A Political Observation
True Confession. I am a junkie. Have been since I was about 13 years old. It just kind of happened. I got on the wrong bus one day coming home from U.T.S. in downtown Toronto, where I had just started school. So I jumped off and began to walk home and there in front of me was the political campaign headquarters for a guy named Donald Fleming. I didn’t know him from Adam and I am pretty sure I didn’t know conservative from liberal. But the place was teeming with people and there was red and blue bunting all around and it just looked exciting to this young kid, who wasn’t in a hurry to go home anyway, and so in I went! Soon I was stuffing envelopes, running errands and doing odd jobs. I spent every afternoon after school and weekends there, until election day. I soon found out I was working for a conservative and on election night, when the Conservatives won the election, there I was on the front page of the Toronto Star right beside Donald Fleming, who became Minister of Finance in the Diefenbaker government. I was hooked.
Since then, I have seen it all, or thought I had, until this last year or so. I have been to countless political conventions, watched or attended every political leadership race in the past 50 years of all political stripes, and helped run provincial and federal election campaigns as well as leadership races for two premiers of Ontario. I have worked the back rooms and the front rooms and have seen my fair share of failures and victories. I have come to know people in all major political parties, some of them good friends and very few who were there for the wrong reasons. I am not a total ideologue. I have voted Liberal on occasion. On balance however, I am a Progressive Conservative, although I sometimes wonder if there are many of us left.
All of this is to say I know something about politics through a lifetime of interest both here in Canada and the United States and indeed around the world. And so it was through these eyes that the political junkie part of me watched almost every minute of the Republican and Democratic conventions during the past two weeks. And, no, I have never seen anything like them.
I must admit, during the Republican Convention there were moments when I was pulled toward Donald Trump. I was impressed by his children. They appeared to be well brought up, intelligent, well spoken, and they clearly loved their father. Trump himself pulled at the strings of some issues that are important to me. In many ways his convention was a masterful piece of persuasive showmanship. But then I realized that I was coming close to drinking the Kool-Aid as so many others appear to have done. That was the scary thing.
As I have since sat back and thought about it, I have realized how important it is to remember who Donald Trump really is. I could not think of one positive thing that he stood for, other than his assertion that he and he alone could make America great again. It is all about him. He doesn’t need anyone else and I am sure he looks at having to run with a vice-presidential candidate as a necessary inconvenience.
During the Democratic convention, Michael Bloomberg, himself a media mogul billionaire and a former Mayor of New York, made an oblique reference to Donald Trump’s sanity. That may well be an overstatement, but to me it was a red light blinking. Trump is a man who says one thing one week and the complete opposite the next. He can barely complete a paragraph without saying how great he is or how awful someone else is. He is a bully and he mocks you if you dare criticize him, as he did the reporter with a physical disability or the women he said had blood coming out of her “whatever”. Donald Trump has insulted almost every element of people who exist, with the possible exception of middle-aged white men. He has embraced support from white supremacists, he has insulted women, he has bundled Muslims together in a single radical cult and he has debased Latinos. He has done this most likely because he thinks it gets him votes and sadly, really sadly, he may be right.
Donald Trump invites the Russians to spy on Americans and then says he was just being sarcastic. At the same time he reportedly suggested we would have better relations with the Russians if we accepted their annexation of the Crimea, effectively encouraging them to invade another country. Wasn’t there a guy much like that back in the 1930s? Is this really the type of person we want with his fingers on the nuclear code?
To paraphrase Julius Caesar, I did not write this column to praise Hillary Clinton but rather to bury (politically) Donald Trump. I know that many Americans believe that government in their country is broken and in many aspects they are right. But never has the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ been more applicable. Donald Trump shows all the signs of a demagogue, if not a despot. He should not become President of the United States. It would be bad for America. It would be bad for Canada, and it would be bad for much of the world. And for the record, this opinion is coming from a Conservative.
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