Populism is on the rise. The Brexit results alerted the world that something was changing. The media elites, the career politicians, the commentators, the economists, all suggested one thing, and the people suggested another. Donald Trump used the same movement to crush the Republican Party and then went on to do the same to the Democratic Party. Brazil’s recent election showed us clearly that the movement isn’t going away.
New third parties are gaining electoral successes as well. France’s Emanuel Macron was a new wave in French politics. The CAQ in Quebec had a shocking victory. New Brunswick lost its two-party dominance. Politics, as usual, is dying. Corrupt cartels and lobbyists are struggling to maintain their power over the people.
This can happen on the federal level in Canada as well. Maxime Bernier stands among some of the weakest political leaders in recent memory. Conservatives aren’t passionate about Scheer, and given his lack of policies, charisma, and resume, he hasn’t given the CPC any reason to be excited. In the eyes of his supporters, Trudeau is failing as a leader – the non-existent tax relief, the dishonesty in reforming our voting system, his deficits were more than what he had promised, his international failures, and the Saudi arms deal. Thus far, Jagmeet Singh has failed to resonate with the Canadian public. The Bloc has torn itself apart. Elizabeth May is a powerful voice in Parliament and national debates, but in nearly a decade she hasn’t succeeded in getting the Green Party taken seriously for leadership potential.
There’s a vacuum of leadership in Canadian politics. Conservatives haven’t been disagreeing with Bernier on any major issues. They typically only claim that he’s splitting the vote. Successful populist movements usually have some rallying issues, something that galvanizes their supporters, which is going to cause more enthusiasm among Bernier supporters than Scheer supporters. If poll numbers shift, and they often do, Scheer is going to be seen as splitting the vote and his support could dissipate rapidly with such lackluster support.
Bernier has to brand the movement successfully. Trump didn’t campaign or debate; he won a branding war as he’s a media and branding genius. Trump seldom successfully reasoned his opponents had bad ideas; he simply branded them. Jeb Bush was branded as low energy. Hillary was corrupt. He had simple messages like “Make America Great Again”, or “Build a wall”, or be tough on crime; all of which easily resonated with the non-voting public.
There are concerns with how the Mad One is going about it.
The arguments against supply management are difficult to fit on a meme or a short, pithy, sentence. For the politically uninitiated. It’s going to be difficult to convey to a public that has an increasingly short attention span. The most politically astute political group is consistently found to be libertarians, and even with Being Libertarian, our articles reach a few thousand people, and our memes reach a few hundred thousand. Given that Trump’s tweets are typically a lot shorter than Bernier’s, this is going to be problematic for Bernier unless he learns to brand with a simple outreach message.
Another issue is how Bernier brands himself.
Branding himself as an anti-immigration candidate isn’t going to fire up a meaningful base. Canada has an estimated hundred thousand illegal immigrants. The U.S. has 11 million – even with the population difference this is a magnitude away in terms of being a problem. The increased number for the U.S. made it an easier issue to fire up a base of support. In the U.K., the immigration levels were so high that various Muslim populations were outnumbering the old-stock British, and they would make municipal laws banning things such as alcohol. Immigration laws in Canada are already stricter than they were in the U.S. and the U.K. Both Trump and Farage were discussing adopting Canadian and Australian immigration policies. The issues that worked elsewhere aren’t going to work here.
But branding is certainly possible. Bernier has to find an aggravation Canadians have and capitalize on it. Canadians are frustrated with two industries in particular – banking and telecommunications. People don’t like banks and they really don’t like cell phone companies. Bernier’s support for sound money and his opposition to the CRTC can feed off of Canada’s distrust of big banks and the cell phone oligopoly. It seems to me that this is something he should focus on.
Middle America saw a system that was increasingly not working for them and Trump was the molotov cocktail they wanted to throw at Washington, DC. Brexit was the average Brit lashing out against their loss of control in their political lives. The political vacuum in terms of leadership for Canada is calling for someone to break the influence of the lobbyists.
Canada is struggling. Our grocery bills are rising. Our housing costs are rising. Our power bills are rising. The cost of owning a simple cell phone is surreal compared to other parts of the world. We’re involved with unethical arms trading. Canadians want their country back from the military industrial complex, the cartels, and the lobbyists that control the other parties.
The political vacuum is Bernier’s path to victory. The desire for our country to work for ordinary people rather than the political atmosphere, the politicians, the bureaucrats, the lobbyists, and the corporations that control them, Bernier can be our molotov cocktail that says “no” to the system. The political will is there, but the political sagacity has to be on the other end to achieve victory – branding genius.
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