Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 19, 2016
Liberalism in North America took a bit of a beating last week.
Fresh off the finest example of demagoguery becoming the leader of the free world, the Canadian Liberal movement took a hit from a couple of different sources in the same passage of time.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and potential CPC leadership hopeful Kevin O’Leary both took the opportunity to use a Trump victory as a vehicle to score cheap points against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Ambrose was first to respond sharing that the Democratic loss south of the border was a warning sign for Liberals here, who she believes are “losing touch with working people.”
O’Leary, as only Kevin O’Leary can do, proceeded to pile on by sharing his thoughts on how the Trump presidency would be disastrous for Canadians, in particular with Trudeau at the helm.
O’Leary went one step further calling Trump and Trudeau “Godzilla vs. Bambi,” among other insults hurled at our sophomore prime minister.
O’Leary has flirted for months with the leadership of the Conservative party and has crossed more than one politician in the process, so the comments about Trudeau do not come as a surprise. O’Leary has often been compared to Trump, as both are people of affluence who have built on their name through their involvement in reality television, among other things; a fact he often tried to dispel. It will be interesting to see O’Leary’s next move though. While Trump was still the long-shot O’Leary distanced himself from the Republican nominee, now that he was ultimately electable I’m left to wonder whether the “Shark Tank” judge will change his tune.
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump played on the thought process that the Democrats had lost touch with voters. They had become the “elite” and Trump, although a billionaire himself, would be the one to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington. Trump capitalized on the idea (whether correct or not) that Clinton and liberal Democrats in the United States were untrustworthy and without a doubt that messaging worked.
Now the challenge for Canadian Liberals is to not allow the Trump mindset to potentially brew under the surface in our country. The government is facing some monumental challenges over the next 12 months as it pertains to our relationship with the United States, so now is not the time to shift off course and bite on the hook hanging precariously in front of them. Pipeline projects like Keystone XL will be back on the table, but will undoubtedly be brought forward under Trump’s form of rule. It is likely to be a deal that strongly benefits the United States and paints Trudeau into a corner with foes both at home and abroad depending on how he and his government approach a deal.
The U.S. result taught us a couple of rather frightening things about the electorate south of the border, but there was also plenty of wisdom to be gleaned from the result. It showed that a party that is out of touch with the people will be upended if it continues to govern from a bureaucratic standpoint. Trump spoke the language Americans wanted to hear, and O’Leary is currently speaking to that same ideal.
I doubt that O’Leary remains on the sidelines much longer. It has been rumoured for some time he would come forward in an attempt to shake up the established principles many of the Tory hopefuls portray, and is looked upon as a no-nonsense, brash-talking alternative to the government establishment. Sound familiar?
Trump’s ascension to power should serve as a shakeup for politicians. It reflects a deep-seated mistrust for the political establishment and is a warning beacon for those who rely so heavily on their base throughout election cycles.
Hillary Clinton may have rested on her laurels in the closing days of the campaign and it ultimately cost her the White House. If Trudeau were to do the same, a challenger with a cause could shake up our government in the future.
No matter the socioeconomic factors people want to feel they are being listened to. Trump, much like Trudeau, was able to accomplish that.
Now the difficulty for both leaders moving forward is whether they can continue to harness the energy from the working class that put them where they are today or ultimately fizzle out as their terms continue to unfold.