Alberta Politics
St. Martin’s Day 1949 in Germany (Photo: German Federal Archive).

Evidence suggests U.S. conservatives have given up on democracy — can Canada’s Cons be far behind?

Posted on November 12, 2020, 1:40 am
6 mins

Yesterday was Martinstag in Germany.

I suppose if you think about it, it’s St. Martin’s Day here in Canada, too.

Armistice Day 1918, how the end of World War I was told to Canadians.

The occasion is said to be quite popular with children, with lots of colourful lanterns, costumes and sweets. Sort of like Halloween, only with more conventionally religious overtones.

It turns out the Germans don’t celebrate Remembrance Day! Who knew?

Maybe the fact that Remembrance Day, previously known as Armistice Day, takes its date from the armistice that ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, has something to do with this.

After all, while formally an armistice, and therefore not quite officially a surrender, 11-11-18 certainly marked a victory for the Allies and a defeat for Germany.

I was thinking about this last night, not just for the obvious reason, but because of the way Donald Trump’s presidency continues to wind down like a slow-motion train wreck — tiresome and extremely distressing at the same time, with potentially ugly long-term consequences for everyone involved.

It occurred to me that, as is often the case with wars, elections normally end with someone winning. And this, almost inevitably, means that someone also lost.

U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

In the case of Armistice Day 1918, Germany was the loser, so I suppose you can forgive the Germans for not making a big whoop-de-do out of the occasion.

In the case of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, the loser was Mr. Trump – and this will be so even in the unlikely event he and his supporters manage to pull off the soft judicial coup they seem to have in mind and the leaders of the U.S. military wash their hands of their oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Probably won’t happen. Democrat Joe Biden’s lead — both in the popular vote and the Electoral College — is now just too big, and seems to be growing a little with every recount, as in fact tends to happen with legitimate recounts everywhere.

Still, the apparent unwillingness of the entire Congressional wing of the Republican Party to recognize this is troubling.

You’ll remember how David Frum, the Canadian-born speechwriter for President George W. Bush and author of Trumpocalypse, observed in 2018 that “if conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.”

If the contretemps south of the 49th Parallel indicates anything, it’s that we’re there already, not that we might be at some indeterminate point in the future.

Mr. Trump couldn’t win democratically on Nov. 3. Now his Republicans seem to be renouncing democracy, democratic rhetoric notwithstanding.

This should concern Canadians because the Conservative Party of Canada and the Republican Party in the United States are nowadays joined at the hip and the head.

In the United States, thanks to the patchwork U.S. federal voting system, Republican state legislatures have been cheating their way to easy victories so long by suppressing votes, gerrymandering electoral districts and intimidating voters that when it doesn’t work it actually may seem to many Americans that the other guy was cheating!

This is a little harder to do in Canada, but as we saw when Stephen Harper was prime minister, not to mention during Jason Kenney’s successful effort to capture the leadership of Alberta’s conservative movement, the same kind of thinking is not exactly a foreign concept to Canadian Conservatives.

So if American conservatives have already given up on democracy – as the evidence from the presidential election strongly suggests they have – it won’t be long before their Canadian counterparts reach the same conclusion. Assuming, of course, that they haven’t already.

As President Trump observed, not all that unreasonably, about mail-in ballots and other democratic reforms to make it easier for Americans to vote: “If you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

The same would likely be true for Canada’s Conservatives if we were to adopt democratic reforms compatible with our Parliamentary system like those in New Zealand.

Assuming Mr. Trump fails in his effort to get someone else to take the risk of ginning up a coup to keep him in power, perhaps he’ll try for a rematch in in 2024.

One can only pray the consequences of that will be less catastrophic than the rematch Germany sought two decades after the events of 1918.

Committing to democracy and doing something nice for the kiddies every St. Martin’s Day would be a much better plan for North America’s conservatives.

15 Comments to: Evidence suggests U.S. conservatives have given up on democracy — can Canada’s Cons be far behind?

  1. Anonymous

    November 12th, 2020

    I think you have touched up on some very deep and troubling issues here with how things are playing out in the United States, as well as in Canada. It is very clear that Donald Trump certainly does not want to give up his position of power very easily. He refuses to give up his grasp of power. In Canada, particularly in Alberta, democracy doesn’t seem to exist anymore. For the longest period of time, there has been only one party in power. First, it was the Social Credit Party. Second, it was the Alberta PCs. Both were in power for decades. The UCP are a party that is mired in controversies. Why and how was Brian Jean sideswiped from being the leader of the UCP? How did the UCP really come to power? Why have UCP party members been handed down harsh fines for election based shenanigans? Alberta’s premier also fires the provincial Elections Commissioner, who was investigating his leadership race, when he’s south of the border, in America. This reeks of something rotten, and it should be raising eyebrows, but there are people who are unfazed with all this. No doubt, Preston Manning was behind the merger of the Alberta PCs, and the Wildrose, to create the UCP. Furthermore, the media, specifically, Postmedia, had a role in the 2019 provincial election in Alberta. They were clearly backing the UCP, and they somehow knew that the UCP would be Alberta’s next government. Even employees of the Rebel, were also saying that the UCP would be Alberta’s next government, way before the provincial election in Alberta transpired. They somehow knew who would be in power in Alberta next. How did they know this? It’s not surprising to see the premier of Alberta disregard democracy. In his former political abode, the CPC, the robocalls mess was something he was responsible for. Also, the UCP doesn’t consult with affected groups, and does things in an undemocratic manner. Recipients receiving A.I.S.H had their payment dates changed from 4 business days before the end of the month, to the first day of every month, without any warning, notice, and with no consultation. Teachers had their pensions taken over by the UCP, without asking for their consent on the matter. Teacher’s pensions ended up in AIMco, a very bad pension fund, with proven losses, such as $4 billion in pension money disappearing, and close to $2 billion of the Heritage Savings Trust Fund vanishing. There are even more examples than these. I feel the UCP is going to try a move from the Alberta PCs, and try to remain in power for as long as they can, and by any means possible. The media, specifically Postmedia will be right on board with this. This is scary, given the fact that November 11 was Remembrance Day, and our soldiers fought for our freedom.

    Reply
  2. Dave

    November 12th, 2020

    Oh, Canadian Conservatives may be about 3 or 4 years behind, although with some caveats.

    First, it remains to be seen if Trump’s coup will be successful. I think and hope it will not. If so, Conservatives elsewhere will probably be less likely to try follow his example.

    Second, Canada is not the US. We are multi party and not as polarized. Also, one big impediment for the US Republicans is they have become too old, rural and too non welcoming to minorities. On all these counts demographics is against them. Growth is in urban, young and more diverse populations. Now some Republican’s get this, just as Conservatives like Kenney here target ethnic communities. If those Republicans can get past Trump, who doesn’t get thid, they have a fighting chance in the future.

    Canadian Conservatives have not yet fallen into a xenophobic, racist trap, like US Republicans have. It is quite possible if Federal Conservatives here put forth a moderate sounding leader and wait for the Liberals to mess up more, they could just win.

    So, things are not as desperate yet for Canadian Conservatives as US Republicans, who have over relied for years on gerrymandered districts, a Senate and Electoral College that give a big handicap to them even when they don’t get the most votes, because they really don’t want to try broaden their base.

    Of course here in Alberta, Kenney and his leadership scandals reek of Nixon. Also, he is not inclined to moderation and seems to firmly hold to social conservative ideas increasingly out of step with mainstream Alberta. If it is any comfort, I think the risk of Federal Conservatives turning into dictators is probably not that high. However, unfortunately the risk of local Conservatives in Alberta turning into dictators is higher.

    Reply
  3. ronmac

    November 12th, 2020

    Team Trump sore losers? Hillary was a pretty sore loser in 2016, pushing a bogus conspiracy theory that the Russians were responsible for her loss. Didn’t this undermine confidence in democracy?

    Something else to consider. The last four years the combined forces of the media, judiciary and the political establishment threw everything but the kitchen sink at Trump trying to bring him down. Despite this 10 million more voted for him in 2020 than in 2016.

    Reply
    • Lulymay

      November 12th, 2020

      Regarding your last statement about Trump’s vote numbers increasing, I would just make the comment that this is result is precisely why the Trumpers are better known as “the gullibillies”. They also tend to have a one issue voting pathology, especially among the evangelicals: GET RID OF ROE V. WADE as well as OBAMACARE (which is more properly referred to as the “Affordable Care Act”) but it suits them to refer to it as that black guy’s socialist legislation.

      As a self-proclaimed Greatest Democracy in the World, I think the cracks are seriously widening on those bragging rights.

      Reply
  4. Albertan

    November 12th, 2020

    It seems that support by some/or many, of the masses for authoritarian leaders such as Trump can be explained by exploring the psychology of “understanding the minds of staunch supporters.” The following article could well explain why with 14 characteristics:
    “A Complete Psychological Analysis of Trump’s Support”
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/mind-in-the-machine/201812/complete-psychological-analysis-trumps-support
    Two characteristics include: “Trump’s conspiracy theories target the mentally vulnerable, and, Racism and Bigotry.”
    ….more than disturbing considering that Trump, still, got as many votes as he did. And, what is more disturbing for me, is the parallel ro be drawn with the Kenney UCP, not fiscal conservatism, but populist authoritarianism, with huge problems with transparency and consulting the citizenry on issues such as the sale of our parks.

    Reply
  5. karl roth

    November 12th, 2020

    siGh, most definitely the harperite cons take their cues from the republicans and looks like they have thereby ruinated Canadian conservative party until the harperites are purged from the party.

    and please, do bring in some sort of Proportional Representation.

    Don’t let the politicians make the decisions as to its form but rather give it to to our professional and independent Elections Canada to decide what’s best for Canada

    an effectively more democratic democracy can’t be a bad idea can it ?
    just don’t ask a harperite conservative

    Reply
  6. Political Ranger

    November 12th, 2020

    Conservatism and conservatives are an anachronism today and have been out of touch with reality for a couple generations now. There is very little either have to offer in the way of solutions to our modern world, except perhaps, as always, more profits for a favored few corporations and shareholders.
    That is not to say they are irrelevant.

    These people, while never really comfortable with intelligence and rational thought, are very quick to feel slights and disrespect and are very conversant in the language of grievance. They seem to take great pride in how quickly they rise to anger and once there, spend inordinate time and energy extolling the righteousness of their position.
    Again, no solution, just personal grievance.

    Nothing good can come from giving this ideology and these people a forum. They, and it belong in the dustbins of history.

    Reply
  7. Sam Gunsch

    November 12th, 2020

    ‘GOP leaders’ embrace of Trump’s refusal to concede fits pattern of rising authoritarianism, data shows

    Research by a team of international scholars shows the Republican Party’s shift away from democratic norms predates Donald Trump but has accelerated…’

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/11/12/republican-party-trump-authoritarian-data/

    ============
    Climenhaga’s post quite in sync with this data on Republicans’ increasing authoritarianism vs declining concern for democracy in Washington Post story (published same day! ha!):

    Reply
  8. Sam Gunsch

    November 12th, 2020

    FairVote.ca has some relevant content (below) regarding possible concerns about potentially stronger RW domination than AB already has, via RW fringe parties being enabled by under proportional representation, e.g. New Zealand’s mixed-member proportional…

    Research does *not* support that fear of RW fringe parties cementing more RW political domination.

    https://www.fairvote.ca/factcheckextremists/

    EXCERPT: People are NOT more likely to vote for far-right parties if they live a country with a proportional system. PR doesn’t make those parties more popular.

    Here is what the research shows:

    A study looking at 33 right wing extremist parties over 23 years found: “While proportional electoral systems do undeniably make it easier for extremist parties to gain legislative representation, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that they promote extremism. Instead, the share of the vote going to extremist parties appears unrelated to the type of electoral system employed.” (Carter, 2002)
    a
    A study looking at 13 anti-immigrant parties over 10 years found “the effect of proportional representation turns out to be not significant” (Van Der Brugh, 2005)
    a
    A study looking at Austria, France, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Italy and Denmark found: “We can see that the coefficient for the disproportionality of the electoral system is in fact positive, rather than negative as was anticipated. That is, the odds of voting for the extreme right actually increase as the disproportionality of the electoral system increases.” (Carter and Arzheimer, 2006).

    Do small far-right parties in Europe win more seats on average with proportional systems than with “winner-take-all” systems?

    Yes.

    In general, it easier for voters of smaller parties of any kind (left, right, centre) to gain some representation with proportional representation.

    But it very much depends on the type of proportional system.’

    https://www.fairvote.ca/factcheckextremists/

    Reply
  9. Athabascan

    November 12th, 2020

    The Harperites are NOT Conservatives.

    If you want proof ask Kim Campbell, Brian Mulroney, or Joe Clark who were real Canadian Conservatives.

    Stamping a Timex watch with a Rolex name doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a Timex.

    Harperites are fascists. Republicans are also fascists. Nazis were and are fascists. If a party shares the same ideology as Nazis, but you call yourself a Conservative or Republican, you are still a Nazi.

    Harper’s greatest accomplishment was bringing US-style Republican(ism) to Canada. Want proof? Listen to Michelle Rempel’s video rant in her truck in Oklahoma. If anyone thinks she’s patriotic, then you are likely a fascist too.

    Fact: Canadian Conservatives are indistinguishable from Republicans in the US.

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      November 14th, 2020

      They’re not Nazis. One of the pathognomic features of Naziism is virulent anti-Semitism, to the point of advocating extermination of all Jews from the face of the Earth — as they tried, unsuccessfully only because of the end of the Second World War, in 1933-45. The HarperCons, with their Christian evangelicalism, are not really anti-Semitic, and in fact are strong supporters of the Trump-wearing-a-kippa Netanyahu Likud Government in Israel.

      I think they’re fascists, more aligned with Francoist Spain or pre-war Mussolini — whose anti-Semitism was a late adoption after he became buddy-buddy with Hitler, of whom he was initially quite skeptical.

      Reply
  10. Just Me

    November 12th, 2020

    The unfolding situation in the US just proves that the mindset championed by Turkish president Erdoğan. The president’s view of democracy was like riding a bus “The bus takes you somewhere and then you get off.” Democracy is only a temporary state in the advance to power, but then discarded once that power is attained.

    The excellent show The Circus presented the same disturbing scene when one of the show’s hosts, Mark McKinnon, sat down to dinner with a selection of leading Republicans. These Republicans declared that their party favours “authoritarian” leadership and “order”. Sounds like the fascism is strong in them.

    The Simpsons has an amazing record of predicting the future. The episode where Homer becomes a Republican and discovers that Americans are so lazy, they want to be ruled by a king presents a compelling teachable moment. Which brings us to the current state of the American republic, teetering on the edge of becoming a full-blown imperium.

    This Saturday, Washington D.C. will be invaded by the “Million MEGA March”. There will be red truckers caps as far as the eye can see, open-carry firearms (not allowed in DC, btw) and the greatest collection of Type I diabetes victims, ever. President Trump is expected to appear where he will deliver his monumental “I Have a Dream” speech. (It’s been declared to be much better than that *other* I Have a Dream speech, which no one remembers.)

    Whether or not Canada’s CONs fall into this plane of dementia remains to be seen. But if they do the fun will be explosive.

    Reply
  11. Scotty on Denman

    November 12th, 2020

    Why are Republican politicians egging tRump on to dispute his re-election loss when nary a one really believes he won? Well, no one could be blamed for expecting the party of Grand Old White Privilege to continue tilting the democratic tables in its own favour, or for citing tRump’s meta-cheating as additional psephological weaponry dangerous in anyone’s hands, but Republican fortunes are much to do with recuperation from the tRump malady—and they don’t need a leader who brags about how good at electoral skulduggery he is because the more Americans synthesize the myriad of anti-democratic devices to effectively disenfranchise non-Republican voters, the more likely the issue will ride the waves instead of sinking out of sight below them.

    Anyway, they don’t need tRump; they have what the Orang Spray-Goo Tan non-politician leveraged against his Democrat rival: white resentment of black power (along with all the undemocratic and vote-suppression tricks of normal elections). Now the GOWP can leverage male resentment of a powerful, black woman who might become President by default without being elected, has already taken a run for the Democratic presidential nomination, and probably still aspires to presidential election—that is, the GOWP can provoke the misogynistic streak attending the typical white-supremacist male.

    But isn’t the Candy Floss Tosser the undisputed champion of misogynistic, as well as racist, rhetoric? That might be, but a single felony conviction (without jail time, naturally) is all it would take to disqualify tRump from running again and, besides, Republicans have plenty of other reasons to want The Donald out of the party’s future.

    Does New Zealand have something to teach about blunting anti-democratic tactics now becoming stock ammo for desperately moribund neo-rightists (sorry: I just can’t call them ‘conservatives’)? I think not. NZ is very different in so many ways from Canada. Although it uses the same Westminster parliamentary system where governments fall when they lose the confidence of the House (being the primary difference from the US Congressional parliamentary system where governments do not fall when bills do not pass), it is a unitarian state with a strong central government and non-sovereign sub-jurisdictions which cannot temper a federal government like sovereign Canadian provinces can; NZ also has a special House for indigenous Maori representatives whereas Canada has no such thing. In any case, the main argument for proportional representation in any of the eleven Canadian sovereignties is that pro-rep makes election of majority governments very rare—a posited benefit—but NZ has just elected a majority using pro-rep while, at the same time, at least a few Canadian provinces have traded in their First-Past-the-Post elected minority governments for majorities. (Speaking as a British Columbian, I should also cite the three electoral-systems Referenda we’ve had in the last decade-and-a-half: FPtP prevailed in each one, the most recent just last year by an almost two-to-one margin; pro-rep has also been rejected in every other province which has held such a referendum.)

    Above is a citation from FairVote.ca, a pro-rep proponent, which tries to diminish the concern that pro-rep potentially empowers fringe or extremist parties. However, it’s been much easier to convince voters that pro-rep does indeed include this potential (FairVote.ca, like other pro-rep promoters, is very selective in citing examples supposed to assuage this concern—but of course it’s natural for a biased org to propagate this kind of stuff—we’ve seen a ton of it in BC and, still, BC voters have rejected pro-rep, three times in a row, partly because of this very concern.)

    The psephological abuses of pseudoCon parties may be adopted into pro-repper rhetoric but, really, the correct remedy is to root out and prosecute these abuseSr—which has been done already: the federal HarperCons were repeatedly busted for electoral violations. In BC, for another example, unregulated party funding, just one democracy-diminishing tactic, has been remedied. And, naturally and as a matter of course the HarperCons led themselves down, a really good way to address these abuses is to vote the bastards out. FPtP seems to have been an effective way to do this, and it appears most Canadians agree.

    Reply
  12. Carlos

    November 12th, 2020

    Well you call them Conservatives but I can only see Fascists on both sides of the border.
    Jason Kenney is a car salesman speaking and a true fascist acting. He just does not have the guts to say what he thinks and so he just gets the sympathy of his supporters and moves on with his evangelical crap that is like in the case of Trump in the US, destroying this province and its future.
    Our pseudo democracy is pretty close to collapse as well not just the US. It started with Harper and it is not getting any better.

    Reply
  13. Jim

    November 15th, 2020

    Ironic that should Biden be able to pull this off expect all the old wars to start up again, back to the forever wars of the Bush and Obama years. The blind hatred for Trump is very similar to what happened in Alberta with Notley. Ask yourself who benefits from your hatred? We sure are suffering the consequences here from so many following line being fed to them. The difference being with Kenney it is just Albertans suffering with Biden the whole world will suffer.

    Reply

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