They’re the world’s largest economy, the last military superpower, and the cultural centre of the English-speaking world. They invented the Internet, conceived the United Nations, and put a human being on the Moon. Then this month, they elected Donald Trump as their 45th president.
So now we mock, and take easy shots at the American national ego. We berate, and wonder how they could do something this deplorable. But beneath it all, we smile to ourselves, smugly confident that something like that could never happen here.
We need to stop.
Canadians may be the worst culprits. Growing up in the shadow of the US has given us a deep inferiority complex, and we cling to anything that makes us look better than our neighbours. This is why we spend so much more time on hockey than we do on football. It’s also why, when Trump won, the scorn came immediately. Stupid uneducated racist sexist Islamophobic hyper-religious homophobic Americans. Good thing we don’t have people like that in Canada. We elected Justin Trudeau!
This ideal of a Canada without prejudice can only exist through wilful ignorance. Canadian homophobia fuelled the outcry after Premier Kathleen Wynne tried to change the Ontario sex ed curriculum. Canadian racism has left 93% of First Nations communities in Saskatchewan without potable water over the last decade. Islamophobia was behind the last-ditch campaign promise from Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party to ban the niqab from citizenship ceremonies. Religious conservatism has kept Prince Edward Island from establishing a single abortion clinic.* And Canadian sexism has prevented any woman from ever being elected Prime Minister.**
Ultimately, it’s not moral superiority saving Canada from some equivalent of Trump. We just got lucky back in 1867, when our founders settled on a Westminster-style constitutional monarchy. Because we don’t hold primaries, candidates don’t have to court radical elements the way they do in the States. Meanwhile, since political parties only compete in parliamentary elections, five difference parties currently have representation. This keeps debate near the centre of the political spectrum, instead of on the fringes.
Other countries have been similarly fortunate. France has a proportional multiparty system, which gives radical nationalists a home in the Front National and keeps them out of major parties. Peru’s runoff elections mean moderate presidential candidates won’t bleed support to a Gary Johnson or Jill Stein; this is how Peruvians narrowly voted down Keiko Fujimori, whose father was convicted of crimes against humanity. None of us are better people than Americans, we just have electoral systems which are better-designed for avoiding extreme outcomes.
Rather than deriding the people who will soon be governed by President Trump, let’s give them our empathy and kindness. While Canadians and Americans are particularly close, the whole world is connected to the US by our simple humanity and our desire for life, liberty, and happiness. As they take on the immense challenge of rebuilding and reunifying their nation, they deserve nothing but out support at every step along the way.
* PEI has recently announced they will soon be providing abortions in the province. Currently, those seeking abortions must travel by bridge or ferry to access services in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.
** Kim Campbell became Canada’s first and only female Prime Minister when she was appointed leader of the ruling Progressive Conservative Party in 1993, but lost the general election four months later.
Alex Zachernuk is a second-year MPA student at LSE, hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He holds a degree in economics and political science from the University of Ottawa and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has worked with youth charities for several years, and is taking a growing interest in policy research and evaluation.