So, French President Emmanuel Marcon called for a real European Army, partially, according to a report on Global News, “to reduce dependence on the United States.” Some new outlets reported that President Marcon wanted an army “to protect the continent from China, Russia and the US” and US President Trump, quite predictably, found this very “insulting.” Let’s be charitable and agree that what President Marcon was trying to say is that Europe needs a “real army” of its own to counter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, to counter Chinese advances in Africa and because President Trump appears to be dragging America, the country which Europe has, until just now, assumed would do these things for the benefit of everyone else, into an isolationist strategy.
In Europe, other leaders took great pains to distinguish themselves from President Trump in word and deed ~ Prime Minister Trudeau, for example, attended a blustery service a Vimy Ridge in advance of the Paris ceremonies, in contrast to President Trump who confined himself to the US Embassy in Paris instead of visiting the US cemetery near the Belleau Wood battlefield. Things went from bad to worse when, on Sunday, President Marcon said that President Trump’s self professed nationalism is “a betrayal of patriotism,” in what the Washington Post describes as a verbal rebuke of Trump’s views. He did that as other leaders, including Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau looked on, approvingly. But, as Stephen Harper says, that rebuke “was [just] another example of the “disconnected elitism” [which is, actually] fuelling populism throughout the western world.” Talking back to President Trump emboldens his followers.
It is hard to think of any time, not since Henry Cabot Lodge stymied President Wilson’s plan to have America join the League of Nations after the First World War, anyway, when America and the rest of the West have been so far apart.
Of course these divisions are not just between Canada, Europe and America, they are even deeper, I think, in America itself.
And I have said before, I agree fully with former Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the divisions are not confined to America or to American relations with the world, they exist in Canada, too. Some of my friends are members of the Trump Party here in Canada. Some of them believe that there is an international conspiracy of elites, maybe even led by George Soros and others which aims to extinguish “manly” Anglo-Saxon based liberalism and replace it with some sort of namby~pamby socially progressive international superstructure based on the United Nations. These are not people who have actually been damaged in any meaningful way by globalization but they are people who are watching society change in many ways and they conflate such things as immigration from e.g. Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East with the decline of North American dominance in manufacturing and are reluctant to accept that there is almost no causal relationship. Some of them are simply tired on being called bigots or rednecks just because they object to some preachers telling us all that we must convert to this that or the other religion.
Now, I recently saw two articles in Canadian newspapers which speak to the rise of th at so-called Trump Party in Canada:
- First, John Ibbitson, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that “Maxime Bernier wants to win the Canadian Trump vote … [because] … In a speech on Saturday at a conference hosted by the right-wing Rebel Media in Calgary, the leader of the new People’s Party of Canada questioned the science of climate change, pilloried the United Nations and insisted immigrants to Canada must embrace “Western civilization values” … [and] … His language was not as extreme as Donald Trump’s – this is Canada, after all – but he made it perfectly clear, at least to this listener, that the implicit motto of the People’s Party is: Canada First. For however many believe that the Canadian economy and social fabric are being undermined by environmentalists, do-gooders and immigrants, Mr. Bernier promises he will be their voice;” and
- Second, Andrew MacDougall suggests, in the Ottawa Citizen, that M. Bernier may, actually save the Conservative Party because “Canadian conservatives need to recognize that giving a thumbs up to Trump, whether tacitly or explicitly, actually makes it harder, not easier, to tackle problems such as illegal migration across our shared border. It makes opposition to Trudeau’s planned immigration increases on economic grounds trickier, not straightforward. Trump taints everything, such is his power … [and] … That’s why Justin Trudeau is trying so hard to shove his opponents down a Trumpian path. Conservatives tolerating or aping Trump is giving Trudeau the rope with which to hang them … [thus] … Scheer should instead let Bernier hoover up the true MAGA crowd and focus on chipping away at Trudeau’s right (i.e. centre) flank. He should follow Jason Kenney’s example and disassociate from anyone who claims to act in his movement’s name by aping Trump’s worst impulses … [because] … the challenges facing Canada are too serious to get shunted into a pointless debate over a populism that isn’t inherent in Canada, and their salesman, who is as popular here as third place.“
I trust it will not surprise anyone who follows this blog to know that I agree fully with both Messers Ibbitson and MacDougall. I especially take heed of Andrew MacDougall’s warning that “Justin Trudeau is trying so hard to shove his [Conservative] opponents down a Trumpian path” and I agree with him when he says that “Donald Trump is a disgusting human being, a stain on conservatism and a blight on the body politic,” but he says “A recent survey found that 25 per cent of Canadians expressed “confidence” in the U.S. president. And while the survey didn’t disclose the domestic preference of those giving thumbs up to Trump, it’s a safe bet they don’t dig Justin Trudeau (or Jagmeet Singh, if they’ve heard of him) … [and that, he says] … would put them into either Andrew Scheer or Maxime Bernier’s camps. But what do they, as conservatives, like about the Trump offer? … Is it,” he asks, “the overt racism, such as when Trump recently called Andrew Gillum — the black candidate for the Florida governorship — a “thief” despite no evidence — whatsoever — of criminal behaviour? … [or] … is it the succour Trump gave to white nationalists in the wake of last year’s Charlottesville marches, in which the president found good people on “both sides” of the issue, despite one side chanting blatantly anti-Semitic slogans?” I suspect that in many cases it is neither, but rather it is the soft, oh so progressive, post-national state nonsense that Justin Trudeau mumbles on about. That’s why Andrew Scheer must push some of them, those who he cannot attract to proper, principled Canadian Conservatism, towards Maxime Bernier’s “dark place” as the Good Grey Globe‘s headline writer put it.
“In some ways,” John Ibbitson says “Mr. Bernier is simply a Conservative in a hurry, with his proposals to lower taxes, eliminate corporate subsidies, deregulate the telecom sector, cut funding to the CBC and privatize Canada Post,” but he adds that when he speaks about other matters “his vision grows darker.” He rejects the entire Trudeau ‘vision,’ even the parts, like increased immigrations levels that, while needing a lot of fine tuning, make broadly and generally, good social and economic sense.
I continue to believe that the Conservative Party has the biggest and best “base” in Canadian politics ~ that is to say that recent polling shows that fewer Canadians are unwilling to ever consider voting Conservative than are unwilling to ever vote Liberal or NDP. That large centrist, “mushy middle” in Canadian politics, most of which lives in suburbs around our larger cities, remains the key to victory. Their votes are more important than are those of the few (perhaps as much as 10% of the electorate) who can be persuaded that Maxime Bernier is Canada’s answer to Donald Trump and that Donald Trump is right about almost everything.
I agree with former Prime Minister Harper that the Trump Party, those people energized by the issues that got Donald J Trump elected in 2016, will outlive the US president himself and I also agree that some Canadians share those same views. If I was an American I would almost certainly be a Republican but, like some of my American friends who are Republicans, I would be working hard to wrestle my Party, the Party of Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, away from both the Tea Party and the Trump Party and restore it to Main Street values of principled social, foreign defence and economic policies. I believe that the Conservative Party of Canada must steer a course well away from Donald Trump, even if that means that a handful of MPs and a few hundred thousand votes will follow Maxime Bernier’s siren song.
The deepest division in Canada is between the principled and the popular. There is a left wing, progressive populism here in Canada that is every bit as destructive as the hate fuelled, fear driven Trumpian populism of the United States. Both extremes, the über progressive left and the hate filled right are dangerous and both must be put onto the trash heap of political history where they belong ~ the Conservative challenge is to put them both there and heal some of the divisions in Canada.