While chaos ensues under the three-ring big top that serves as an arena for American political discourse in the U.S., none of us staring across the 49th parallel are should be all that surprised.
After all, this is something that the rest of the world has witnessed many times before, and with fixed election dates, planning for new campaigns in the United States begins almost the day after an election. From our perspective, the sideshow never appears to end, no matter how many would like to step off the Washington merry-go-round.
There is always a sense of disenfranchisement when considering American elections for the billions across the globe who are not American citizens. There are few elections that take place annually, that can potentially hold a candle to the economic or social impacts of an American election on the fortunes of many far-flung nations of the world.
Canadians, for their part, perhaps share more readily in this fascination than others, considering geography has conspired to place us in close proximity to our American cousins, and we in fact share a close economic relationship. Canadians, by virtue of our population size and other factors, definitely stand as the junior partner in this relationship, and, as most of us are already aware, we are often unduly pre-occupied with what others might think of us.
Americans, on the other hand, share none of these issues. They consider themselves to be the leaders of the free world, and indeed are a powerful economic and military entity who act — at least as they perceive it — in the best interests of not just themselves, but of all global citizens.
It’s an intoxicating patriotic-nationalistic formula that mixes the virtues of democracy with broad-based Christian-rooted notions of what is right, and professes that nations of freedom-loving peoples have a duty and an obligation of proselytization and action to protect that ethos in the face of tyranny and absolutism.
All of that being what it is, it can sometimes make it difficult for many Americans to cast a critical eye on the structure and institutions of their government and democracy, or to consider introspectively what others — other nations and peoples in the global community — may think about them by virtue of the insularness that can be fostered when nations hold a leadership role in global affairs, rather than that of observer, participant, or follower. As the struggle for dominance continues for the top job in both America’s major political parties, the sideshow of Republican Party debate has dominated media headlines as the semi-bigoted pronouncements of Donald Trump continue to gain traction in polling numbers, despite nearly all pundits and casual observers early on dismissing the billionaire, real estate baron and reality TV star as a prejudiced, shamelessly vote-seeking example of everything that is wrong with American politics.
Although the pronouncements about Trump have since been tempered by the fact that he may actually win the Republican Party nomination, based on surging numbers that seem to follow on the heels of every hair-brained scheme or racist comment that pushes past his lips, we as observers here in the Great White North would do well to remember that Trump’s favourable numbers tend to obfuscate a greater truth — while Trump may poll well amongst Americans who already self-identify as Republicans, this should hardly be taken as the tacit approval of all Americans.
The two most recent elections in the United States would appear to suggest that the Republican Party is becoming increasingly sidelined in its attempts to achieve real power when embracing leadership candidates and policy approaches that are considered to be too radical or extreme to appeal to the mainstream swing core of American voters.
It is within this swing core that the real power lies in the United States, not the extreme conservative fringe, and over the past century both parties have striven toward a middle-of-the-road approach of overall pragmatism, rather than a polarizing approach of hardcore extreme values without willingness to compromise.
Many Republican Party insiders have acknowledged this relationship, and it is from that element that concerns have been voiced about the increasingly extremist factions of the party dominating discourse — chief among their proponents embodied in the person of Donald Trump — as a potential recipe for disaster at the ballot box as less extreme Americans choose an option that might not include bigoted pronouncements from the White House over breakfast, followed by the limiting of freedoms for their fellow Hispanic or Muslim Americans as an aperitif before dinner.
Cleaving to the viewpoint of their extremist hard-core of conservative supporters in the United States might seem be a no-brainer for the Republican Party in selecting a leadership candidate.
Achieving actual power in Washington, D.C., on the other hand, requires more than bigoted pledges and extremist pronouncements — it requires an actual platform that appeals to all Americans, not just those relegated to the conservative fringe.