Alberta Politics
The United States Capitol on a normal mob-free night (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Notice to Canadian Conservatives: de-Trumpification is coming and it’s time to burn your MAGA caps!

Posted on January 09, 2021, 2:47 am
9 mins

Is the United States about to embark on a program of de-Trumpification?

Less than a week ago, that seemed highly improbable. In the aftermath of the startling events of the 6th, another early December date which will live in infamy, it’s sure starting to look like it.

Prescient demonstrators at the White House on a summer night in 2018 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It remains to be seen if the storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. goes down in history as just a white riot that got out of hand because of timid policing or an actual peckerwood putsch attempt by President Donald Trump’s private militia.

But at the moment it looks like we’re heading in the latter direction. 

Especially if the Congress impeaches Mr. Trump again, de-Trumpification becomes a real possibility. 

That would mean a state-sanctioned effort to disgrace, shun and remove Trump supporters from office, criminalize parts of Mr. Trump’s approach to governing, and legislate barriers to a repetition of Mr. Trump’s success. 

That would be bad news for social media corporations whose platforms were a key part of President Trump’s successful strategy. And it will make anyone in a MAGA cap feel about as welcome as a skunk at a garden party.

And if Canada’s next door neighbour and greatest cultural influencer takes that route, it has real implications for Canadian Conservative politicians, a significant portion of whom have bought fully into the Trump program of authoritarianism, division, guns and contempt for constitutional norms.

I’m not just talking about the likes of Alberta Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen, who went to the United States to campaign for Mr. Trump, famously appearing in a red MAGA cap on election night 2016. 

A MAGA-hatted demonstrator from Alberta’s Wexit fringe at the provincial Legislature in Edmonton last year (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It will also impact Mr. Dreeshen’s boss, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who has aped the Trump governing program, from climate-change denial to inciting polarization, casual lying, cozying up to right-wing extremists, and the cold war against constitutional government. 

Add to that, here on the Prairies, encouragement of a Trump-worshiping “Bloc Redneckois” to foment regional separatism of convenience as a wedge against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal federal government. 

The term de-Trumpification, of course, is fraught. 

It acknowledges the policy of denazification, the word coined by Pentagon lawyers in 1943, which U.S. occupiers adopted at the end of World War II to turn the western portion of Adolf Hitler’s defeated Germany into a reflection of the federal American Republic.

It worked pretty well, although it was not the only model the Americans used as they began to fashion their postwar, post-imperial empire. In Japan, they allowed the vestiges of the old imperial state to remain, maintaining continuity with history, while ushering in a new era of economic subservience to Washington. That worked too. 

But in recent years, where the United States has moved to check states that resisted its “Washington Consensus,” post-regime-change denazification has been the model most often advocated in the marble halls of the American capital. 

Consider President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. After toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the Americans described their pacification program as de-Ba’athification, banning Hussein’s Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and driving public sector employees associated with it from their jobs. This was not a success. 

In recent years, the first step toward regime change, almost invariably, is to compare foreign tyrants – and not a few foreign democrats – to Hitler. 

Popular culture plays an important role. Just watch how swiftly the American publishing and movie industries pivot to produce thrillers with villains who reflect the preoccupations of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. 

Hitler’s deeds were so odious that here in the West we have observed a polite custom of not comparing politicians to Nazis, no matter how frightening their rhetoric or behaviour. Lately, this has been expressed humorously as Godwin’s Law: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1,” whereupon discussion ends, and whoever used the H-word loses the argument.

This rule was suspended in polite company, though, when foreign governments not part of the Washington Consensus were involved.

But if the tools of denazification come home to purge the American government of the last vestiges of Donald Trump’s four-year tenure as America’s Lord of Misrule, we can probably expect the proscription on Nazi comparisons to end too, at least as far as Mr. Trump, his family members and closest advisors go.  

This won’t mean the end of the neoliberal consensus in Washington, Ottawa or Edmonton, of course. But it does mean the Trump wing of the Republican Party may be on its way to becoming a marginalized third party in American politics. 

As Mike Davis explained in the Guardian yesterday, “the riot was a deus ex machina that lifted the curse of Trump from the careers of conservative war hawks and right-wing young lions whose higher ambitions have been fettered by the presidential cult.”

In other words, the influential American scholar argued, “the monolith has cracked and the Republican party is splitting up … with various conservative elites loosely but energetically conspiring to take back power from the Trump family.”

This means Canadian politicians like Mr. Kenney and his strategic brain trust would be wise to find a way put some distance between themselves and the obvious comparisons to Mr. Trump’s excesses. 

This might be a good time, for example, for the premier to tell his issues managers and press secretaries to learn some manners on social media. 

Even so, Mr. Kenney’s so-called United Conservative Party has the potential to split along much the same lines in the not-too-distant future for similar reasons – especially if Mr. Kenney’s sagging popularity and low public confidence in the UCP’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy endure. 

Those like Mr. Dreeshen and Conservative Party of Canada Deputy Leader Candice Bergen who have been caught wearing MAGA caps are going to need to find a way to expunge that photographic memory if they hope to succeed outside their rural ridings in the Prairie boondocks. 

So if you’re a right-wing Canadian politician, now is the time to bury or burn your MAGA cap!

De-Trumpifcation is coming, and not just to the U.S.A.

27 Comments to: Notice to Canadian Conservatives: de-Trumpification is coming and it’s time to burn your MAGA caps!

  1. Dave

    January 9th, 2021

    A lot to consider about the future ramifications of what just happened in the US. I think the US Republicans will try hard to erase Trump from their party, as it will probably make their future political lives easier. However, unfortunately Trump doesn’t seem inclined to go away easily and I think a number of number of his supporters are not going to go away quietly either. It could quite possibly split their party.

    I suspect the Trump cult may go, or just be pushed, more underground by deTrumpification. Reduced access to power and all the megaphones related to that may cause the numbers influenced to diminish considerably, but I believe a hard core group will continue to exist for quite a while. Unlike the German example, their nation was not pounded into rubble and this cult leader is still alive. I think the best we can hope for is that they are reduced enough not to be a real political threat, they do not cause too much trouble and Trump is content to spend his future time mostly focused on golf, because losing in politics is really no fun for anyone, so why risk repeating it.

    Fortunately for them, most Canadian Conservatives did not embrace Trump too closely, given how unpopular he was in Canada. However they did embrace some of his nasty and divisive tactics and ideas at times. It would be good if the loss by Trump might cause them to reconsider whether mean spirited, populist attacks are really such a winning strategy after all. However, I doubt for instance whether Kenney will change his approach much, it is more a reflection of his own character, I believe.

    Yes, the US did fairly well with nation building after WWII, but lately they sure seem to have lost their touch. I believe US culture after that time focused too much on US superiority, or exceptionalism as they like to call it. Different approaches work in different cultures and places can get to freedom and democracy in different ways. I think the US tries too hard to impose its own approach in other places. That is not always appreciated or understood, even when intentions are good.

    I’ve always thought Godwin’s rule was a bit silly, but perhaps that is partly the point. Obviously autocratic and fascist governments will have some similar bad tendencies. Of course it doesn’t make them all equally bad, but there is useful knowledge from history in how want to be autocratics and fascists use similar techniques to try take more power and control and to restrict freedom and rights.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    January 9th, 2021

    I recall that Donald Trump mentioned that he wouldn’t give up his transition of power in America peacefully. I see that is happening. In Alberta, will the UCP admit defeat in 2023, and go down quietly?

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      January 10th, 2021

      TOM: Who rigged the election? I think the UCP did that. If the UCP accuses someone else of doing something wrong, chances are good that the UCP are doing it themselves.

      Reply
  3. ronmac

    January 9th, 2021

    Careful of what you wish for. The tools being used to shut down the free speech platforms of Trump supporters are going to be turned on the progressive left next. The tech and financial oligarchs that control US politics are by their their nature anti-democratic and are now signaling they will no longer tolerating any kind of populism, and that includes left and right. The destruction wrought by a gang of yahoos the other day was far less than the BLM rioting last summer which saw city after city go up in flames.

    Reply
    • ronmac

      January 9th, 2021

      Just a reminder any talk of “denazification“ modelled afterthoughts purification of Nazi Germany at the end of WW2 should raise eyebrows. The US ended up hiring far more Nazis than they ever prosecuted, recycling them into their intelligence agencies and laying the framework for the Cold War. See Operation Paperclip.

      Reply
      • tom

        January 10th, 2021

        Did you see the rioters on Capital Hill, Ronmac? I doubt those guys will be absorbed into the military-industrial complex. They all looked and sounded like former extras from Duck Dynasty.

        Reply
    • Steve Cumming

      January 9th, 2021

      It’s adorable that you think that facebook and the rest are “free speech platforms”. I got news for you:

      https://xkcd.com/1357/

      More even than this, facebook and the like are private owned, entirely unregulated, profit-making entities. They owe you nothing, and mean to keep it that way.

      Reply
    • Neil Lore

      January 11th, 2021

      “The destruction wrought by a gang of yahoos the other day was far less than the BLM rioting last summer which saw city after city go up in flames.”

      I hypothesize that you can tell where a person gets their news from by which images they associate with BLM protests. Right wing news organizations stress the “OMG these awful looters are destroying our hard-working business owners.” Less-right wing news organizations (we don’t actually have a leftist mainstream news organization, we just have some news organizations that are farther left than Fox) stress “OMG look at all these white cops beating the crap out of these mostly-peaceful protesters.”

      Which damage is more concerning – the damage done to store shops, or the damage done to democracy? The damage done to the profits of a few mostly-obscenely-rich people, or the damage done to America’s reputation? The damage done by police officers committing murder on TV and getting away with it, or the damage done by rioters?

      Reply
    • Grace

      January 13th, 2021

      Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of reach.

      Reply
  4. Abs

    January 9th, 2021

    January 6, 2021 will live on in infamy. Meanwhile in Grimshaw, Alberta, a local resident went to the post office to pick up his mail wearing a KKK hood. MAGA hats out, pillow case hoods in. Honey, stop ruining the sheet sets.

    The only reason Albertans have politely refrained from comparing the *** to Nazis and other abusive, tyrannical, racist regimes is that there is an entire army of trolls reporting such comments, and sending them into moderation in the news media comments sections. And now the tide has turned. Even the news media can no longer deny what’s happening. (The last people on earth who should be shilling for this behavior.) News media befriending hate-spewing politicians in the current political climate is an endorsement of the horrible things that led up to January 6. Those horrible things could happen here, too. Take Grimshaw, for example. Take Grimshaw, please. Somebody?

    Still don’t believe Grimshaw man is an anomaly? Just remember that this sort of thing did happen here before, in small towns in Alberta pre-WWII. Why do you think certain politicians are fixated on returning us to the past? Glory days, to themnot just about oil. We must not tolerate it. We will all suffer in the end. First they came for my neighbor…then they came for me.

    Reply
    • Gail

      January 9th, 2021

      Your point about the KKK in small Alberta towns misses a very significant part of the history. First the KKK appeared throughout Canada and was particularly popular not in Alberta (despite what many would have you believe about Alberta’s history being rife with racism and boot-strapping conservatives) but in Saskatchewan (though it has certainly receded there compared to Alberta in recent decades). Ontario of course didn’t need the KKK as they were still firmly entrenched with the Orange Lodges. Secondly, Canadian KKK branches were less concerned with race than they were concerned with financial issues—it’s why they focused mainly on Jews, bankers, and conspiracies about Jewish bankers rather than on Black Canada. You can see the continuation of this focus on finance in the famous Keegstra hate case.

      The lesson we have failed to learn from the Holocaust, from the KKK, and from the movements like Freemen of the Land and the Proud Boys is that when people are presented with a easy target for the cause their financial insecurity (real or perceived) they take it. The right-wing has been successfully using this to gather support for decades. The left-wing has yet to find a clear way to explain that Neo-liberal policies that ruined the social safety-net and made corporations “persons” has left a legacy of low-paying jobs and high living costs in its wake—and that is real problem to be fixed.

      Reply
      • Abs

        January 9th, 2021

        The KKK were here in Alberta. That is a fact. They did focus on race. They did focus on folks from eastern Europe. They weren’t fond of Catholics, either. They were in small towns on the bald prairie, and for some of the early 20th century settlers, it was just a continuation of what they had done south of the border. It is a cause of great shame to some of their their descendants, whose denialism is strong. Best not to mention it when someone at Christmas dinner speaks of those fine, upstanding citizens, whose ancestors owned slaves. Adding, “and they were in the KKK” to those misty-eyed memories won’t win you an invitation back, but then again, who cares?

        Reply
        • Gail

          January 10th, 2021

          You have missed the point of my comment. I never said the KKK wasn’t in Alberta just that it wasn’t confined to Alberta and had a larger footprint in Saskatchewan during the 1920s/1930s.

          I also didn’t say they ignored race just that in a Canadian context race was secondary to antisemitism and financial conspiracies. Anti-Catholic positions carried over from the British European context of Protestant vs Catholic. You can’t pin that one solely on the American KKK movement as it preceded the KKK by centuries.

          Your comment is a prime example of the rush to Americanize Canadian history instead of looking at the nuance of history in a Canadian context. Might I suggest you read “Keeping Canada British: National Identity and the Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Saskatchewan” which provides a clear and nuanced view of what the KKK meant in a Canadian context.

          Reply
    • Neil Lore

      January 11th, 2021

      I’ve always wondered, is it legal to rip the hood off of a klansman? Seems like a very effective response. I googled it before posting but didn’t find anything definitive.

      Reply
  5. John McManus

    January 9th, 2021

    The reformatory equivalent of a frontal lobotomy; right Candie.

    Reply
  6. January 9th, 2021

    Hi Dave

    On the one hand, what you have said here is a likely possibility. And you cannot keep a little sense of joy percolating through for the back-pedalling these red caps will need to do.

    On the other hand, this demonstrates how thoroughly America sets the agenda for Canada, even in domestic matters. We do look south for so much of our inspiration and framing, and when things change there, we act quickly to conform. A bit of a humbling observation.

    On the third hand, de-Trumpification will not be pretty – not in America and not here. This will involve censorship and suppression of rights and constant full-bore public demonization, and maybe some people will be killed along the way. When this all happens to folks whose opinions I do not much respect, I am naturally inclined to say ‘Oh well, they had it coming.’ But, if WWII taught us anything, it was that allowing that kind of thing leads to heck.

    One could argue that Alberta is already a pretty conformist state. Our government is the political wing of the Oil industry, and our media its PR wing. That whole ‘War Room’ thing could have been a lot worse than it was; given its mandate, we were lucky its effectiveness was so limited by corruption and incompetence. I would like to see this kind of thing rolled back, here. But would be better if we could all just accept that others have a right to their opinions and that we all have a responsibility to allow others to hold forth.

    Yes, bit of a Kumbaya moment there for me. I hadn’t thought I was going to type so much in this comment. (Probably because of my third hand.) Thanks, Dave, for another thought-provoking blogpost.

    DB

    Reply
    • Dave McC

      January 21st, 2021

      I wouldn’t disagree with you on really much of what you said. I would just add this. It’s fine (and even noble) to say that we all need to accept that others have a right to their opinions….etc. But I for one am getting a bit tired of a certain population of individuals attacking things like universal access healthcare (not so much in Canada – they wouldn’t dare), climate change, the need for vaccines, the COVID crisis as a whole, tolerance of anyone different (colour, religion, sexual orientation, whatever) and anything else that could be labeled as “progressive”. Often these opinions are strongly expressed with limited support from any real evidence, to say the least. I suppose I could go on with life and try to ignore these “opinions”, but my inner Irishman almost insists that I take up arms and beat them back into the holes they crawled out of. I just haven’t figured out where the middle ground is in situations like these. The fact that these people hold such opinions is one thing, but they have a tendency to drive public opinion, to a certain extent. And that, as we see in the USA, and have seen in pre-WWII Germany, is a problem.

      I’m not sure I see how such nitwittery is to be countered, at least in a sensitive, respectful, way.

      Reply
  7. Political Ranger

    January 9th, 2021

    You can have War or you can have Democracy to decide outcomes.

    I found out this week that Abraham Lincoln said that democracy was a ‘substitute’ for War for decision making. This has been the basis of the shining light and glory of the American Experiment; people have not had to endure the harrowing terror and destructive finality of endless warfare but instead have a real and effective means to have their desires and grievances heard by a government who are bound to act for their resolution.
    Herein lies the ancient difference between conservatism and liberalism; conservatives want their grievance adjudicated immediately and totally in their favour, liberals will allow an improvement to suffice for the moment as long as they can continue to push for greater change.

    Again, choose War or choose Democracy to help make your decisions. History shows that War works, at least for the short term. The last 75 years prove that Democracy works, at least to a limited extent. Both methods address the idea of one human killing another; War relies upon that act; Democracy acts to prevent the act.
    Conservatives, here in Canada and elsewhere, are front and centre in favour of War, terror and destruction to get their way. It’s in the DNA of conservatism. In the opening of David’s essay he talks about “Canadian Conservative politicians, a significant portion of whom have bought fully into the Trump program of authoritarianism, division, guns and contempt for constitutional norms”. There is only one reason to promote guns; that is to kill. In the case of politics it’s to kill humans. Let’s be clear, let’s not fool ourselves, that’s what these people are about.
    (K)Erin the Fool just yesterday tweeted that people locked up in prison should not get vaccinated before others. This is just more otherism; my side, my people before your people, your side. It has nothing to do with solving the problem and everything to do with control and authoritarianism. This so-called conservative leader is not qualified. He does not have a grasp on the pandemic crisis and has no interest or ability to lead the population; he just plays that ‘ol song to his base of believers.

    So, yes! We all have a decision to make. David is saying that conservatives have to decide what kind of conservative they want to be.
    I want to suggest that we all, at least the thinking parts of the population, need to recognize that conservatism had nothing to offer the human community in the 21rst Century. Humanity going forward is going to need to be solving unprecedented, unforeseen and unimaginable problems every day. There is no time to waste killing one another. No one, for instance, expects a person, a group of people or a single act to solve the climate crisis but we want, we need to make decisions that move towards the solution. That is liberalism. Same with Covid, with famine and with education. Decisions and actions that move towards resolving these issues is liberalism. Working thoughtfully, intelligently and diplomatically with others who disagree with us, like ISIS and the Chinese and Russians, even, yes the conservative nutjobs in our midst, to peacefully resolve differences and support mutually beneficial coexistence is liberalism.
    Undoubtedly, there are some liberals and some liberal ideas that are more effective or more popular than others, as is the case with conservatives. There are some liberal leaders and some liberal organizing principles that are more efficient and effective than others, as is the case with conservatives. The difference is that any and all conservative thought has nothing to offer in the 21rst Century. This is the existential decision matrix for all human communities going forward; we decide to do what is necessary to resolve these crisis – or we die out as a species. Everyone reading this will have grandchildren or relatives who will face this reality in their lifetimes. Perhaps even face it themselves.

    It’s hard. And speculative, even doubtful. We are at the precipice. There is only one way forward.

    Reply
  8. David Colley

    January 9th, 2021

    We never learn

    “If we could learn to look instead of gawking,
    We’d see the horror in the heart of farce,
    If only we could act instead of talking,
    We wouldn’t always end up on our arse.
    This was the thing that nearly had us mastered;
    Don’t yet rejoice in his defeat, you men!
    Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
    The bitch that bore him is in heat again.”
    Brecht

    Reply
  9. Bruce Turton

    January 9th, 2021

    Uncle Joe has set up a cabinet that has the stench of the war-mongering Kagan Kabal very near the centre of action. Yes, there will be some policy and action that favours mitigation of climate change, but even that will be under the aegis of neoliberal ideology and strategy = more for the top 1-10%.
    As demeaning to the American press as the insurrection of Jan. 6th was and is, only a few showed the neo-Nazis in telling regalia: a t-shirted Nazi wtih “Camp Auschwitz” on the front, and others with the coded message about “6 million Jews being slaughtered was not enough”. We had our own Jim Keegstra a while back, but guaranteed his minions have not left us.
    It may very well happen that the Republicans may reorganize without the Retrumplicans, but that will cost a lot of votes. It may also happen that the “progressive” rump in the Democratic machinery might become too disillusioned with the neoliberal canopy, which will lessen that party’s reach into the American public.
    Beyond the ineptitude of our current neo-con cabal of “leaders” in Edmonton, there is still more to come in their venture of giving more of what little we have left of a ‘commons’ [like “socialist” tides of universal health care] to the vaunted ‘private sector’, that pinnacle of ‘efficiency’ and thus ‘profitability’. As long as the latter is the be-all and end-all of human social endeavour we shall continue to diminish the ability of at least 80% of Albertans to ‘make ends meet’ into the future.

    Reply
  10. karl roth

    January 9th, 2021

    another great blog piece though i suspect that the tRumpist mentality is a baked in part of the American polity and tRump is just the current avatar the mindset will not be stamped out
    not with educated people like Hawley and Cruz so quick to take advantage no matter the absence of any integrity of any kind

    what we need is the Canadian version . . . . a Canadian conservative de-HairHaRper-ification

    its harper who was fundamentally responsible for introducing hard right wing republican/newt gingrich/tea party political attitudes and methodology to Canada
    half truths, distortions and outright lies with appeals to emotional issues to blind voters to what’s really going on

    removing harpers fetid and malign influence and that of his followers and acolytes would do much to improve Canadian politics

    too bad we can’t stop fox news and the rabid right wing American media dead at the border as well

    Reply
  11. Geronimo

    January 9th, 2021

    “This might be a good time, for example, for the premier to tell his issues managers and press secretaries to learn some manners on social media”.

    You have mentioned the attack pups of the current UCP gov’t quite often in previous columns as well. Not having been on the receiving end of a gnawing by a govt issues manager, I would certainly be interested in a discussion, and examples, of their aggressive tactics, and how this has differed from other Alberta gov’ts in the past. As well, how are other provinces and the Feds handling criticism, protests, and dissent on social media? What are current “best practices”?

    Reply
    • Neil Lore

      January 11th, 2021

      +1. That would be an interesting article/study/whatever.

      Reply
  12. Neil Lore

    January 11th, 2021

    “Bloc Redneckois” = 150% of your recommended daily amount of awesomesauce. I would say I’m stealing that from you, but it is too majestic to be owned by one person.

    I’ve been following Beau of the Fifth Column on youtube for a while. Mostly 3-10 minute long videos. A white man from Florida who talks sense! Most refreshing. He’s had a lot of interesting things to say about the attempted coup, and many other things. I particularly recommend his series of videos about gun control for anyone who thinks they have a simple solution to that problem. Not being raised in gun culture myself, I learned an awful lot. If anyone is looking for some quality youtubing, I’d recommend giving him a watch.

    Reply

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