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GEORGE: Nationalism Trumps ideology

June 12, 2018 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


Watching the circus in Washington D.C. from the other side of the continent in a different country has been amusing. 

Most interesting has been the effects of the presidency of Donald Trump on the conservative brain trust in Canada. Any attempts to critique 45, as he has become known since he is the 45th president of the United States, have been met with a staunch defence of even the most outrageous behaviour because they happen to share an ideology. At least in theory. It left me wondering if there was anything that he could possibly do to raise their ire.

It turns out that there is.

The past couple of days have been surreal. Both Doug Ford and Andrew Scheer have expressed their support for the Trudeau government as the president of our largest trading partner and longtime ally declared that Canada threatens the national security of the United States and that it is this threat that brought on the tariffs on aluminum and steel.

Even Jason Kenney has publicly tweeted his support for the prime minister. But it wasn't that long ago that Doug Ford, for example, was expressing his unwavering support for 45. And to hear the Canadian conservative pundits on social media tell it, Trump can do no wrong.

But all that changed over the weekend, at least here in Canada. And as well as 45's recent antics are playing in some parts of the U.S., most Americans in my circles seem more embarrassed over this than anything else. It would be easy to dismiss the behaviour as grandstanding or simply the weirdness most of us have come to expect from the Whitehouse these days if it weren't for the fact that his position has the full support of the U.S. government.

Now if Canada was a small country in South America or the Middle East, this rhetoric coming from the Whitehouse would likely be a prelude to boots on the ground sometime in the near future or at least a bombing campaign targeting our civilian infrastructure. Given we are who we are, it is far more likely that this behaviour is merely some sort of bizarre page pulled from "The Art of the Deal" with regards to the ongoing NAFTA negotiations.

The president followed up his dramatic performance in Quebec with a direct personal attack on the prime minister.

If there is one thing I have learned over the past twenty years of interacting with people on the Internet it is that if you ever find yourself attacking someone's character instead of their words and ideas, you have pretty much lost the argument. Pettiness, however, knows no boundaries. Which is why Trudeau's socks are still an item of discussion in certain circles.

Ideologies are shortcuts to thinking for ourselves. They are comforting. By allowing others to do the hard work of thinking about how we as individuals interact with our system of political economy, we abdicate our responsibility. This frees up time and brain cells for other pursuits. But it can lead to problems, especially when our ideological brethren are clearly unhinged. To maintain our comfort we can find ourselves defending the indefensible.

The petty attacks on our prime minister, the ridiculous assertions, the incoherent strategy; they have drawn us all together as Canadians to stand behind our prime minister, no matter our politics.

The response of conservatives here in Canada makes me wonder though. Will this nationalistic fervour last? Or will this sudden solidarity be fleeting?

We can come together to make common cause against a bully, that is easy to see. It would be great if we could bring that same attitude into the halls of power and work together in the best interests of all Canadians on a daily basis instead of only when our buttons are being pushed from the outside.

I fear that this solidarity will be short-lived. Soon the petty attacks, the ridiculous assertions, and the incoherent strategy will once again be flowing from the mouths of conservative politicians and their pundits on social media as we gear up for the 2019 federal election.

It seems that while nationalism can trump ideology, we can't quite bring ourselves to lay the ideologies to rest and all pull together as Canadians.

— Chris George believes one measure of a just society is found in how well it balances fiscally conservative economics with social responsibility and environmental soundness in all of its living arrangements.


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