4 February 2018: There has always been excessive political correctness or the pressure of conformity , and there have always been identity politics or tribalism of some sort or another, but I hope Obama is right that the arc of history bends toward justice. I fervently hope that we are able to hear more voices, including marginalized voices, because I just as fervently believe that when something good is well said everyone listens.
Still, with elections looming in Canada I’m compelled to ask what is a big difference between the early life of Jean Chrétien and the early lives of the current Canadian political leaders both federally and in our largest province? What all of our current leaders share, and what Chrétien lacked, is money in early life. I gather Andrew Sheer has the most modest upbringing of our major political leaders, but even his was luxurious compared with Chrétien’s (or Abraham Lincoln’s whose family lost their land repeatedly on the frontier, or Andrew Jackson’s who was a poor orphan and later became the seventh president of the US). I gather Jagmeet Singh went to a private school with over $20k tuition; Kathleen Wynne’s father was a doctor; Doug Ford grew up in a wealthy family; Caroline Mulroney and Justin Trudeau, well…
I believe in the universal appeal of virtue and goodness, and that those ideals, not to mention competence, are much more important than these other parts of their identities, like their socioeconomic backgrounds. I also think that everyone is capable of inspiring those qualities of virtue and goodness—so that’s why we need to hear from Every One! The fact all our leaders share a similar socioeconomic background and do not represent all the socioeconomic backgrounds of our population does not necessarily mean that they aren’t the best candidates. I’m still concerned about our political institutions and I think, with elections looming, it’s worth asking the question plainly: is it possible for a poor child to grow up to become a political leader in Canada today?
Singh, Wynne, and Mulroney would not have had a political voice in Lincoln’s time because of their identities, and Sheer and Trudeau for that matter, because of their Catholicism, wouldn’t be able to lead the US during Lincoln’s time. So, if we gain more voices capable of inspiration, which were lost to the bigotry of previous generations, then we are better for it. What would we lose, though, if a child like Lincoln, born into poverty on the fringe, could not have a political voice in Canada today?
The solution is better education and more citizen engagement. I know that’s hard, but it’s the only way to be confident in our democracy instead of continuing to worry about sliding into oligarchy.
18 February 2018: I feel impelled to start rambling again. I wrote about my worry that Canada is drifting into oligarchy because all our political leaders seem to have grown up within wealth and political influence, and how I thought lack of political engagement was to blame. Still, even though I mentioned that Chretien grew up poor, Canada has never had an Andrew Jackson or Abraham Lincoln–someone poor and on the margins who grows to eventually shake things up.
Andrew Jackson is emblematic of the original American possibilities, constructive and destructive. He was brave and ruthless, and he took on a powerfully corrupt financial system. He took that system on, though, in defense of an agriculture system inextricably linked to slavery.
So, I see both those noble and ignoble incilinations and dispositions in Trump supporters, and it leads me to ask: is our only other option a liberal smart set that entrenches their own ‘middle class’ interests while congratulating themselves for asking more of other richer people with a nod to gender equality and civil rights?
There are far too many politicians who ask less of voters and still promise more, and there are far too many people who vote for them
5 March 2018: we’re somehow making government that is authoritarian without the order and anarchistic without the freedom