Are There Lessons for Canada's Elites in the US Election?
Date Written: 11/11/2016
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20120
In the aftermath of the results of the US election the mix of emotions and analysis spans the spectrum from feeling sorry for the irrational and politically illiterate American voter to fear about the consequences of the election of a thuggish buffoon as president. But common to all reactions is a smugness rooted in our sense of superiority -- as if our elites are somehow more attentive to the public interest and the lives of ordinary Canadians.
In the US it was the elite's spectacular hubris, nurtured with impunity for decades by the 1 percent and their captive political class, which did in Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. It's probably foolish to try to summarise the results of the election but an alternative to alarm and raw despair is possible. Millions of those who voted for Trump, like many of those who voted for Brexit, dealt a clumsy and crude - and largely unconscious - blow against an ideology and an era that had crushed them economically and socially and took them for granted politically. In this reality there is a great irony: a US democracy widely seen to be in its death throes was used to reject the very people responsible for incrementally killing it. And it wasn't just "stupid white men": Trump won among young whites as well and Clinton did worse amongst blacks and Latinos (65 percent versus 71) than Obama did.
While clearly not as grim as the US, features in Canadian politics and society mimic those that led to the election result in the US: the largest income gap between rich and poor since the late 1920s; incomes that have been stagnant literally since the early 1980s; the second highest proportion of low wage jobs in the OECD (after the US); the highest personal debt to income ratio in Canadian history; work-life balance statistics that demonstrate most workers effectively "have no family life"; the rewarding of unbridled corporate greed with tax rates that make us look like a banana republic; the eager handing over to corporations the power, through "trade" deals, to neutralize our ability to govern ourselves democratically; the continued loss of tens of thousands the best industrial jobs; welfare rates that deliberately punish the poor; the cynical continuation of absolutely unconscionable conditions for hundreds of thousands of indigenous people from coast to coast.