Populism can be a dangerous thing– where an informed opinion weighs as much as an uninformed one, where truth becomes subjective, and where the only voices heard are rife with vitriol and fear.
The rejection of Clinton came from the same place as our own rejection of Harper in favor of Trudeau. Old-school politicking reeks of money and self-serving privilege. Yet, despite Trudeau’s ‘sunny ways’ and charismatic positivism, when rubber hits the road, the new boss isn’t terribly unlike the old boss. I think the American people saw that in Hillary Clinton– more of the same. She’d bring progress for certain, but it’d be modest and politically safe. Nothing would really change.
It’s a kind of complacency that is associated with the privilege of the white and wealthy.
And where there is complacency, there is a gaping void filled to the brim with angry sentiment. There is opportunity in bending an ear to it. Listening. Learning. Leveraging.
In 2006, Canada swung to a reconstituted right-wing to save us from a Liberal government that’d enjoyed power too long, only to find that Harper’s Conservatives were no different. Truth be told, we already had our Trump moment then– we were ahead of the curve. Since then, populism in Canada gave rise to both Jack Layton and Justin Trudeau– and we swung to the left-side of the political spectrum. Sunny ways? Perhaps. For now.
We’re seeing this kind of populist movement elsewhere in the world. Brexit and Putin come to mind, but it isn’t hard to list the many charismatic leaders who’ve mastered the art of contorting themselves to public opinion– messianic figures to rescue the masses from their plight.
Donald Trump is such a master, but the picture he paints is far from sunny. At best, he’s a tyrannical, misogynistic and xenophobic bombast. At worst? Well…
He’s sold the American electorate on a bill of goods that doesn’t exist and fueled it with irrational fear. He can’t make good on all his promises. At least we hope. Some are impossible. Some are illegal. Some are immoral.
Even with a Republican-controlled House, Senate and Supreme Court providing much latitude for Trump to exert his will, it’s at least a little comforting that there is a separation of powers in the US. There is hope for some moderation and some sober second thought. There is hope that the hateful rhetoric was only brutish electioneering.
Cancel global trade agreements! Cancel universal healthcare! Close the borders! Build a wall! Kick out everyone that doesn’t look like the you! Protectionism will Make America Great Again!
What worries me is the divisiveness such politics promotes. Harsh lines were drawn between gender, ethnicity, age and economic status. Half of Americans are gloating and the other half are despondent. Even if the result was different, this would still be true.
Leadership, true leadership, will be in bringing these people together and finding the common ground to move forward.