Rick Salutin

Rick SalutinSyndicate content

Rick Salutin is a Canadian novelist, playwright and critic. He is a strong advocate of left wing causes and writes a regular column in the Globe and Mail.
Columnists

Failure of democracy has many root causes

Image: Prachatai/flickr

The failure of democracy? An academic study published last summer, which is rather suddenly being hailed in places like the New York Times, claims "an entire global generation has lost faith in democracy." Citizens "have grown jaded." This applies to youth especially, who call elections "unimportant" and say "a democratic political system" is a "bad" way to run things.

But is it really so? Young Americans who enthused over Bernie Sanders in the primaries, skipped the election because it wasn't democratic enough. People in Greece, Spain or Italy, left old parties and built new ones for similar reasons.

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The threat of Trump isn't Trump

Photo: Mark Taylor/flickr

It will be an odd experience: the Trump years. On election night I thought the main task would be deciding what to do about them -- and in less than a day, young (mostly) people were in the streets across the U.S. protesting. Hallelujah. But it's also going to require a lot of thinking about what's going on. We'll need to think our way, as well as act, through the experience because otherwise it will be overwhelmingly upsetting and nobody will get any decent sleep.

In this task, I'm indebted to a Globe and Mail editorial about Trump's newly appointed "chief strategist" titled, "Steve Bannon isn't the problem, Donald Trump is." It helped because it made me realize that I think Donald Trump isn't the problem, Steve Bannon is.

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U.S. presidential debacle rekindles electoral reform debate

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Electoral reform never seems to quite fall off the agenda. The presidential debacle in the U.S. -- Clinton won the popular vote but Trump will be president, just like Gore and Bush in 2000 -- has rekindled the debate down there.

Since we're supposed to already have democracy, it always comes as a surprise to realize we aren't there yet.

You'd think we were stuck in the Britain of the mid-1800s, the heyday of Chartism. It was a mighty mass movement of working people whose lives and communities had been shattered by, among other things, free trade! Their solution wasn't a Marxist overthrow of "the ruling class" but extending the vote to all (meaning, at the time, all men) rather than only the rich.

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Building a mass anti-Trump movement to bring democracy back into politics

Photo: Gregg Brekke/flickr

How impressive were those protests across the U.S. on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Trump won? And he hasn't even deported anyone yet. Imagine what will happen when he does.

I say this not just as someone moved by any political activity that looks beyond casting a vote. Impressive because they have already answered a question that hung in the air once the result was known: What kind of opposition or resistance makes sense for the Trump years ahead?

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U.S. voters prepare for agonizing choice on election day

Photo: Bill B/flickr

Given the choice between a crook and a sleaze, you'd normally think people would opt for the crook. Crooks can be très charmant, like Cary Grant in It Takes a Thief or, more recently, Matt Bomer in White Collar.

Crooks can be virtuous, like Robin Hood, which may be how Clinton sees herself: Bill and I cut corners so we can win power and use it to do good. Why is she the crook here, although Trump, too, has a long record of crookedness and there are obvious crossovers by both? Because she's the one named by the U.S.'s number 1 cop: the big G-man himself. The FBI targets crime, not sleaze.

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When did the Liberal government go tone deaf?

PMO Photo by Adam Scotti

How does a government suddenly go tone deaf?

It's as if the Liberal cabinet was frolicking along among its doting public when an explosion went off at close range, rattling their hearing. Before, they had perfect pitch -- in opposition, during the election, even after it -- for instance, in how they handled the Syrian refugee issue. Then Kaboom -- they lose their sense of balance, they can't even hear themselves. Consider:

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What are Canadian values anyway?

Photo: Wayne MacPhail/flickr

I've decided I'm basically anti-values. There's nowhere else to go. At first I thought I was just against the kind of race-based, Trump-echoing version of "Canadian values" that Kellie Leitch is building her run for the Conservative leadership on, and which she advocated while backing the "barbaric cultural practices tip line" last election. Our variation on right-wing U.S. "values voters."

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What's a mesmerized, terrified outsider to do about the U.S. election spectacle?

Photo: Disney | ABC Television Group/flickr

Are these really days of awe? That's how the Jewish holidays just past are known. It also sounds like the U.S. election.

Hillary Clinton told the New York Times, "I'm the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse." She sounded Trumpian. The Times aptly ended an interminable story on her with it.

Fareed Zakaria says the world is "freaking out" over Trump. By world Zakaria always means those with wealth and power but it applies to the remnant as well. CNN's Michael Smerconish said last weekend it had been a unique moment in the history of politics -- and I already can't remember which moment he meant.

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Human rights protections raise new questions for freedom of speech

Photo: Alternative libertaire/flickr

David Bromwich, the incisive American scholar, says free speech has always been an aberration. What a daring thing to say about a basic right that elicits knee-jerk deference. It's a good thing he's free to say it. He claims it existed mainly in a small historical window between the rise of Puritanism and perhaps the Rushdie affair: about 400 years, and it's now in decline.

Free speech was always an arena for individuals; it's different from freedom of religion, which is about collectivities. You can have the latter without the former and you usually do. The case of whether Rev. Gretta Vosper can stay inside the United Church as an outspoken atheist is a good example.

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Instead of panicking, we need to think our way through the U.S. election

Image: Bill B/flickr

I watched Monday's debate and by the end had no idea who "won."

It seemed to me Clinton was often arch, artificial and embarrassing: "I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And I did. You know what else I prepared for? ... to be president."

Trump was his usual moronic self but looked calm and made some decent, mildly outside-the-box points: on trade, on U.S. policy being responsible for the rise of Daesh, and about Clinton having experience but it's the bad kind. (She still reveres Henry Kissinger, which nearly made Bernie Sanders retch.)

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