I spent much of the past week with an old friend from back home. He and I have taken different paths since we left high school, but we share the bond of two people who grew up together in a small town. We can still have fun like we did when we were 18 and I can connect with him on a barrier-free level that I am unwilling to even attempt with people I meet now. This openness made for some insightful political discussions.
Let me be clear here, when I say my friend and I have taken different paths since high school, I am talking about stark differences. My friend left school in the late 90s and has never sat in a classroom (save one-day courses required to be ticketed for his field) since then. His line of work, oil, has allowed him to earn a substantial salary with no post-secondary education.
He is a person who has been defined by the extremes of consumer society: when working he is essentially a prisoner, working 12+ hours per day seven days a week for up to 28 days at a time; when “days off” occur he will be set free, temporarily, with a bulging wallet and a pent-up desire to indulge in consumption. It is lifestyle that is not conducive to physical, financial, or emotional balance.
Rarely when our paths cross will we discuss politics. Over the last week, however, he raised the subject a number of times. As almost anyone who has spent the majority of their working life in Alberta doing oil related jobs, my friend has an unabiding hatred of Justin Trudeau. His looks, his entitlement, and, probably, least important, his policies were all discussed with venom by my friend.
More interesting to me was my friend’s discussion about Donald J. Trump. Before offering outright support for Trump, he would disavow this support (and I paraphrase as I wasn’t taking notes): Trump is probably a total asshole, probably just a Wall-Street prick (I know), and if you went for a drink with him you would walk away hating him. Yet, you have to admit he is making some good points about black people.
The points my friend agreed are that black people do live in the dystopian crime ridden hell-holes that Trump has described (to white audiences) and that black people have been collectively fooled into voting for the Democratic Party since the passage of the Civil Rights Act (not that he knows what this is).
A couple of times my friend brought up Trump’s position on Mexicans. As Trump has had an evolving position, I should clarify that the one my friend most closely agreed with was the one the Republican candidate enunciated June 16, 2015 on the escalator in Trump Tower:
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems [to] us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
My friend, who has spent a bit of time in Mexico, fully endorsed this bromide, and was actually willing to extend it to all people of Spanish descent.
In Canada my friend would be a supporter of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), if he were to become politically active. If a demagogue hustler like Trump ever decided to run for the CPC my friend would certainly support him/her.
My friend probably has more in common with the average Trump supporter than he does with a voter from downtown Toronto. And my friend is not alone. He is part of a larger unacknowledged political underclass, that if tapped could perhaps take over the CPC. This is something that the CPC must be careful with. One could see it in their ridiculous attempt to divide Canadians during the last election with the burka issue.
Imagine if they get a bigot running the party who actually believes such nonsense and not just trying to cling desperately to power like Harper was. How much of Canada actually feels like my friend does? Couldn’t Trumpism be fitted onto specifically Canadian issues?
The politically dispossessed white-working class would likely support a demagogue willing to blame the Chinese as the sole source of the urban Canadian housing bubble. Wouldn’t oil interests in Alberta be happy to agree with a forceful demagogue that ridicules, intimidates, and refuses to admit wrong when discussing climate-change? Laid-off whites from Ontario’s factories could also find solace in a Trump like denunciation of free trade as the cause of all their woes.
And with that you have a pretty strong base of support.
As always Canada, don’t get too smug.