Does the Donald Trump phenomenon have any relevance for us in our peaceful Similkameen Valley? Certainly many of us have been perplexed by recent U.S. political developments. We wonder why American Republicans cheered on a bigoted loud mouthed renegade billionaire as he brazenly shouldered aside more experienced, more reasonable candidates in the pre-election primaries.
The U.S. political and social environment has been in a state of uncertainty and flux for a number of years. Some Americans fear their leaders aren’t capable of coping with critical issues such as the frightening domestic racial strife or international terrorism. Already during the Obama versus McCain election campaign in 2008, Peggy Noonan, conservative leaning Wall Street Journal columnist suggested there was a sense of unease in her country.
In “Patriotic Grace” she wrote, “I think a lot of people are coming around in their hearts to a belief the wheels may be coming off the trolley, and the trolley off the rails.” She then added, “I think in some fundamental way, things are broken, and can’t be fixed, or won’t be any time soon.” She may have been foretelling and reflecting the present American mood when she said, “I believe we have to assume something bad is going to happen, 10 times, or 100 times as bad as 911.”
Governments in America and Canada have ballooned to the point where dialogue with the electorate is scant, virtually non-existent. Political leaders almost inevitably promise open, transparent government. Then, just as inevitably, they find reasons to ignore the wishes of the people who entrusted them with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the nation.
In America and Canada, governments have for some time been relentlessly re-engineering significant societal structures. They have entered into overly cozy relationships with multi-national corporations. According to Tom Parkin (Toronto Sun, July 17, 2016) “There’s been a lobbyist explosion in Ottawa. Over 8,000 lobbyists are plying their trade there.” Many of these represent corporations.
One result of corporate pressure is the (yet to be ratified) 12 nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Once ratified, this agreement will allow foreign corporations to sue any level of government if they believe regulations are likely to limit their profits, either in the present or the future. According to organizations like the Suzuki Foundation, we will lose much of our ability to protect the environment that is so crucial to our well being and that of future generations. Doctors Without Borders have expressed alarm that the TPP will adversely impact affordability of pharmaceuticals.
Peggy Noonan says, “there is a sense that the old America in which we were raised is receding and something new and quite unknown is taking its place, a sense that our leaders have gone astray. Some young people don’t know if they have a future.”
Donald Trump has skillfully tapped into the growing sense on the part of some, that the American dream is fading and losing its once magnificent, compelling allure. He has urged Americans to believe that a festering corruption at high levels is frittering away the nation’s greatness. Even if he is right, does he have the experience, ability, or wisdom to fix what he believes is wrong with America?
Trump has certainly not attempted to disguise his disdain for the practises and policies implemented by Republican and Democratic presidents over the years. His supporters seem determined to vent their anger and disgust by voting for someone, possibly almost anyone, who promises a new approach to governance.
As voters we at times over react against a leader or party we have come to distrust and even despise. This happened in the 2001 B.C. election when we gave the Dosanjh NDP only 2 seats because we had been angered by the previous Premier, Glen Clark. It is possible, at least in part, that support for Trump is rooted in such a reaction.
Peggy Noonan states “Political leaders can know what our priorities are only if we tell them, again and again.” This week I have written our local MP Dan Albas stating my concerns about the TPP, and also the profligate squandering of funds by some Senators. Even in the Similkameen valley, we can help keep the wheels on the trolley, and the trolley on the rails. We can be far more forceful in communicating our expectations to all levels of government. When a nation is governed well, bigots like Donald Trump will find fewer receptive minds.