Canadians’ views on American politics are generally fairly predictable. Being Canadian means a degree of smugness blended with a drop or two of envy and a fairly constant need to assert moral superiority. In a very polite, but persistent way.
The candidacy, nomination and election of Donald Trump gave the better class of Canadian plenty of opportunity to show each other just how intelligent and enlighted they were. The Coynes and Kinsellas competed with each other in the political snobbery sweepstakes. Trump was Hitler, the Republicans the Nazi Party, Steve Bannon was a badly dressed Goring or, more likely, Satan himself. Breitbart News was Der Stürmer, the alt-right was universally the SS, the Trump regime overnight transformed America – save for the brave “Resistance” – into an anti-semitic, racist, fascist, misogynistic state in which freedom of the press and human rights in general were crushed under the jackbooted heels of Trump’s evil to a man (and pretend woman) Cabinet.
It has been tons of fun to watch ostensibly rational, intelligent, people reach immediately for the white supremacist smear tool kit in the face of the unthinkable occurring in our neighbour to the South. The fact that, one month into the Trump Presidency, the worst he seems to have done is be rude to CNN and the New York Times doesn’t deter our good and decent Canadians one bit. They just know that Trump is an evilton and, at any moment, will open the concentration camps and start rounding up Mexicans, Jews, Blacks, Muslims, Women, Queers, NYT reporters and anyone else the human Cheeto and his henchmen find objectionable.
And, to make the entire thing even more ominous, there seems to be a belief that Trump was put into position by none other than Prince of Darkness, Vladimir Putin and that Trump is simply following orders. Or something.
Step by step refutations of all or some of this hysteria have next to no effect. the Canadian reaction to Trump is not a “political” reaction in any common sense of that term. It is far more visceral, more religious, more tribal: Trump could be a very good President, accomplish great things, improve the condition of black people, defend the 1st Amendment and preside over an economic boom lifting all boats and he would still, to the Canadian commentariat, be the Hell Spawn of Satan.
Now some of that commentariat, like Kinsella, are simply stupid partisans for whom nothing Trump says or does will ever be anything but evil. These were the people who, had they been Americans, would have eagerly voted for Hilly on her merits. (A touching act of faith performed by very few actual Americans – the “hold your nose for Hillary” voters constituted the bulk of her support.)
The mildly more rational, like Coyne, seem to see Trump as essentially impossible. Back before the election Coyne was rumbling on about not being able to see how anyone could support Trump. More recently, he is using the Trump re-alignment in American politics as a stick with which to beat up the Canadian conservative Manning Center conference for having rightish agenda items and some populist speakers.
The biggest worry, the nightmare scenario, for the Canadian media and political elite, is the possibility that Canada is not entirely unanimous in its fevered rejection of Trump and all he stands for. There is an awful possibility that we do not live to welcome refugees. And there seem to be some ungracious Canadians who believe that people who come to Canada should adopt Canadian ways and “fit into mainstream Canadian society”. Yikes!
There is some evidence that, once they realize what it costs and how little effect it will have, Canadians are not entirely willing to do whatever it takes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
There are even some Canadians who are growing a tiny bit suspicious that mainstream Canadian media might not be reporting objectively. In fact, when Macleans let a bunch of its staffers go a few weeks ago, there were nasty Canadians saying “good riddance”.
Despite the frantic efforts of the Kinsellas and Coynes of this world, there are disturbing signs not every Canadian is thrilled with rule by the Laurentian elite.
For all of his foibles, the late Rob Ford’s success in Toronto, worried Canadian elites. I mean it’s one thing to have yahoos in Alberta electing hard core conservatives, but this was Toronto.
The three leading contenders for the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership are all running from the Right. Leitch because that gave her an edge in the early going; O’Leary because, well, who knows what goes on in that strange little man’s head; Bernier because he has run and been elected as a libertarian conservative for years.
Mainstream media is bleeding out, unable to compete with online, unable to adapt to the internet and unable to attract revenue. It is being replaced by everything from VICE and The Rebel to news and views delivered by social media. The cozy relationship between the Globe and Mail, CTV, CBC and the Ottawa political world is collapsing because ambitious politicians can by-pass the media elite.
If our commentariat thought about it for a bit they would realize that the actual reality of Trump is not that he is orange Hitler; rather he and the people around him have figured out how to culture jam traditional media, traditional politics and, perhaps, the deep state. Thinking about how Trump managed to do that would be more interesting than thinking crapping on him from great height somehow matters.
The people, the Canadians, who realize that Trump was actually about something important and transformative will have a clue about what is likely to go on in Canada in the next few years.