Dispatch from the Front Line: Well, that could have been worse. And probably still will be!
The Line stares into the abyss of U.S. politics, and Biden stares back at us. Also: Trump's gonna go nuts, right? Plus, JT did good, but the CRTC did bad, and a correction.
Well, this week ... happened. We guess. Right?
Your Line editors are fried, friends. In fact, we planned on sending this out last night, but fell asleep. Still, having snoozed a bit and loaded up on caffeine this morning, we find ourselves cautiously ... well, not optimistic. But relieved. Yes: cautiously relieved. We had genuinely worried that the U.S. election might be completely dysfunctional, even violent. It's hard to look at the bizarre American electoral process and deem it functional, per se, but the dysfunction on display at least seems mostly within baseline norms. As Canadians, we find the refusal of Americans to return, chastened, to voting by marking slips of paper with a golf pencil and handing it over to the little old lady in the church basement or community centre, who counts it within an hour or two of the polls closing, absolutely baffling.
Ya’ll can build frickin’ space stations but you can’t mobilize your strategic old lady reserve?
As to the risk of violence, we won't fully exhale the breath we're holding until it's all over and done with. Reports such as this one out of Philadelphia, of a foiled attack against a vote-counting centre, are precisely what we feared we would see — our thanks to all the law enforcement personnel and agencies that prevented what could have been not just a massacre, but a precipitating event for even more violence.
So, yeah. No one is dead, and the system seems to be working about as well as ever ... read into that what you will. While there is obviously reluctance to call races that are close, it's clear that Joe Biden has the 270 electoral college votes he needs to be the next president of the United States, even if the exact size and shape of the victory remains unclear.
There's little further we dare venture to guess, beyond the obvious. The road ahead will be difficult, thanks to what appears to be a GOP-held senate; we offer no predictions about what a Biden presidency will Mean In The End. We may later take some stabs at analysis, and invite contributors to do the same, but right now, honestly, we just want to unwind. The weeks ahead will be hard for America and those who love it, as we at The Line do, and we aren't totally in the clear. There will be shenanigans, and rumours of shenanigans, for weeks. There may still be violence.
But on Friday, they were dancing in the streets of Philadelphia and Atlanta. Your Line editors aren't overly blessed with rhythm, but it felt so good to see we might just have joined them.
One issue that did come up and can't be ignored, beloved readers, is what the hell the Americans are supposed to do with their lameduck president for the next 74 days. Donald Trump gave a low energy (sad!) address from the White House on Thursday, where he rambled at length, with none of his usual pep, about all the ways he is being cheated. His sons and other surrogates have been doing the same on TV, radio and social media. There is a growing split opening up between the Trump inner circle and the rest of the GOP, which we suspect has concluded that four years of a boxed-in President Joe is a small price to pay for being rid of Trump and his cadre.
But the GOP and the world isn't done with him quite yet. Trump remains the president, and reportedly has no plan to concede. Indeed, there's every likelihood that he'll spend the next two-and-a-half months declaring the entire election a sham, a fraud, and saying that he's been robbed of his victory by crooked Dems. While senior GOP officials stare with 100-per-cent focus off into some other direction and see and hear no evil, Trump may well do enormous damage to what's left of the U.S. body politic, and motivate more losers like the ones who wanted to shoot up Philadelphia to launch similar attacks. We weren't surprised that MSNBC and the three broadcast networks cut away from Trump's remarks this week, where he made wild accusations of corruption and fraud. (CNN and Fox News, which seems to be slowly turning against Trump, stayed with Trump.) Continuing to broadcast the remarks, at a certain point, goes beyond simple news reporting, or even capturing a historical record, and tips over into enabling a determined assault on the U.S. constitutional order.
We can quibble about where the precise line between free speech and responsible journalism, and putting lives in danger by broadcasting deranged and inflammatory rhetoric, lies. Your Line editors admit this would be a struggle for us, and confess that we're glad that making the call is someone else's problem. But make so mistake — it is a problem, and a few someone else's south of the border need to draw that line. Trump isn't going to get any calmer or more rational in the days and weeks ahead.
And, if you'll permit us one final aside on this topic, isn't this exactly what you expected of the man? Isn't this precisely what we all knew he'd do? In the coming weeks, we expect to see people jumping onto the anti-Trump bandwagon with the kind of gusto we haven't seen since Frenchmen pledged themselves to the resistance … as DeGaulle swept into Paris. But those of us who always saw Trump plainly for what he was, and said so, have long memories. And don't think we're not noticing all the new faces at the secret meetings.
We at The Line are hard on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. So we should be — he's the prime minister. But every once in a while, it's good to point out when we think our politicians are behaving well.
This week, as we all continue to live in a state of unbearable psychic tension while awaiting the U.S. election results and the boy-king narcissist tries to undermine the legitimacy of the election that he appears to be losing, Justin Trudeau has shut the fuck up.
We think that's good.
The temptation for a Liberal at this moment has got to be extreme. It would be easy — so easy — for someone who believes that he is at the vanguard of a collapsing liberal world order to convince himself that he has some kind of higher moral duty to say something cringeworthy about the American political system. I mean, the world needs more Canada, right?
The impulse, we note, is barely contained on Twitter:
And it’s not restrained at all over at the highly-leveraged NDP headquarters.
Singh has the luxury of playing this game for Twitter likes because he's the leader of a rump party that, at this rate, will never be in a position to deal with the consequences. Singh has the freedom of powerlessness and irrelevance, and is enjoying it to the fullest (and we have to say, it looks good on him).
But here's the thing: No one gives any fucks about what the Canadian government thinks or says about the American election right now. We're just tied to this crazy train by an 8,900-kilometre border and there isn't a damn thing we can do about any of it. No amount of moral preening is going to shift one single American mind on the subject, nor impress any of the cool European crowd, and it's the height of Laurentian self-importance to delude ourselves into thinking otherwise. Biden will probably be the winner and we will manage the implications of the sea changes in American politics in the months ahead.
But for now: Justin Trudeau is doing something that doesn't come naturally to him. He's shutting the fuck up. And we applaud him for the effort.
Lost in the tale of American chaos, the Liberals are putting this moment to use. Seizing on the popular discontent around "Big Tech," the government has proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act that will expand the power of the CRTC, regulate streaming services like Netflix, and force some of these companies to contribute more funding and profile to "Cancon." Basically, everything about what has been proposed further entrenches all of the worst habits and aspects of the Cancon sausage grinder. Michael Geist, our go-to on all things telecoms, breaks down exactly why Heritage Minister Steven "Above His Paygrade" Guilbeault's proposals sound good at Toronto cocktail parties — but are almost all based in a misapprehension of what the problems with domestic content production actually are. At the least, what Guilbeault is proposing will almost certainly mire us all in more protected, mediocre Canadian content.
Before we get to the roundup, dear reader, our recent habit of explicitly begging for you to sign up as paid subscribers has been working, so we ain’t stopping now. Let us make the appeal to you bluntly: The Line’s stated purpose is to help hold the centre of public debate, precisely to avoid the kind of political polarization that is ripping the U.S. apart. Take a gander south and tell us you don’t see what we’re warning about. You can either give us a few bucks or in a few years, you’ll be choosing between Canuck versions of Trump and Biden yourself. You wanna risk that, or do you wanna hit the button below? It’s your call, folks, but … if you pick the former, yikes.
A surprise Halloween treat on Saturday for readers of The Line. In an effort to scope out Halloween enthusiasm, writer Laura Mitchell did an informal poll of the candy aisles. Her findings: "Every till was rocking and the Halloween aisle — or at least what was left of it — was a glorious shit show of manic Halloween consumption." Indeed, despite fears about being cancelled for COVID-19, Halloween seems to have been as popular as ever in Alberta, and we were all happy for the break in the doom.
The indomitable Christina Clark was back on Monday to give Justin Trudeau hell for his spineless remarks on freedom of expression. The prime minister's half-assed support of this core tenet in the wake of the horrific murder of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty did not go down with Clark: "Trudeau is conflating ideas here. A plurality of viewpoints is the bedrock of freedom of speech, which in turn, is one of the core tenets of a democratic society. Pluralism is exactly the point Paty was trying to teach before he was murdered for having done so."
On Tuesday, as we stress-ate our way through election day, Max Fawcett decided to rile his fellow Albertans by pointing out that this province may, in fact, have been better off today if we had stuck with the National Energy Program. At least one reader of The Line suggested that the lot of us should be tried for treason for daring to air such an opinion.
Those left agog as the results failed to grant an early election blowout for Joe Biden have, understandably, turned on our public pollsters and prognosticators. However, at least one private Republican-backed firm was neither surprised by the result — nor did it imagine the poll-hate was particularly fair. The Line did a Q&A with Chris Wilson, the CEO of WPAi. At the very least, it offered an illuminating glimpse into the polling industry in America.
Lastly, Kaveh Shahrooz warned the Democrats that the woke rhetorical ju-jitsu that turns Blacks and women into white supremacists and sexists because they voted for Donald Trump is an absolutely terrible electoral strategy. "The left’s framing of racism, white supremacy, and support for defunding the police — even as many cities suffered from rising crime rates, riots and looting — turned off significant numbers of the very ethnic minority voters they claimed to champion," he notes.
CORRECTION NOTICE: A reader of last Friday’s Dispatch noted that we mangled the details when summarizing some of the recent troubles of Canadian journalist Steve Ladurantaye. We rapidly updated the post and noted our error, and for transparency’s sake, do so again here. We regret the error.
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