Two newsworthy stories in particular captured my attention this week. One was out of Canada and spoke to the new level of civility and cooperation between the provinces and the federal government. The other was an indictment of the Republican Party’s behaviour for most of the past eight years under the Barack Obama presidency. Both came down to a version of the belief that ‘karma will reward/bite you’ or biblically speaking ‘one reaps what one sows.’
A change in Canada’s government has resulted in Justin Trudeau moving from the Harper government’s rigid, disrespectful disdain for the provinces and premiers toward a more inclusive and respectful relationship, which has borne some sweet fruit in a short period of time.
Maybe for the first time in history Ottawa is not regarded as the enemy, which in turn has the provinces being less inclined to turn on one another. They are moving toward agreement on the five Ps of carbon pricing, pensions, pipelines, protectionism and public works. This follows the almost miracle of the Feds and the Provinces agreeing on CPP reform last month. It could all go bust at the Whitehorse Summit this week but I don’t think it will.
The Trudeau government’s ‘sunny ways’ approach is much mocked and maligned by the right but the majority of Canadians seem to approve of the approach given that this new government has moved out of the traditional honeymoon phase but are still strongly feeling the love of a majority of Canadians.
Contrast that with the circus that is the Republican National Convention to the south. While many conservatives are holding their noses and endorsing Trump, others are calling him out as a “bully” and a “coward.” His campaign has been a barrage of “abrasive, know-nothing nativist rhetoric,” according to some Republicans.
Just as Canadians are seeing behaviours in government of the positive kind for the first time in awhile, the Americans are observing the exact opposite. The Republican Party establishment has been so appalled by the result of its nominating process that they will be largely spectators at their own convention. Donald Trump has proven to be no more a ‘true’ Republican than Daesh adherents are ‘true’ Muslims. Trump has stomped on the cornerstones of Republicanism and done it proudly and loudly. The Grand Old Party – in not quashing him early on – has become a colossal joke and sideshow.
The blame does not all belong to Donald Trump. Just as our ‘sunny ways’ government has set the stage for productive engagement so have the Republicans behaved appallingly through the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. They effectively reduced his two terms in office to barely one and a half, given that the other half has been spent fighting off attacks. While I believe that Barack Obama will go down in history as one of America’s finest presidents he may also go down as its most beleaguered.
The opposition’s simple strategy from the moment of Obama’s inauguration was that going forward they would fight Obama on everything. Since the initial passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, the Republican House majority has voted more than 60 times to repeal it. When Obama proposed an $815 billion stimulus bill then-House Republican Chairman John Boehner urged members “to trash it on cable, on YouTube, on the House floor.” When Justice Anthony Scalia died, the Republican Congressional leadership tried to prevent President Obama from exercising the constitutional rights vested in him by his presidency. The list goes on and on. What they sowed they now reap in the person of Donald J. Trump.
On the world stage Canada and the United States are being experienced very differently. It’s not just Canada – or some of it – that loves Justin Trudeau. The world has embraced his ability to engage with people in a very human way. Canada looks great too by extension as he overhauls our reputation. As one blogger from the U.K. put it, “what Trudeau does is damage control, following years at the hands of a man whose public persona was exactly as endearing as Ted Cruz’s.”
This doesn’t mean that we – and the world – don’t need to hold him to account, but so far – aside from the elbow-gate incident – he is acquitting himself extremely well both domestically and internationally. His message to other government leaders on not falling into the trap of thinking that balancing the books is an end in itself was well received, as has been his action on the environment. It was no surprise that he is liked but he is also well respected.
In contrast the opinion of the U.S. around the world is in stark decline thanks to Trump’s hijacking of the media and public discourse. Some leaders are suggesting that should Trump win there will be a need “to bolster our diplomatic capabilities so as to penetrate sectors of American power and bypass the White House for most of our dealings.” Germany’s Der Spiegel called him “the world’s most dangerous man.”
Donald Trump did not just happen. He is the product of a conscious Republican strategy dating back to Richard Nixon in 1968, attracting voters through an apocalyptic version of the world that was picked up by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. He is a bad and dangerous man who is turning white people’s fear and anxieties to his political advantage. However, unlike Nixon or Reagan, he isn’t just reflecting fear and hatred – he is creating it. And the GOP has itself to thank for it. They’ve made their own bed but the world may have to lie in it.
Bring on more sunny days, Canada. We reap what we sow.
Following a career in the hospitality sector and the acquisition of a law and justice degree in her 50s, Dale embarked on a writing career armed with the fanciful idea that a living could be made as a freelancer. To her own great surprise she was right. The proof lies in hundreds of published works on almost any topic but favourites include travel, humour & satire, feature writing, environment, politics and entrepreneurship. Having re-invented herself half a dozen times, Dale doesn’t rule anything out. Her time is divided equally between Muskoka and Tampa Bay with Jim, her husband of 7 years and partner of 32 years. Two grown ‘kids’ and their spouses receive double doses of love and attention when she’s at home.
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