It is so out of whack for a politician to do almost everything Donald Trump does that it really makes you wonder. Is the man a genius or a lunatic?
Trump took off in the earliest of days of a very long U.S. presidential campaign, and he accomplished it by being his bombastic self. Without any filters, he said what he thought, and it appeared he would say just about anything. When he launched his campaign calling illegal Mexican immigrants drug dealers and rapists, heads spun and most experts thought he had blown himself up.
Instead, he took the headlines and he used the many media opportunities to say more not less. And the more he said, the deeper he got, like when he said U.S. Senator John McCain was not a war hero because he had been taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. Cries for an apology were cast aside by Trump. He chose to keep shooting as he defiantly pushed his opponents in the Republican race to engage him – which just made for more Trump headlines and more airtime.
With chutzpah galore, he didn’t flinch when he proclaimed he had played the political game as a businessman, giving many politicians money for their campaigns. And he unabashedly added that they all loved him for it, making it clear he gave money to buy favours. He claimed his opponents are still selling favours because that is how they fund their campaigns, something he doesn’t have to do because he has so much money.
As shocking as this is, it speaks to people. Lots of people in western democracies who have had it with politicians and the whole political process, including political media, communication gurus, controlled messaging, pollsters, lobbyists – the whole carefully calculated, politically correct scene that Trump so willingly, forcibly and effectively attacks with almost every utterance, every gesture.
Regardless of where Trump stands when this column is published, voter anger is real, and no one ever ripped up the rule book like Trump. No one has done it because no one thought being outrageous could be politically advantageous. No one in recent memory ever said things like “I don’t need a debate coach, I am who I am.”
Virtually no one thinks Trump will ultimately go very far in politics. But he has already gone a good distance by waking people up to how being a non-conformist can work in a political environment perceived to be so terribly flawed, disliked and distrusted.
Our federal election in Canada is just two months away, and you can bet the Trump approach is being watched and evaluated here for what it is: a game changer in the world of waking up and seeing how peeved voters are.
While it is hard to imagine Trump’s brash and bombastic approach working in Canada, there is another way of looking at it. If traditional approaches are old and stale, then traditional voting patterns may also be part of the past. In May, we saw that in Canada, when the NDP took power in Alberta.
Albertans acted out the kind of thinking that brought Trump to the forefront this summer. Who cares about the rules and who thinks about the way it is supposed to be when you are really fed up with traditional politics? As well, in Alberta, there was a horrendously run Progressive Conservative Party campaign.
But, consider this. The NDP won in Alberta and the lights suddenly went on for Thomas Mulcair and the federal NDP. The momentum hasn’t stopped since. If you are really upset with the political system and how things are and have been, then why not do the unthinkable and elect a party that has never been even distantly close to winning a federal election. Talk about shockers and rewriting the rule book.
Donald Trump entertains people on TV because he thinks out loud and he does it with no attempt to soften the edges. While it is unthinkable that a Canadian political leader would be so out there, there is the thought that voters may actually do the talking.
For many Canadians, the temptation to actually do the unthinkable is very much part of our present election campaign.