We were surprised by Donald Trump’s election to President. We watched him progress from perceived joke candidate, to become the Republican Party nominee, and finally President Elect. We kept expecting the American voters to reject his lies, contradictions, and general unfitness for office. Every step of the election cycle, we found our confidence in the American people slipping as Donald Trump moved ever closer to the presidency. How could this man gain support while alienating so many?
More importantly, could the same thing happen in Canada?
Stephen Harper stepped down as Conservative Party leader following their defeat in the 2015 federal election. The party will vote on a new leader to replace him on May 27th of 2017. It is still early in the leadership race, but some of the leadership candidates are already taking cues from Trump’s campaign and are echoing some of his more questionable practices and policies. We are concerned that should one of these candidates become leader of the Conservative Party, many of the same trends we have seen in Trump’s campaign and the Brexit movement will take root in the Canadian political climate.
In both the Brexit and Trump campaigns, polls have shown that the most ardent supporters voted emotionally. In their poll responses, they have shown a willingness to latch onto a single fact or policy, and focus on it as the most significant motivator for their vote, often defiantly, in the face of contradictory evidence. With Trump, many frustrated Americans formed an attachment to one or another of his policies, which were often presented without detail. They were willing to overlook any criticisms of Trump or his other, sometimes contradictory policies, regardless of the potential impacts those policies would have on them or their loved ones. Early in his presidency we are already shocked by the executive orders he has signed in attempts to bring these short sighted policies into practice.
Expecting those with a different political identity to view these menaces as the threats they are is foolish. The Canadian election system is flawed, and a Prime Minister could win a majority government with less than 40% of the popular vote. It is entirely possible that one party wins the election, because voters are split between the other parties. The leader of a political party sets the tone for the party and if they are in power, the tone of the government.
We believe in the democratic process, but also believe that our system is open to abuse. Political party membership is dwindling. Which means that all parties are reducing the barriers to entry, inviting all who share a passing resemblance to their ideals to join. We are starting to see some parties being subverted by people with extreme views on the edge of that party’s political comfort zone. These fringe candidates will run for leadership in an effort to shift the party’s policies closer to their own. We’ve seen this in the states with Donald Trump and the Tea Party faction of the Republican party. And now we see this happening in Canada.
In a democracy, such as ours, everybody is entitled to an opinion and to have their voice heard. As much as we find some political figure’s views distasteful, we cannot deny them their ability to act on it. We also cannot deny others their right to vote. The best we can do is add our voices to the discussion, and sway others to vote for more sensible options.
Leadership of a major party is the only feasible path to Prime Minister. So when outside political views take root in an established party, we start to get worried. There are too many people who will always vote for a particular party, and too many people who will vote out of spite. Spiteful voting is somewhat mitigated in Canada by the presence of multiple national parties, but it is still a factor.
We want to send a message, that these alternative interpretations of political parties are not welcome. Let them form their own parties. Let them run as independents. Let them fight to get their message across and compete against the other political ideals directly. Instead of usurping an existing party as a shortcut to the national stage. If at that point, the majority of voters do approve of these fringe politics, then it is we who are in the wrong and will have to rethink what Canada is and what it needs. Until that time, we will do what we can to preserve Canada as we know it.
We just ask that the leader of the opposition and next potential Prime Minister is a tolerable one.