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Resurrecting Trump: Reason and anti-reason in American politics – The Hill

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Even today, even after so much accumulated evidence of Donald J. Trump’s incapacity and malfeasance, millions of Americans regard his presidency as exemplary. This cannot be explained in terms of any inherent liabilities of American politics. What’s needed is a consideration of the cultural context from which this dissembling president was extracted.

Trump supporters — rich and poor, educated and uneducated — include people who seek above all to “fit in.” These are the ones who love to chant in chorus and to embrace the reassuring but reductionist messaging of political simplification.

Americans who take history and science seriously are right to worry.

One may draw limited — but still-fair — comparisons to 1930s Germany. Then, as now, the virulent formulas beneath the simplifications were no longer merely expressed sotto voce, as residual “whisperings of the irrational.” Though Trump-era politics were never openly murderous, those at the summits of political power relied upon blaming “the usual suspects” — that is, on mercilessly exploiting the most fragile and vulnerable scapegoats.

The United States was never “becoming Nazi Germany” — but this should hardly be taken as a comfort. It’s not an all-or-nothing comparison. While there are clear differences between then and now, there are also some very disturbing resemblances, even imitation.

Decline may occur not as a “bolt from the blue,” but more-or-less indecipherably, in increments. With Trump preparing for another run at the White House and a solid majority of Republicans behind him, we Americans are clearly stumbling backwards.

Friedrich Nietzsche coined an aptly specific term for the paradoxical fusion of privilege with philistinism: Bildungsphilister. An English translation: “educated Philistine.” Everywhere one looks in the United States today, one finds capable professionals who have been more-or-less well trained, but never truly educated.

Bildungsphilister is a term that sheds useful light on Trump’s ongoing support among so many of America’s presumptively well-educated and well-to-do.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump several-times commented: “I love the poorly-educated,” but — in the end — a substantial fraction of his support came from the not-so-poorly-educated. Here, recalling German existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers’ indictment regarding “whisperings of the irrational,” one should be reminded of Third Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’ remark that “Intellect rots the brain.”

Truth is always exculpatory. It may be uncomfortable, upsetting, even bewildering — but it remains the truth nonetheless. The phrases “I love the poorly educated” and “Intellect rots the brain” essentially mean the same thing — and they may have disturbingly similar consequences.

Many American citizens remain willing to abide a former president who not only avoids reading, but who simultaneously belittles history, science and learning. What does this mean about their capacity to understand and sustain a national democracy?

What’s likely to happen when there exists so little public uneasiness over obvious illiteracy and ignorance in a national leader? We may recall that in regard to negotiating successfully with North Korea, President Trump preferred “attitude” over preparation. During the commemoration of American servicemen in WWI, he had to ask his aides, “Who were the good guys in this war?” More disturbingly, he had to be schooled in basic geopolitics by Vladimir Putin.

How many Americans meaningfully object to a president who has clearly never read the U.S. Constitution? And what should we expect from someone who swears to “uphold, protect and defend” a document he hasn’t read? Shouldn’t “We the people…” be troubled?

How has the United States managed to arrive at such a dismal place? What have been the failures of American education, most notably in our vaunted universities?

Even if we should no longer plausibly expect in the White House anyone resembling Plato’s enlightened decision-maker, ought we not still be entitled to someone who manages to read and think seriously?

In the United States, almost no one takes erudition seriously — and in the political sector, it’s most often a liability; instead, all are measured by one utterly inappropriate standard: We are what we buy.

Nietzsche warned: “One should never seek the ‘higher man’ at the marketplace.”

But that’s precisely where Trump reveled.

A proudly visceral segment of American society championed Trump. They still follow him faithfully because the wider American society was allowed to become an intellectual desert.

Louis René Beres, Ph.D. Princeton, is emeritus professor of international law at Purdue University. He is the author of 12 books and several hundred articles dealing with nuclear strategy and nuclear war. His newest book is “Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018)

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Quebec election: Fiona briefly throws off Quebec election campaigns

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MONTREAL — Post-tropical storm Fiona caused some disarray on the campaign trail Saturday as some parties cancelled planned events and Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault briefly suspended his campaign to manage response to the powerful gale that hit Atlantic Canada and parts of Quebec.

Legault, the incumbent premier, resumed his re-election bid on Saturday afternoon after meeting with public security officials in Quebec City and holding a briefing with reporters.

The CAQ campaign resumed with a planned meeting with Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand. However, a major partisan rally on Saturday night in Terrebonne, north of Montreal, was postponed, Legault said.

In Quebec, Fiona hit the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Gaspé and the province’s Lower North Shore, with the brunt of the impact expected from Saturday to Sunday morning. All party leaders expressed well wishes for Quebecers caught in the storm, which also played havoc with some of their schedules.

Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois cancelled a press conference in Montreal, but would meet with party supporters in Rimouski, Que. later in the day.

Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said she was closely monitoring the situation in the affected regions but continued with her campaign in western Quebec as planned in the Outaouais region.

Once a Liberal stronghold, the CAQ won three of the area’s five ridings during the 2018 election and the Liberals are at risk of losing the two they hold, according to poll-aggregating website qc125.com.

Anglade held a rally in the area on Friday and campaigned again on Saturday before heading back to Montreal at the end of the day.

“The Outaouais has been neglected in the last four years, the health and the economic results demonstrate it,” Anglade said.

With just over a week until voting day on Oct. 3, all five party leaders are scheduled to appear live on “Tout le monde en parle” on Sunday night, a popular prime time talk show on Radio-Canada.

Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon also suspended his own campaign on Friday because of flu-like symptoms. He has tested negative three times for COVID-19 using rapid tests, but said Saturday he would only return to the hustings after a PCR test confirmation.

“As a precaution, we will wait for the return of the PCR before formally resuming the campaign,” he told reporters during a scrum in Longueuil, Que. “As you can see, I’m doing better.”

Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime campaigned in the Quebec City-area riding of Chauveau where he’s seeking to win a seat in the legislature.

He called on Conservative supporters to vote in large numbers to ensure the party elects members — particularly in the riding where he’s running — as two days of advanced voting begins on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2022.

 

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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Quebec election: PQ leader fighting to revive sovereignty debate — and his own party

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MONTREAL — The question of Quebec independence has been put on the back burner during Quebec’s election campaign, but Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon is fighting to secure a place for it — and his party — after the Oct. 3 vote.

St-Pierre Plamondon, whose once-strong party has been relegated to last place in the polls, invoked the independence question during the final leaders debate on Thursday, making a direct appeal to sovereigntists who jumped ship to the Coalition Avenir Quebec in the 2018 election.

“Your project is to snuff out Quebec’s independence; mine is to restart it,” he told CAQ Leader François Legault, who had once been a cabinet minister in a PQ government but who quit to form his own federalist party.

“There are voters who trusted you in 2018 because they wanted to replace the Liberals but who support independence — I’m appealing to those people and saying, you can now vote according to your convictions,” St-Pierre Plamondon said.

Formerly a polarizing ballot issue, sovereignty has been largely left out of the conversation this election campaign, but polls show support for independence remains above 30 per cent — and higher among francophones and older voters.

Legault, who has said sovereignty isn’t a priority for the majority of Quebecers, was criticized by his rivals during Thursday’s debate for refusing to spell out how he would vote on the issue. On Friday, he told reporters he doesn’t want a referendum because it would be divisive.

Polling suggests a sizable portion of CAQ voters — more than 40 per cent — support sovereignty, making them a prime target for the PQ as the party seeks to maintain some sort of presence in the provincial legislature, said Daniel Béland, a political science professor at McGill University.

With the CAQ solidly in the lead in the polls, the race is focusing more on who voters want to see holding the government to account. Those who support sovereignty could see the PQ as a good option for a “protest vote,” even if they don’t necessarily want a referendum, he said.

St-Pierre Plamondon, who took the reins of the Parti Québécois in the fall of 2020, has promised to hold a referendum on independence in his first mandate if the party forms government.

However, “because the PQ has no chance to form government, even the idea of sovereignty is quite abstract … there won’t be another referendum anyway,” Béland said.

“So, if you like (St-Pierre Plamondon) and you like some of his ideas and you think you need a stronger nationalist voice in Quebec City, why not give them a chance even if you know they would only be in opposition?”

The issue could also resonate with some who previously voted for the Québec solidaire, which also supports sovereignty. St-Pierre Plamondon appeared to be courting that base as well by agreeing on some environmental matters with QS co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois during the two debates, Béland said.

Far from the days when it was a viable contender to form government, the PQ started the campaign with pollsters predicting it would win one seat. But St-Pierre Plamondon’s performance on the hustings and in the two debates, combined with Legault’s “lacklustre” campaign, have allowed the party to gain a bit more traction, Béland said.

More so than sovereignty, the party’s ability to capitalize on anxiety surrounding the French language has helped rally support, he said, noting the PQ was quick to jump on a recent Statistics Canada report that said the percentage of Quebec residents who predominantly speak French at home declined to 77.5 per cent in 2021 from 79 per cent in 2016.

Still, the PQ will likely return to the legislature with fewer than the seven seats it had at dissolution, and it probably won’t achieve official party status — which requires at least 12 seats or at least 20 per cent of the popular vote — unless the tide turns dramatically in the home stretch of the campaign, he said.

“It’s not great from a long-term, historical standpoint, but it’s still better than what people expected at the beginning of the campaign,” Béland said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2022.

 

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau announces diplomat Jennifer May will be ambassador to China – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that diplomat Jennifer May will take over as ambassador to China with a mandate to speak out on human rights abuses while pursuing trade with the world’s second-biggest economy.

“A dedicated public servant, Ms. May’s many years of diverse experience on international missions, and her deep understanding of Asia, will serve to manage this important bilateral relationship and advance Canada’s interest in China,” Mr. Trudeau said Friday.

While the last two ambassadors – former cabinet minister John McCallum and business executive Dominic Barton – soft-pedalled China’s human rights abuses, the Prime Minister’s Office said Mr. Trudeau expects Ms. May to use her envoy posting to highlight the importance of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reports here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

POILIEVRE VS. TRUDEAU – In his first opportunity to question Justin Trudeau since winning the Conservative Party leadership, Pierre Poilievre this week repeated his calls for a federal payroll tax freeze and chided the Prime Minister for choosing international travel over House of Commons attendance. Story here.

BRIAN MULRONEY’S DINNER WITH PIERRE POILIEVRE – Pierre Poilievre must make an appeal to Canada’s political centre if he wants to win government, former prime minister Brian Mulroney says he told the new Conservative Leader this week over dinner. Story here.

OILS SANDS COMPANIES FALL SHORT ON CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION: ANALYSIS – Canadian oil sands companies have done little to follow through on their public pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, despite raking in historic profits in 2022, a new analysis shows. Story here.

QUEBEC ELECTION – Quebec’s four opposition party leaders attacked Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault on the environment, the cost of living and his management of the economy in the last debate of the election campaign Thursday, leaving Mr. Legault on the defensive. Story here. The debate, with English translation, is here on CPAC. Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade posted a tweet on her preparation for the proceedings here. Meanwhile, on Friday, Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said he is pausing his campaign after developing flu-like symptoms. Story here.

ONTARIO REPORTS SURPLUS – Ontario says it took in 20 per cent more revenue than anticipated last year, wiping out what it had predicted would be a $13.5-billion deficit and replacing it with a “temporary” surplus of $2.1-billion. Story here.

JURISDICTIONAL HURDLES COMPLICATE FEDERAL GUN ACTION – Federal agencies are trying to boost efforts to trace the origins of guns used in crimes, but it appears jurisdictional hurdles could prevent the measures from going as far as some would like. Story here.

LAST COUNCIL MEETING FOR WINNIPEG MAYOR – Brian Bowman bid an emotional farewell to his council colleagues on Thursday, during his last meeting as Winnipeg’s mayor. Story here from CBC.

THIS AND THAT

TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Sept. 23, accessible here.

JOLY TO VISIT SOUTH KOREA – As South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-Yeol visited Ottawa on Friday, a senior official revealed Canada’s Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly will visit Seoul next month. The disclosure, according to a Canadian Press pool report, came as the president met with Governor-General Mary Simon at Rideau Hall.

SEAL SUMMIT SET FOR NOVEMBER – Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray has announced a Seal Summit for Nov. 8 and 9 in St. John’s that will involve parties such as the Indigenous community, commercial fishing industry and provincial and territorial representatives to talk about issues including fisheries science and management, and developing new products and diversifying markets for seal and seal products.

THE DECIBEL

On Friday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, senior foreign correspondent Mark MacKinnon discusses what is happening in Russia where President Vladimir Putin called up 300,000 reservists in a partial mobilization for the war in Ukraine. That sparked protests in several cities in Russia, and a flood of people trying to leave the country. Mr. MacKinnon talks about what the repercussions of Putin’s escalation might be, and what it means for the broader conflict. The Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa, visited a local school to mark Rosh Hashanah with students, and then, with Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, hosted a luncheon for visiting South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, and Mrs. Kim Keon-hee. The Prime Minister then held a meeting with the South Korean President. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne participated. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Yoon were then scheduled to hold a joint media availability.

LEADERS

No schedules released for party leaders.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how the best way to help Canada’s overwhelmed health care system is to get your COVID-19 booster shot: ”Canada needs to rediscover the drive that made its earlier vaccine campaigns so successful, especially among the most vulnerable – namely, older Canadians. British Columbia took a stab at it when it announced it intends to deliver 280,000 booster shots per week this fall. Every other province needs to be at least as ambitious. There are enough boosters to go around. Ottawa said Moderna is shipping 10.5 million doses of its bivalent vaccine to Canada just this month, and Moderna and Pfizer are close to submitting even newer formulations for approval from Health Canada. Canada also has plenty of first-generation shots for the nearly one in 10 adults who never got the original two-shot series. Let’s get back to the time when Canada led the world. Every Canadian who gets vaccinated or boosted this fall reduces the number of people likely to end up in our crowded hospitals. It’s not complicated.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how giving MPs more meaningful work might lead to more civility in Parliament: “I can think of a hundred things wrong with Parliament, and heckling wouldn’t even make the list. Nor, for that matter, would incivility, at least between MPs. We pay politicians for much the same reason we pay wrestlers, to act out a relatively harmless pantomime of combat for the rest of us. Parliament exists as a forum, with all of its quaint rules and customs, not to deny social conflict but to contain and channel it, to express our antagonisms in stylized form.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how the first salvo between Pierre Poilievre, Justin Trudeau proves pair will be formidable opponents in Parliament: “In June, 2014, Ray Novak, Mr. Harper’s chief of staff, confronted the Conservative prime minister with a choice: either declare now that he was staying to fight a fourth election, or step aside for someone else. Mr. Harper, who could not abide the thought of another Trudeau leading the country, decided to stay and fight. He shouldn’t have. Mr. Trudeau must know the odds are against him. Yet he must also believe that Mr. Poilievre is a threat to the country. He may have convinced himself that he and no one else can stop the new Conservative Leader from becoming prime minister. He may be right. And if he’s wrong, he won’t be the first politician to make that mistake.”

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on why Pierre Poilievre doesn’t seem to care about climate change: “It’s easy to tell people what they want to hear on the campaign trail – to tell Albertans that you will boost oil production, even if it damns the climate. But Mr. Poilievre needs to be aware that a majority of Canadians will never support such an irresponsible position when the fate of the world is at stake. The Conservatives need to get serious about climate change, or accept losing elections as a general rule.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on why the federal Liberals should be worried if Justin Trudeau stays: “For the first time as Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau faces a Leader of the Official Opposition who possesses communication skills that rival his own. Mr. Trudeau benefited from comparisons with previous Conservative Party leaders Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole, neither of whom could hold an audience. In Mr. Poilievre, he faces an opponent who can draw a crowd. That has to be a major cause for concern in Liberal ranks. Mr. Trudeau won three consecutive federal elections against Tory leaders who were relatively weak or, in the case of former prime minister Stephen Harper, irretrievably weakened. After seven years in power, and a series of scandals on par with those of Mr. Harper’s government, Mr. Trudeau’s own popularity has plummeted.”

Tara McGuire (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the drug overdose crisis is everyone’s problem: “In the years since Holden died, I have been extremely fortunate to receive an education. I read widely about the opioid crisis and absorbed as much as I could about how to become a writer. During that time, I wrote a book that I very much did not want to write. I considered trashing it many times, which would have been so much easier. But if I bailed, if I didn’t open up about Holden’s struggle and what his death has taught me, then I’d be just another person not talking about it. I’d be another person quietly perpetuating the stigma and shame that come along with substance use and misuse and their often-tragic ramifications.”

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