Can it Happen Here?
As we watched unprecedented events unfold south of the border at the US capitol this month we couldn’t help but ask whether the same could happen here in Canada.
To understand what’s happening in the US today we must understand the driving factors behind the rise of fascism in the country. The general public tends to have little political interest when the majority of the population are able to provide for themselves in a predictable way. However, deterioration in material conditions typically leads to public unrest. Economic hardships and uncertainty naturally lead to anger.
Both parties are channeling the anger away from the ruling class. The Republican party in particular channels this anger into hate towards the least fortunate. Rhetoric such a ‘immigrants are stealing our jobs’ and so forth is designed to channel the outrage away from the ruling class and towards marginalized groups who are painted as a burden on society. Such rhetoric inevitably leads to increased sectarianism by bifurcating society into mutually antagonistic groups.
Trump entered the political scene presenting himself as an outsider who was going to drain the swamp of corrupt politicians and used populist rhetoric to rally support. Trump then spent four years bringing fascist discourse into the mainstream. While the rhetoric predictably started with the attacks on marginalized groups, it eventually expanded to encompass everybody who was not a Trump loyalist. Even after January’s events there are still millions of people who support him and his message.
For all his talk of draining the swamp Trump continued to pass policy that predominantly favored the rich. Economic conditions continued to decline, and anger continued to rise. Then the pandemic dealt the final blow to the already struggling economy, plunging the country into a deep recession.
For their part, the Democrats spent four years questioning the integrity of the electoral process with the Russiagate conspiracy, suggesting that the Republicans may have cheated during the election. This narrative planted the seeds for Republican claims that the 2020 election was in turn stolen by the Democrats.
It is important to note that the political process fundamentally requires public faith in its integrity in order to function. Once the public loses their faith that the elections are fair there is no longer any reason to accept the results. At that point violence often becomes the next logical option, and this is precisely what we see happening in the US with the attack on the capitol.
The situation following the 2020 election continues to stay volatile due to mass unemployment, food insecurity, and mass evictions. Neither party cares about solving the underlying economic problems, and instead creates scapegoats to blame for the problems. We’re now seeing the ultimate result of such politics starting to manifest itself as sectarian violence. A model the US themselves developed is predicting a civil war.
Let’s now examine some uncomfortable parallels present on the Canadian political landscape. Duverger’s law holds that single-ballot plurality-rule elections, such as first-past-the-post, favor a two party system. This precisely what we’re seeing in Canada where we have two dominant parties that trade places every few years. It has also been shown that a majority-rule democracy is vulnerable to manipulation.
Both the Liberal and Conservative parties represent the interests of wealthy Canadians. Decades of policy passed by these parties have decimated the Canadian public sector, cut social services, deregulated industry, and dismantled many worker protections. The situation has reached the point where the 100 richest families now own more than the bottom 6 million families while nearly half the population can barely pay their bills.
What we’re seeing here is similar to the dynamic that led to mass discontent south of the border. True to their nature, the Conservative party started embracing nationalist rhetoric in a similar fashion to the Republican party in US. Politicians such as Doug Ford, Jason Kenney, Erin O’Toole, and many others in the Conservative party have been enabling, and dog whistling white supremacist groups. In some cases, Conservatives even hired members of these groups.
As the Conservative party continues to embrace Trump style rhetoric their base is becoming increasingly more radicalized. The Conservative party spread a conspiracy theory questioning the integrity of our electoral process. Meanwhile, QAnon is now operating in Canada, and has been linked to a recent armed invasion at the residence the prime minister.
If we continue on the current trajectory then it’s only a matter of time until we start seeing similar events to the ones playing out in the US at home in Canada. The short term solution would be to elect a NDP majority government and pass electoral reform that would allow for more diverse representation in the government.
In the long term we must demand a socialist policy from our government that ensures the needs of the majority are prioritized over the wants of the capital owning minority. We must ensure that all Canadians have their needs met and see the government work in their interest. We must address the root problem of economic inequality to staunch the growing tide of fascism in Canada.
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