Conservative leadership candidates should stop parroting Trump

A skilled communicator like Trump found fertile soil to sell his demagogueries with American voters. In Canada, we don’t have such populist communicators and, more importantly, there is no need for one.

By ANGELO PERSICHILLI

The Hill Times  Jan. 23, 2017

Conservative leadership candidates should stop parroting Donald Trump, stop chasing extreme fringe supporters to generate headlines, and instead promote an agenda that will help Canada to deal with the Trump presidency.

Trumpism is not a movement and it has no ideas or political agenda. It is a communication skill. It is the capacity to promote a product that doesn’t exist, making people believe that it is the solution to their problems. There is no Trump in the list of Canadian candidates, meaning there is no Trumpism here. It is like the Ford Nation. Without Rob Ford, there is no “Nation” and Doug will always be the brother, and only the brother.

Furthermore, even the real Donald Trump would have difficulties taking advantage of his skills in Canada. Canadian voters are much different from Americans. Trump was able to take advantage of his populistic communication skills because a large sector of the American electorate was asking for just that.

Americans deal with issues similar to ours that are, at the same time, completely different. We too talk about immigration, terrorism, the economy, and social problems related to the cultural integration. But in the United States, these same issues are more radicalized. Americans went through the traumatic 9/11 experience. Their south border is a source of concern much more than ours is. U.S. crime rates are much higher than in Canada. They have different policies on important matters like health care and gun control. Their military involvement abroad is different and more significant, and their relationship with Russia is problematic while ours is limited to the dispute about Santa Claus’ route from the North Pole.

A skilled communicator like Trump found fertile soil to sell his demagogueries with American voters. In Canada, we don’t have such populist communicators and, more importantly, there is no need for one. In fact, Stephen Harper lost the government specifically because some in his Conservative Party believed that a populist divisive communication approach to some social issues, like immigration, was going to put them on the top.

Currently, the Conservative leadership race looks like a contest with many runners-up but no potential winner. It looks like the present candidates have joined the race only for political positioning, waiting to throw their support behind the potential leader when, and if, he or she arrives.

The present roster of candidates has failed to present to most Conservatives and to Canadians a valid reason why they want to become leader of the party and, in the future, prime minister of Canada. They probably have a master plan for the country, but they have failed to sell it properly to Canadians.

What we see is a group of candidates trying to revive old Reform policies repainted with shades of Trumpism, while the others are striving to say that they are not like Trump. Other than that, the only debate is about the capacity of some of them to speak both official languages.

If nothing happens, one of them will obviously win the leadership race, but there is no hope that he or she will have any chance at defeating the Liberals in the next election. I hope a candidate not trying to incorporate Trumpism wins the leadership. Someone like Maxime Bernier would have a focus on Trump, but only to prepare a strategy to help Canada with cope with the change of administration in Washington.

Adopting Trumpism to win the leadership race in Canada is like asking the house painter who just finished repainting your kitchen to refresh the Venus of Titian.

Not that Trump is Titian, but Trumpism doesn’t exist. Trump does.

Angelo Persichilli is a freelance journalist and a former citizenship judge for the Greater Toronto Area. He was also a director of communications to former prime minister Stephen Harper and is the former columnist for the Toronto Sun, Toronto Star and political editor of Corriere Canadese, Canada’s Italian-language newspaper in Toronto. He can be reached at angelo@persichilli.com.

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