Trudeau, Ivanka en­able mad­ness of pop­ulism

The Niagara Falls Review - - OPINION - SHAN­NON GORM­LEY Shan­non Gorm­ley writes for the Ot­tawa Cit­i­zen.

You, a ra­tio­nal per­son, have no af­fec­tion for the Aryan-race ob­ses­sives, the para­noiacs and the en­mity ad­dicts mak­ing the en­tire tra­di­tion of Western democ­racy seem an ex­cel­lent can­di­date for con­fine­ment in those in­sti­tu­tions orig­i­nat­ing in the bu­colic re­gions of early 19th-cen­tury Eng­land. But your cen­sure is wasted on mad­men. They can’t un­der­stand it.

True scorn must be re­served for their en­ablers — those who find them­selves in the com­pany of mad­ness and do their level best to make mad­ness look nor­mal. This is true within lib­eral democ­ra­cies. It’s no less true among them.

But it may not have oc­curred to Justin Trudeau when he re­cently took Ivanka Trump to a show. They’re not so odd a cou­ple. They share a will­ing­ness to en­able Amer­ica’s first would-be klep­to­cratic pop­ulist regime by act­ing like it isn’t crazy.

And crazy it is. Na­tion­al­ism trum­pet­ing, au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism­pro­mot­ing pop­ulism doesn’t merely bend the rules of the lib­eral or­der. It de­nies their ex­is­tence, re­ject­ing the ba­sic pa­ram­e­ters of demo­cratic re­al­ity. In the al­ter­na­tive uni­verse of the alt-right, facts are no match for philo­soph­i­cal pref­er­ence, laws don’t ap­ply to the pref­er­ences of the strong­est, and op­po­si­tion to the strong­est makes one an en­emy of the state. It is, in other words, quite mad.

We can’t rely on lib­eral in­sti­tu­tions to pro­tect in­no­cent by­standers from in­san­ity when in­san­ity is elected to pub­lic of­fice. Speech be­ing free and de­cency be­ing op­tional, we rely on peo­ple, if not to call po­lit­i­cal mad­ness what it is, then to re­frain from pre­tend­ing it is some­thing it is not.

By pre­tend­ing mad­ness is nor­mal, peo­ple make it so.

We have none other than Ivanka to thank for demon­strat­ing what hap­pens when you grace an ogre with your be­nign pres­ence while cheer­fully deny­ing ogres are in fact ogres. A mad­man never looks good, but look­ing near-nor­mal is often enough.

The les­son of le­git­i­macy-by as­so­ci­a­tion is ig­nored by Trudeau, en­abler of an en­abler. We must deny that na­tion­al­ist move­ments are rather more global than their name sug­gests and that wher­ever a move­ment is mad, we ought to re­frain from act­ing as though it is sane.

In­ward-turn­ing move­ments con­sis­tently turn to other in­ward turn­ing move­ments. So it was with the Nazis; so it is with the neo-Nazis. Brexit em­bold­ened Make Amer­ica Great Again, which has em­bold­ened God knows what fra­ter­ni­ties with whom Trump as­so­ciates have made blood pacts. Shar­ing a philo­soph­i­cal world view, tac­ti­cal sup­port and po­lit­i­cal mo­men­tum, na­tion­al­ists de­pend on each other for an aw­ful lot.

Lib­er­als shouldn’t con­cede that na­tional in­ter­ests are so zero-sum that for­eign­ers must treat state borders as though they’re de­mar­cated with ra­zor wire. In­ter­na­tion­al­ists usu­ally un­der­stand that progress can’t be quar­an­tined in a sin­gle state.

Nor can demo­cratic de­cline. Toxic pop­ulism might fetishize na­tional borders, but borders won’t pro­tect na­tions from toxic pop­ulism.

Had in­san­ity won the day in the Nether­lands, we wouldn’t ex­pect Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel to take Geert Wilders’s wife out for cur­ry­wurst, or for Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker to treat her to an evening at the Royal Flem­ish The­atre. Some world lead­ers un­der­stand that nor­mal­iz­ing lu­nacy where it has won en­ables it to win more.

Some don’t. En­ablers be­lieve they can man­age mad­ness by act­ing as though it isn’t mad. And af­ter all, nor­mal looks bet­ter com­pared to crazy, just as crazy looks bet­ter by call­ing nor­mal a friend.

But the en­ter­prise is as self­de­feat­ing as it is self­ish. Ivanka lost Nord­strom for it. Let’s see what it costs Trudeau — and what he costs us.

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