot or will not understand the real concerns of millions of ordinary Canadians.