Trump off the Political Spectrum

Trump off the Political Spectrum

As published in the Victoria Standard: November 22, 2016

Stephen Harper’s regime prepared Canadians for the Donald Trump era since the two leaders differ only in their public persona. According to Canadian journalist Michael Harris, “Stephen Harper was Donald Trump before Trump was Trump…” They both successfully exploited the fears and misconceptions of specific groups to cement support, exaggerated security threats, demonized entire ethnic and religious populations, promoted militarism and attacked so-called elites. While there is little point in detailing Trump’s demagoguery; it is worth noting what it represents since power by any means is now acknowledged as a legitimate goal.

While President Trump is no Fuhrer, contemporary America “…is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” [Noam] Chomsky said. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system.” Disturbingly, Trump’s chief strategist is Stephen Bannon, his campaign CEO and “…executive chairman of Breitbart News, an online linchpin of the so-called “alt-right” movement, associated with efforts to preserve ‘white identity’, defend ‘western values’ and oppose multiculturalism.” This choice is a blatant challenge to those who seek greater equality. The current version of the Republican Party has been aptly describe as, “… a radical insurgency…not a political party” since its extreme commitment to military solutions, protectionism and the needs of the mega-wealthy are totally divorced from the desires of working Americans.

America’s de facto two party political system will continue so long as “…Federal law ensures that corporations and unions remain free to spend unlimited sums through ‘super PACs’ and similar vehicles’.” The combination of massive funding to the Republican and Democratic Parties combines with private control of presidential debates to marginalize legitimate third party presidential candidates, “… like Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, were arrested [in 2012] for attempting to enter the debate grounds.” The non-profit Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) demands that debaters have at least 15 percent in five national polls.

The Canadian situation is similar, with a consortium of private broadcasters like CTV controlling the 2015 federal leaders’ debates and excluding any but the Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic and Green Party candidates. Notably, Green leader Elizabeth May wasn’t included in the Munk Institute foreign policy forum or the Globe and Mail’s economic debate or even in the last federal leaders debate. Granting such control to private institutions is an affront to those Canadians and Americans dedicated to participatory democracy.

Like previous Democrats, Hillary Clinton received more actual votes than her opponent but lost because Trump won more Electoral College votes. Until a more equitable balance is achieved, “the distribution of Electoral votes in the College [will continue to] over-represent people in rural States [and won’t] accurately reflect the national popular [due to] the winner-take-all mechanism whereby the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes in the State wins all the Electoral votes of that State….this mechanism make(s) it extremely difficult for third party or independent candidates...” Therefore, the antiquated “first past the post” aspect seems the key obstacle in both nations: attacked in opposition and defended in power.

In spite of Prime Minister Trudeau’s previous commitment to eliminating Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system; he is now less critical. During an October 19, 2016 IPolitics interview, “Trudeau said he no longer sees the same appetite for electoral reform he did when the Conservatives were in power.” Perhaps Trudeau is unaware of the recent Broadbent Institute report that “…found Canadians want the new government to keep its promise to change the voting system by an almost two to one margin and a larger margin prefers a proportional system to ranked ballots.”

Trump’s sudden transformation from reality TV star to president was logical in an America that religiously valorizes individuality and materialism at the expense of working people and universality. Most of his promises on health care, trade and employment will be almost impossible to honor. For example, Trump’s phony appeal to alienated Rust Belt workers is belied by the fact that their lost manufacturing jobs will either remain overseas or continue to be cheaply performed by robots.

Canadian workers have also suffered under secretive and complex “investor rights” trade deals like NAFTA. In spite of his promises, undoing such arrangements is vastly more difficult than Trump has implied. It is truly reprehensible to hear him insult those Mexicans whose domestic farm employment was destroyed by the importation of publicly-subsidized U.S. grain under the terms of NAFTA. Trump will surely retreat under pressure from U.S. fruit growers dependent on cheap Mexican labor.

Like any Reality-TV star, post-election Trump has deftly changed roles for episode two of this sordid presidential drama. The new Trump is sounding reasonable and gracious; even offering to forgo the $400,000 presidential salary. While that sum is a pittance to a supposed billionaire; this gesture resonates with a corporate press corps eager to forget Trump’s rhetorical record. Even if he has been merely masquerading as a belligerent, racist, misogynistic thug; his conduct has granted a certain license to those who actually subscribe to such ugliness. It seems inevitable that Donald Trump’s success will inspire more violence and deepen racial divisions in America.