Canada’s take on Trump
By the fervent interest it has displayed, you’d almost think Canada is voting in this U.S. election. With thousands of dead people and illegal immigrants casting votes, Canada’s contribution would likely go unnoticed if we did. But if words were ballots, we’d be a swing constituency.
Take Donald Trump. He has been bombarded by insults from every quarter during this U.S. election season. While many constituencies claim to have delivered the most Trump vitriol it would be hard to top the venom flowing south from Canada. From CBC to the arts community to the left-wing political faction (but I repeat myself), it’s been hard to find a person in Canada who understands, let alone empathizes with Trump’s voters. How dedicated has the criticism been? CBC National Radio news led one morning recently with former prime minister Kim Campbell’s unsolicited comment that Trump was a sexual predator. Second story? Canadian oil pipelines being sabotaged in the United States. Social media, too, has been 90/10 in its scorn for the Republican nominee.
Some of this sneering was routine Canadian conceit as they heard Americans discuss Canada’s single-payer health-rationing system. Or Canada’s relative paucity of gun crime. Or when a U.S. comedian extolls poutine and maple syrup. No one does smug like Canada.
But in a country that identifies as centrist in most things, this unanimous Trump disapproval from the chattering classes in Canada seemed like piling on. Certainly, Trump supplied several lake freighters worth of material on his sexual history for Canadians to mock. Several hundred decibels below that were his threats to cancel NAFTA or build walls across borders.
But where was the countervailing criticism of Hillary Clinton exposing state secrets on her home server? Where was the tut-tutting about her hypocritical stand on abuse of women? Where was the collapse of Iraq or the implosion of Obamacare? Her risible attacks on her campaign contributors on Wall Street? Mostly it was crickets from a Canadian media obsessed with the progressive talking points about Clinton as the first woman president. Those who questioned the divine Clinton destiny were shellacked on social media. As one tweeter put it, “Canadian media holds the people to account on behalf of the government, instead of the other way around.”
And Canadian elites desperately want the home folks to believe in government. Ever since it gave them health care rationing (and hid the cost inside the tax system), the federal and provincial government have acted like a moral force not an elected body. As Canada became more urban and secular, the ruling class sought to transfer the authority previously held by the church to the progressive urges of government.
As a result many Canadians now actually believe that government has “experts” who can choose “economic winners” and “create jobs”. Kathleen Wynne’s sincerity makes her mission pure. “Don’t you want a better world?” has supplanted “Don’t you believe in God?” as the belief statement of the Canadian identity.
But a Trump presidency and its don’t-tread-on-me supporters threatens Canada’s Grand Assumption of government superiority. A large part of Trump’s resonance in the U.S. (win or lose he’s going to get almost 45 percent of the vote) is disgust with career twits like Joe Biden and grifters like the Clintons who play the system as a job bank or cash machine.
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While many Canadians know that this pay-for-play system exists in their home country (see Liberals: Sponsorship) and would like to do something about it, they’re petrified about throwing the health-care baby out with the tainted bath water. In short, the tolerance level for Canadian scandal is much higher than that being trashed in the U.S. election.
Whichever way the election goes, there is a sense that Americans will not put the toothpaste back in the tube when Hillary is celebrating herself as first woman president. Like a bad domestic argument, too much has been said, too many harsh truths have been spoken by both sides to forget anytime soon. Class distinctions are now raw and open.
This fussing and fighting scares the bejabbers out of the Canadian elites, who have their own credibility gap with the populace. So they have turned the electoral struggle into a battle of manners. The suave-but-incompetent Barack Obama on Jimmy Kimmel versus the crude Trump on Sean Hannity. Or cool Mom Michelle Obama versus frazzled Melania Trump and her modeling career. It’s like a high school where the hip kids make fun of the nerds who will later employ them in a tech startup or financial institution.
But we shouldn’t be surprised by this holier-than-thou. Not in Canada. Welcome to the land where we want tunas with good taste, not tunas who taste good.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is host of The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. His career is unmatched for its diversity with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).
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