The question of what America’s progressives are going to do next is a complex one. There are many US analysts attempting to dissect the bloated carcass of the 2016 election and for my part I’m probably going to take a while to really take stock in terms of action in the United States. I’ve started regular donations to Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union and I strongly urge you to do the same if you have disposable income.
The problem, of course, is that Trump is a symptom–and the disease which caused it knows no borders. Something I do have more direct involvement in is the politics of Alberta and Canada. There are only limited ways I can help in the United States but right here, at home, there’s hot iron for me and other Canadian progressives to strike–because all signs point to our next Trump, too. Most of us will only be indirectly affected by the disaster that is sure to be the Trump administration, but we’re afraid nonetheless. Ideas don’t stick to borders.
After all, I’ve been mocking our very own opportunistic climate change denying xenophobic forced birther Christians-can-do-no-wrong fuck-the-gay-kids alt-right posterboy grifter and conman. This is the same leadership hopeful of Alberta’s so-called “Progressive” Conservatives who got a pat on the back from Michael Gove of all people and who manufactured the niqab outrage in our last federal election. That’s like getting an endorsement from Emperor Palpatine.
The question, of course, is what does it mean for Canadians that the projected winner of the PC leadership, Jason Kenney, is a derivative of Trump-esque beliefs? Specifically, what does it mean for conservative Canadians–the “not sexist/racist” kind who support fiscal conservatism–when at least some of their big tent includes the “proudly sexist and racist”?
If you consider yourself a centrist or conservative in Canada, you are overdue for an honest introspection of who exactly sits in your “big tent.” Like American conservatives, the right-wing has enjoyed successes in the recent past by uniting many different voting blocs under a single banner; indeed, the big tent fracturing is likely one of the largest contributors to the left-leaning New Democratic Party’s (NDP) success. So if you’re one of those more reasonable centrist types, the voting bloc that seems to think Trudeau Sr.’s budgeting was bad but thought he was on to something when he said “the nation has no place in the bedroom,” then you have a problem. Because also sharing space in your tent of fiscal conservatism is, you know, the voting blocs that would put a self-admitted rapist in the White House and bring the government back into people’s bedrooms.
If you’re not convinced, you need only look at how the current race for the Progressive Conservative leadership is playing out. Two centrist candidates, Sandra Jansen and Donna Kennedy-Glans, ran for PC leadership on platforms that fit the bill of fiscally conservative but socially progressive: Jansen in particular was explicit about a woman’s reproductive right to choose and her support of the NDP’s environmental protections. In other words she was just the sort of reasonable voice a progressive could communicate with, since she was less concerned with towing the party line and more concerned with whether individual policies were effective and needed. I don’t think I would’ve voted for her but I wouldn’t be sweating below the collar if she got in.
At the same time Canada was curled up into a ball and crying into its knees as the results of the US election came in, revealing some 60-odd million who actively supported Trump and another ~180 million who didn’t seem bothered enough to vote against him, Jansen and Kennedy-Glans were entering their resignations from the PC leadership. Their reason? Their nomination forms had been returned with misogynistic slurs and rape threats written all over them. I’m sure it’s total coincidence that this sexist harassment coincides with Kenney’s bussing in so-called Bible-boys and signing up youth en masse to PC membership so they can vote for the candidate who just not-so-subtly “incentivized” them. Which, by the way, is breaking the PC charter–you’ll note the PC executives don’t care. All this, by the way, paid for by Kenney’s “charity” dedicated to himself, so he could skirt around election oversight.
Kenney’s playing dirty, and he’s slated to win.
Conservatives of Alberta, this is your big tent. For decades you’ve been able to put respectable conservatives front and centre, courting this other Trump-esque voting bloc implicitly through the use of dog whistles, banking on the fact that the respectables would be able to sit on the trembling Pandora’s Box.
Well, America just demonstrated that the deplorables in Pandora’s Box can break free, and we have the early signs right here in Alberta that the respectables don’t weigh enough to keep the lid on: Kenney just broke a charter rule which requires members to be members for at least 7 days before they can vote, and just had hundreds of youth bussed in from rural Alberta to vote for him after signing them up the same day; he keeps characterizing the NDP’s changes to the education curriculum as “social engineering”–surely you agree the basics of “gay people exist” is not a radical revelation for our rusty and creaky curriculum; Kenney has a long, long track record of voting to erode a woman’s right to choose; women in politics are regularly receiving rape and death threats from his supporters; and he has a soft spot for regressive Christians routinely violating public policy despite pocketing public funds in public contracts. Is that your idea of “fiscal responsibility”–letting scammers who steal from the public purse off the hook because they mumble something about Jesus? How about Kenney grifting national taxpayers to finance his provincial leadership bid? Is that fiscally responsible, too?
You need to soul search, because it’s rapidly starting to look like the fiscal-conservative-socially-progressive types aren’t going to have a party in the next election. Kenney is slated to win the PC leadership and he has been very, very open and forthright about his intention to absorb the Wildrose back into the fold. The problem is that it isn’t the respectables at the helm anymore. It’s the deplorables. The ones who are serious about being socially reactionary. The ones who think death and rape threats are a legitimate vehicle of criticism. The ones Brian Jean has been trying to contain like a beleaguered dog-owner pulling back on the chain of his rabid pup: You know, the ones making targets of the Premier, mocking victims of domestic violence and the assassination of labour-rights politicians, and publicly approving denigrating posts about gay politicians, because there’s apparently not enough policy to criticize?
We have about 3 years to see what damage the deplorables will do under the Republican big tent before our next provincial election. I seriously hope you pay close attention, because here in Alberta the women, trans folk, queer folk, immigrants, people of colour, students, youth, poor, sick, and disabled are all going to be at the mercy of your big tent whose presumed-leadership intends to grind us into dirt. Some of us are even fiscal conservatives ourselves, but our political calculus is tainted by the fact that the party which potentially agrees with our economic policy is bolstered by a highly controlling voting bloc, one that wishes to make life difficult for us “deviants” through a climate of explicit legal and social hostility.
And yes, to head off the accusation that the Left has its own brand of deplorables: It’s true that we have our lunatic fringe as well. The difference is that our Greens bagged 0.49% of the popular vote. Our Communists bagged 0.01%. Neither has a penchant for doxxing their critics, something I can’t say of the right-wing deplorables. Let’s not pretend that radical leftists in this province have a voice. If Kenney succeeds in the creation of another big tent conservatism, that’s well over half the province throwing their weight behind him: And it’s the social regressives at the steering wheel. Your lunatics aren’t a fringe sequestering themselves in Pandora’s Box anymore. The handler’s grip on the leash is slipping, and we’re slated to watch the rabid dog break loose.
There’s two voting blocs this post isn’t addressed to: the capital-P Progressives, and the socially-conservative Conservatives. If you’re the type that has already been convinced by Kenney’s rhetoric that respecting trans kids constitutes an “experiment,” I’m not sure how to communicate with you. We are working with very different data sets and at this point might as well be speaking a different language. This language problem I have no solution for, though if you’re willing to communicate without hurling insults then so am I. We can give it the old college try. And if it fails, you can at least take the liberty of looking me in the eye that my wellbeing matters so little to you that you’d support a reactionary candidate like Kenney. At least be honest about it.
As for Albertan Progressives, I’ll have more detailed plans as we near the 2019 election. There’s too many variables to commit to any given plan just yet, but I am confident I can give you something thorough after the lines are drawn. I know several Pride centres across the province working together with several BLM chapters across the province, so progressives are already teaming up. Start there while we wait for the dust to settle.
To close, here’s the homework for conservative Albertans and Canadians: If it truly matters to you to make a fiscal conservatism that doesn’t deliberately single out minorities for mistreatment, you need to make that clear as your political parties take shape. Albertans, there’s still time to make Wildrose the respectables–Kenney appears to be more-or-less confirmed in taking the PCs hard to the right. And federally? The Conservatives agreed to axe their “one man and one woman” policy on marriage. Push for more of that.
Tonight I attend a federal Liberal party gathering. I intend to raise the spectre of reactionary successes and how the Liberals will almost certainly do what the Democrats did and take the progressive vote for-granted in their next election. Results of that coming soon.
We all have a responsibility to cast informed ballots in our upcoming elections and there’s far too much at stake for minorities to have the respectables become complacent as the deplorables take charge of the conservative apparatus. If you want to be branded as the politics of personal responsibility, then make sure your tent doesn’t have deplorables in it. Denying they exist and are in your tent is anything but responsible.