As a total political nerd, I can’t help but watch what others do abroad and how some trends in political culture might morph or translate into our own here in Canada. Given that the United States is such a close partner and ally of ours, naturally a lot of things about American political culture and tactics tend to migrate northwards to us. This has always been a double-edged sword, with good and bad features, but I think we can say with objectivity that things are a bit different now.
You can debate about when that difference started to take hold, but what’s undisputable is that it really took off during the Trump years. The tenor of the debate degraded, respect nearly vanished and in particular, we’ve seen one part of one side of the political spectrum become untethered from the basic principles of democracy that have brought us to where we are. But what’s maybe worst of all is that to our South, we are now seeing an entire political party that is unable and unwilling to look at anything without layering various political lenses over it. Many of those lenses are based on outright lies or denial of the facts that actually happened, mostly because they contained very hard facts for those looking through those lenses to accept.
That has led to some scenes happen in the past months that defy political logic, common sense or basic decency. And it seems that as time goes along, those norm defying moves get worse and worse. We saw a prime example of this play out on Tuesday, with a vote that should have been a no-brainer; to award medals to the police officers who defended the US Capitol against the January 6th insurrection. Here was the result:
21 Republican congresspeople voted against giving those officers recognition for their part in protecting, well, them. Some officers died, others were seriously injured, yet those 21 refused to even give these brave officers the most basic of decent recognitions for having put their lives on the line to protect their asses. But if you thought that was as low as this could go, you were sadly mistaken. No it managed to get worse, and it revolved around Republican Congressman Andrew Clyde of Georgia. In case you hadn’t heard the name, I’m sure you know his words. Here’s what he had to say about the events of that infamous day in January:
Yeah, the “it was only a tour” dude. That guy. Unsurprisingly, he was among the 21 who voted against giving those brave police medals for upholding their duty on that day. But this dude managed to take things to a whole new, lower level, as both The Washington Post and CNN reported on in the past day:
He wouldn’t even shake the man’s hand. When faced with a person in an elevator, totally by happenstance, this dude’s reaction was to pull out his phone and try to record the bloody conversation rather than shake his hand. He didn’t thank the officer for helping to save his damned life that day, you know, the same day that he was photographed barricading himself inside the chamber of the American congress in an attempt to save his own life from those “tourists”. I’m struggling to come up with the right adjectives to describe the cowardice that comes with such infantile crap.
You’d think that after a near-death experience like that you’d at the very least agree to thank the people who saved your life, would shake their hand in gratitude and vote yes on such a motion, especially when it was clear that it would pass with such a strong majority. It’s not like the votes of those 21 people were going to stop the bill from passing, so in voting in opposition to it, they were actually trying to make a point and win political gain. They were trying to make a virtue of standing up to…. up to what exactly? Decency? Politeness? Respect? Not being a douchebag?
In any normal context this would make no bloody sense at all. Yet when you see what is playing out in American political culture, it makes complete sense and should be a big warning to the rest of us in the democratic world. When your political culture has gotten so toxic, and one political party has decided to harbour and welcome such craven lunacy into its ranks, this is the kind of crap you get. These congresspeople, who never miss a chance to say they “Back the Blue” and “Support the Troops” couldn’t bring themselves to do either of those things in that basic moment because it would go against the lying narrative, they are trying to spin about what happened in the last American election and on January 6th, 2021.
The party of supposed self-reliance, responsibility and alike refuses to take any for their own actions or of the mobs that they inflamed, nurtured and supported with lies and propaganda. They’ve tried to blame Democrats, conspiracy theories and even now the FBI. That was done with only one goal in their mind; win an election. The means long since stopped mattering for that group as long as the ends resulted with their seat and power. That’s a dangerous approach that’s starting to reach its natural conclusion in the US. If you’re willing to do anything to “win”, if that’s what’s most important above anything else, then everything else becomes disposable, including democratic norms and basic human decency.
We like to think in Canada that we’d never important such virulent toxins into our political discourse, that we’re too different for that to happen. But let’s be real, it is happening. We’ve seen it through COVID with the likes of Derek Sloan, Randy Hillier and Maxime Bernier. Heck, the same Fox News propagandists that are claiming that the FBI is really responsible for the Capitol Insurrection just interview Bernier last night, trying to raise him up as some kind of “freedom fighter” against “authoritarianism” because of Bernier’s rightful arrest for openly refusing to obey public health measures in Manitoba.
My point is that we need to be vigilant and push back against this crap here at home because to our South, we’re seeing what happens when it not only flourishes, but when a major political party embraces this as their path to power without scruples. We may point and gawk at ignorant stories like what happened yesterday in Washington, but they should also serve as a warning to do better here at home. Because if we allow that same crap to take hold here in Canada, it may not be long before other democracies are looking at us and gawking, wondering what in the sweet Hell happened to us.