Lock Her Up, Alberta!
It's easy to look at a group of angry, unemployed or struggling people chanting “lock her up” and to think less of them for expressing their pain in an unconventional way. It's easy to lecture them when you have a secure job and a giant pension. When you're trying to win elections and appeal (or pander) to the broadest audience, scolding a smaller group of embattled voters who are chanting controversial slogans is low hanging fruit. It's far too easy for well-paid politicians and journalists to scoff, sneer and castigate a group of people who are nothing like them. We see it on a daily basis. It's why Donald Trump won the election and why more people like him will emerge to clean their opponents' clocks.
On Saturday, December 3, The Rebel organized a rally at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton to oppose the incoming carbon tax and other policies. The people who showed up for this rally weren't there to be scolded, talked down to, or lectured by anyone. They were there to express their frustrations and pain with others who were just like them. Many of them were unemployed, struggling, or simply willing to show solidarity with those who were hurting. It was a non-violent, peaceful event. No one was there to throw punches or haul Rachel Notley away in handcuffs. They were there to protest and express their hardships, which are being made worse by the policies of Rachel Notley's government. That anger, frustration and solidarity eventually manifested in an evidently sarcastic chant about locking her up.
The media loves nothing more than to stir up controversy for ratings and clicks. As expected, almost every mainstream news outlet seized the opportunity to make a mountain out of a mole hill and to fan the flames of resentment. What I didn't expect (but probably should have), was the reactions of fellow small and big C conservatives. Rather than defend the protesters, or stay silent, they shot their mouths off and rode their high horses straight into the battle.
Conservative leadership candidate and Liberal in denial, Michael Chong, released a statement lamenting how the chant wasn't “denounced by rally organizers and stage participants”. He then went on to lecture leaders about standing up against language that undermines the rule of law and our political system, like caustic political chants that aren't meant to be taken seriously. You can read his full statement here.
Interim Conservative leader, Rona Ambrose, was just as clueless and out-of-touch with her remarks. She called the chant inappropriate and made sure to remind people that we “don't lock people up in Canada”. Not only do her remarks fail to grasp the levity of the chant, they inaccurately claim that we don't throw people in jail or try to punish them for having particular opinions. I'm sure David Ahenakew and Mike Ward would disagree.
The very worst and most disappointing Conservative shade came from Jason Kenney. The man who aims to unite Alberta's fractured right wasn't doing himself any favours by scolding the participants and calling their behaviour “ridiculous and offensive”. This is the kind of phony outrage we expect to hear from the NDP, not a guy who claims to have the backs of all Albertans. Participants at the rally who half-heartedly and frivolously engaged in the chant have been attacked by the media, politicians on the left, trolls on social media and Conservatives. Instead of defending them, Jason Kenney chose to join the choir. To make his castigation even worse, he compared the chanters to David Suzuki, who wasn't joking when he suggested that climate change deniers should be jailed.
That's not all. Other conservatives joined the choir for political gain.
Deepak Obhrai said, “We're witnessing Trump-style politics invading Canada.” Again, it doesn't take a mathematician to realize why Trump-style politics might be seeping into Canada. When well-paid politicians with good pensions lecture us from high places, we tend to get pissed off. People like Obhrai, Chong, Kenney and Ambrose still haven't caught on.
Brian Jean, still thinking he has a hope in hell against Jason Kenney, also denounced the chanters. He expressed his wish for people with dissenting views to “stay home”. That's important to keep in mind the next time we vote.
Chris Alexander, the man caught in the cross-hairs, decided to join the choir and submit to the pressures of a leadership race he won't win. After being beaten like a pinata by trolls, journalists and other politicians, Alexander caved and told CTV that he “disassociates” himself from the chanters. To his credit, he did say exactly what I'm saying here. He told CTV, “We've got to stop lecturing people on how they should feel and what they should say and start listening to them.”
Alexander is exactly right. The rise of Trump-style politics in Canada can be directly attributed to politicians who lecture us, sneer at us and belittle us while happily collecting their salaries. A growing segment of Canada's population is getting tired of receiving lectures from people who media and politicians deem as experts. More Canadians are getting tired of being told what their values are. All Canadians share a set of core values, but more and more politicians and experts are trying to tell us what to think, how to behave and what to feel. If anything is undemocratic, it's the idea that a special class of experts and elites should decide what the rest of us need to believe.
This entire spectacle has done exactly what Donald Trump's candidacy did in the United States. It has exposed the collective consciousness that consumes the political class and the media. The very same people who are pissing and moaning about Trump-style politics are the ones who created it. When someone disagrees with them, they snicker and call their opponents uneducated or racist. They express clear disdain at the idea of referendums and giving the uneducated, less informed working class a voice. They call for more media bias against anyone they disagree with or don't like, then scratch their heads and act confused when someone like Donald Trump wins an election. These very people, who turned the rally into a spectacle to detract from its intended purpose, are the reason for Trump-style politics.
Conservatives should leave the condescension and disdain for the working class to the Liberals. The Trudeau government has done a great job of ushering in Canada's own version of Donald Trump with its complete lack of regard for working class Canadians. The Liberal field of certified experts is sure to be met with a Trump-style response soon enough. Rachel Notley's complete disdain for anyone who isn't a devout environmentalist or socialist will eventually be met with a swift response from Alberta voters. If Jason Kenney doesn't ride the right wave, someone else will. Now is not the time for self righteous condemnation of working class Albertans who are being repeatedly kicked in the gut. Those are the people you need. Now is not the time to let your life-long career as an aloof bureaucrat show.
As for the Conservative leadership hopefuls who decided to add their two cents, they can keep hoping. They won't be getting Stephen Harper's throne anytime soon. The conservatives they talked down to will make sure of it.