Wednesday, December 30, 2020

As this horrific year comes to an end, thoughts on what to expect politically in 2021 and beyond

My favourite image from 2020, courtesy of CNN.com
My favourite image of 2020
I always liked odd-numbered years better than even-numbered years.  Not sure exactly why.  It was superstition on my part, not based on anything real.  Until 2020, that is.  Now my preference for odd-numbered years has been reinforced with a vengeance.  I can't wait to bid farewell to 2020 and see what lies beyond.   

Covid-19 has changed everything.  That is an understatement, of course.  The painful losses of loved ones have been worsened by the social isolation of our times.  We are only beginning to understand how life will be different going forward, assuming the vaccines now being approved for mass distribution prove to be effective.

The economic devastation this year caused by the pandemic has been sad to watch: Hard-working entrepreneurs seeing their life savings disappear and businesses close, millions of people losing their jobs, others forced to keep working for low wages and putting their lives at risk.  

There have been many mistakes made by governments as well as individuals.  Overall, Canada has managed somewhat adequately, although some regions better than others.  

Justin Trudeau took on the pandemic with a focus not before seen in him and has emerged as a stronger, more dependable leader not afraid to take drastic actions to get Canadians through this pandemic.  Trudeau's agenda has been underlined by a remarkably simple assertion: let the government carry more of the debt and decline during this pandemic period rather than off-loading that debt and decline onto individuals.  

The government has the ability to carry such debt more effectively over the long-term and with much lower interest rates than citizens could ever enjoy.  Thus, because the general public is going to come out of this year far better off than they might've, thanks to programs like CERB and other supports that kept many businesses afloat, our buying power remains mostly intact.  When lock downs end, our ability to kick start the economy back will be much stronger.  

The austere, conservative, help-yourself approach to public policy would've left millions buried in debt, losing their homes and collapsed the whole economy into a depression that would last for years.  I'm thankful our governments have mostly done the right thing in Canada on this.  

Thus, it seems to me that Trudeau enters 2021 in a stronger position from one year ago.  

New Conservative leader Erin O'Toole was the best choice the opposition Conservatives could've made this year.   O'Toole is an immense improvement over the hapless Andrew Scheer.  And O'Toole was infinitely preferable, in my mind, to the somewhat sleazy Peter MacKay.  O'Toole is, at least, a decent man who learned a lot from his failed 2017 leadership bid.   

In victory, O'Toole still has proven less adept at controlling the crazy, social conservative base of his party which helped elect him, instead choosing to indulge or tolerate them like you indulged your crazy old uncle at holiday parties prior to 2020.  That failure could continue to cloud O'Toole's more moderate positions and messages.  

2020 also brought considerable challenges and opportunities to provincial politicians in Canada.  Some thrived, like B.C.'s John Horgan whose strong performance as premier catapulted his NDP to its strongest majority victory in history.  Other premiers like Blaine Higgs and Scott Moe used their pandemic performances to win new victories (although Moe has been less great since his October re-election, as the pandemic's second wave hits Saskatchewan badly, and his neo-conservative impulses to promote "free-dumb" over common sense prove fatal.) 

Ontario's Doug Ford surprised many this year with a mature approach to managing the pandemic's early months.  It was a side of Ford few if any had ever seen before.  I joked it was like Christine Elliott had switched him from 'adolescent' to 'adult' mode and then broke the remote.  

Of course, Ontarians know Doug Ford well and haven't forgotten his adolescent side.  

Ontario's approach in recent months as the second wave ramped up has been less than stellar.  Tougher measures could've been implemented much sooner to make the second wave less severe, and prevent the kinds of sustained lock downs we'll be seeing now well into 2021.   

Ford doesn't face Ontario voters again until 2022 (more than likely), but there's no doubt Ford ends 2020 a stronger leader than when he entered it.  His disastrous first year in office left his party collapsed in public opinion, but now the Ontario PCs are back on top of public opinion polls.   

Ford is also stronger thanks to the Ontario Liberals' decision in March 2020 to elect the uninspiring Steven Del Duca as their new leader.  (Sadly, better, more formidable candidates who could've seriously challenged Del Duca never stepped forward.)  At year's end, Del Duca's few public comments remain as robotic as ever.  I'm not optimistic about the Ontario Liberals' chances of making much of a comeback under this guy in 2022.  (I'll only say that I still plan to vote for the Ontario Liberal candidate in my riding of Toronto Centre, David Morris, as he is a great individual and would do well for our riding, certainly better than the current NDP incumbent Suze Morrison.)  

Sadly, Andrea Horwath remains as Ontario NDP Leader well after her 'best before' date.   The perfect storm of 2018 in which she failed to win despite a highly questionable PC leader in Ford and a long-tainted Liberal administration on its way out, proves Horwath can't get it over the top.  Yet she stays.  

The best thing Horwath could do for Ontario progressives in 2021 is to resign and make way for a more palatable NDP leader (like maybe Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife) who might have a better chance of convincing Ontarians it's time for something different.  But sadly, I'm not expecting Horwath to leave.  

As for what I do expect in 2021, I agree with many commentators that Justin Trudeau will likely engineer a federal election toward the end of the spring, and I predict he'll end up winning it easily.  

I doubt Erin O'Toole will find a cogent message that reassures Canadians he'd manage these times better, and be much more than a federal tool for Jason Kenney's now discredited agenda.  NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will continue to do well as a third party but probably won't have much of a breakthrough either.  We shall see.

UNITED STATES POLITICS

I entered 2020 with great trepidation about the year ahead in American politics.  

Would the cancer that is Donald Trump con the American people into giving him a second term? 

A year ago, Democrats seemed undecided about which standard bearer they'd pick as their presidential nominee.  

Many centrist Democrats seemed scared to embrace Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.  Even some supporters of those two worried about their abilities to win over American voters against Trump.  In the end, Joe Biden won over the moderate middle of his party in the early primaries of 2020.  

Then Covid-19 hit and changed everything. 

Donald Trump could've pulled a Doug Ford and risen to the occasion, but Trump proved too stupid, arrogant and drunk on his own bullshit.  This is what happens when you live in a conservative bubble surrounded mostly by sycophants who are even stupider than you.   

Had Trump taken the pandemic seriously and been seen to have taken tough action to keep Americans safe (ie. acted more like a Democrat), he'd probably have won re-election like most incumbent presidents do.   

But instead Trump followed his pathetic, petulant instincts.  He had convinced himself his incredible luck in 2016 was thanks to his assumed genius.   His slow motion disaster of a performance on Covid-19 this year - his petulance, his constant lying to the public, his promotion of conspiracy theories and crazy ideas - made the crisis worse at every turn.  

Once the depth of the uniquely American devastation caused by the pandemic had sunk in by June, combined with Trump's pathetic responses to this year's burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement, it became clear a majority of Americans, including a majority of independent, non-affiliated Americans, wanted him gone. 

All that was needed to ensure Trump's defeat was a decent performance by Joe Biden.  And Biden rose to the moment and campaigned brilliantly with a simple, yet resonant message: "Let's return decency and competence to the White House."  He bolstered his candidacy by choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate.  

I can't emphasize enough the immense accomplishment of knocking off an incumbent president.  It's rare in American politics, and Trump's defeat is the one major saving grace for 2020.   

Despite Trump's horrific flaws and clear incompetence, I was horrified that 46.8% of Americans still chose to vote for him.   And despite his clear record as a habitual liar and con man, I remain horrified that so many conservatives in America still believe Trump's self-serving lies about the election. 

I didn't really want to know how low a leader like Trump could go and still garner massive support from Republican voters.  But now we do.  

That mass delusion is something to be feared as we move forward into 2021. 

No doubt, the Trump facade needs to be further destroyed.  This political defeat should only be the beginning of the end for Trump and his cohorts.  Regardless of Trump's plan to pardon his friends, his family and even himself from federal crimes, I hope and expect state and local prosecutors will now pursue charges against Trump and his cohorts and make them finally pay for their crimes.    

I hope libel lawsuits against the horrific Sidney Powell and the Trump campaign for their lies about the election continue to ramp up and drain the Trump movement of every penny.  

I frankly don't care what Republican idiots and fans of Trump think any more.  They are clearly part of the problem and will not offer any help to the rest of us as we move forward. 

No matter what we do, the right-wing idiots will keep believing what they want to believe, ensconced as they are in their neo-con bubbles.  So it's better for us to do what we know is right and make the Trumpians pay for their crimes.  

Our best hope as progressives and centrists is to continue to work hard to represent the interests of ordinary people, to act with honour and integrity, and to fight hard to discredit and outnumber those on the other side who've gone crazy.  So the fight continues.  

I end 2020 with a cautiously renewed sense of hope for American politics, as well as world politics.   Trump's fascist tendencies bolstered similar right-wing dictator wannabes the world over.  Idiots like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil mimicked Trump's game.  Now I'm more confident that Steve Bannon's fascist playbook isn't going to end the way he and others like him hoped.  

We won the battle in 2020 but the war is far from over.  

 

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