Some of you have asked me if I was going to write about Donald Trump in The StarPhoenix. The answer is no and I’ll get to the reason in a minute.
People are outraged that Donald Trump can get away with what he is saying unchallenged and that people still like him. They want to know why this is happening. My answer is that it has always been happening, we just expect more from a Presidential candidate.
Look closer to home. Of course there was Rob Ford but in Saskatoon we had Jim Pankiw who gained a lot of support when he ran for Mayor and had late in the race, a realistic chance of winning and beating Donald Atchison.
After being elected in 1997, Pankiw wrote a letter in 2000 to the president of the University of Saskatchewan, Peter MacKinnon, condemning the university’s affirmative action policies and comparing its supporters to those of the Ku Klux Klan. After attacking the most respected institution in Saskatchewan and it’s President, he was re-elected by largely rural voters in the next election.
Jim Pankiw was kicked out of Reform Party caucus by Stockwell Day in 2011 and then when Stephen Harper won the leadership of the Canadian Alliance, was the only member of the caucus revolt that Harper didn’t allow back in as he was alleged to have assaulted a local aboriginal lawyer.
His federal political career dashed, he decided to run for Mayor of Saskatoon, despite not living in Saskatoon and was going to sit as a MP and be mayor. That too was against the rules. The rules for being Mayor of Saskatoon are clear. You have to live in Saskatoon. He did not and there was the epic cover of the The StarPhoenix that showed him getting his paper outside of the city limits one morning. The electoral officer said he didn’t meet the qualifications to be mayor and of course it is against the law to be a MP and part of another elected body at the same time. Pankiw thought it would be a swell idea.
His main issue was a stance against aboriginal rights and that attracted a lot of supporters. In the end he finished in third place,behind the incumbent Jim Maddin.
In 2010, he decided to run again. Here is how CBC covered it.
Pankiw is known for his controversial comments about aboriginal people, some which have resulted in human rights complaints.
He didn’t back away from those comments Thursday, saying he would be campaigning against "race-based" government spending policies. He also called Saskatchewan First Nations chiefs "racists."
"I don’t think Indians should have special race-based privileges," Pankiw said. "I think we should all be equal. Do Italians have special race-based privileges? Chinese people? Ukrainians? Germans? Not that I know of, but Indians do."
After all of that and almost no campaign, he finished with over 7,000 votes.
So explain that too me. For years people summed it up as some people in Saskatoon are stupid but we saw it again in Toronto with Rob Ford getting elected and even after all of the scandals, Doug Ford doing reasonably well in the election. So what gives?
One word. Resentment.
Jim Pankiw, Rob Ford, Donald Trump and to a degree Sarah Palin and other Tea Party candidates represent those that are resentful and frustrated where they are in life and their desire to blame someone. They supporters are almost all white, lower middle class, and struggling. They are thrilled that someone is speaking their language and frustrations at being left behind. More importantly they are giving them someone else to blame.
In Saskatoon, it is aboriginals. With Rob Ford, it was City Hall and bureaucrats, and with Donald Trump, it is “illegal immigrants” and now women.
Why does it work? It unlocks this deep down racism and biases in many voters, especially when times are tough. I heard it all through the Pankiw mayoral campaign about all of the advantages that aboriginals have. Free housing on the reserves, lots of money from the federal government, free education, free dental. It’s almost as if Caucasian males are the ones that are disadvantaged.
This is why it works when times are tough and things like unemployment is high or there is income disparity in a region or country. People see someone of a different race and immediately blame race for why they have that job they want. It ignores the fact that the person is probably better qualified than they are.
I used to think it was education based but I have even heard University of Regina social work graduates complain that all of the jobs in their field “are reserved for aboriginals”. Breaking it down, that isn’t true and often the situation is that we have too many graduates for the amount of jobs in Saskatoon and they are frustrated and angry but the racism comes out.
So instead of owning up reality, people act like treaty rights or hiring practices like affirmative action are are unfair advantages. For those that are never going to look past that what Pankiw or Trump is spewing, sounds great. It isn’t their fault that things are tough, it is aboriginals or illegal immigrants that are making it bad. By cracking down on them, then the problems of a bad economy, lack of training, or an unwillingness to adapt will go away.
Of course the fact in Pankiw’s case, none of the aboriginal issues were municipal jurisdiction and he couldn’t do anything about it if he was elected or in Trump’s case, cracking down on illegal immigrants and villanizing Mexican workers would hurt the U.S. economy is irrelevant. What matters to so many voters is that it isn’t their fault and someone else can be blamed.
It came out that Fox News backed down because they thought that the feud with Trump was hurting the network. Almost overwhelmingly people who wrote and tweeted were supportive of Trump’s remarks rather than Megyn Kelly. I am no Kelly fan but those were incredibly crude remarks to say or even think about a women and yet Trump doubled down on them.
Why doesn’t this hurt Trump? Well because the people that support him, believe that stuff.
Wendy reminded me of people we know that brag that he kept track of menstrual cycles of women employees because he thought they were unstable. Sexism and misogyny is alive and well in parts of this country as well. Look at the response to the Bill Cosby or Jian Ghomeshi allegations where the women were initially blamed, the FHITP clips online and live television, and just some of the vile comments that women experience on their weblogs. Last week I saw a guy with a FHITP hat on while in the mall. What kind of lack of self awareness does that?
There are many men out there who are afraid of strong women leadership. It may not show up on polling because someone doesn’t always want to come across as sexist on the phone but it does come out in the polling booths and it will hurt Hilary Clinton on election day.
So what do you do about it? I have been thinking of Atchison’s comments a couple months ago to the report of racism in Winnipeg. His answer to CBC was Atchison like but he mentioned the economy is dealing with racism. Atch wasn’t right but he wasn’t wrong either. When does racism or things like anti-Semitism get worse? Periods of recession and depression when people are losing their job or their place in life. As long as insecure people feel threatened, crazy politicians will try to exploit it with some success.
The other thing about this phenomenon is during those times, the media is ignored. The StarPhoenix kept reporting on Pankiw and even Fox News is critical of Trump but when someone has biases towards a race or for a candidate they think is speaking the truth, it doesn’t matter what the paper or a television network says. That is where guys like Pankiw or Trump find their appeal, the voice the thoughts that racist people with common sense know not to say and then Trump, Ford or Pankiw go and make it sound legitimate. That is why it is so disheartening to not hear the rest of the GOP stand of up to Trump. His campaign will hurt a lot of minorities for a lot of years because they are giving credibility to racists and misogynists everywhere.
I don’t think Donald Trump is that serious about running for President. He has a skeleton staff, isn’t running any TV ads, and isn’t even trying to get his name on the ballot in some areas. It seems like he is using the GOP bully pulpit to make a name for himself and make his own brand worth more more than trying to become President of the United States. In the last debate when he said that he wouldn’t rule out running as an independent which means that Hillary (or as I hope for, Larry Lessig) would become President.
This seems much more about the massive Trump ego than public service. As long as the fans keep showing up, he’ll keep running.