In the eleven years since I started publishing this blog, I have almost entirely focused on Alberta politics. But while my writing focuses on provincial politics here at home, like many Canadians I pay close attention to what is happening south of the border.
It is an understatement to say that the current state of American politics is very concerning to most outside observers. The deep partisan divide in US politics and the rise of an egotistical demagogue like Donald Trump is frightening. His campaign has actively appealed to racist and xenophobic elements of that country and as the Republican presidential primary and public opinion polls show, there is a receptive audience to his message.
The rise of this new brand of fascist authoritarianism in American politics reminded me of a speech delivered by a United States Senator sixty-six years ago. On June 1, 1950, Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith stood in the Senate chamber and delivered her Declaration of Conscience speech against McCarthyism. This excerpt from her speech feels just as relevant today as it did in 1950:
“…I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.
I doubt if the Republican Party could — simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.
I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one party system.”
I hope for the sake of our neighbours to the south that Ms. Chase Smith’s message is as true in 2016 as it was in 1950.