Maximum Hustle: A Short Meditation on Maxime's Self Promotion
by Jonathon Kneeland
For a single reason, Maxime Bernier and his "People's Party" nearly had my vote. On Twitter, Bernier officially announced the end of political correctness in Canada. As a true liberal, this was pure music. Like many in the politically homeless camp, I've watched political correctness cause decay and ruin and turn fellow citizens into fearful, uncritical, and compliant saps. Political correctness robs people of the ability to think and to speak clearly and intelligently and to tell the truth – it forces you to lie. I don't know how exactly we might solve all of society's problems, but I'm pretty sure convincing everyone to lie isn't going to help. I wondered if Bernier's bold statement might the turning point we need and if we might possibly be on our way back to a time when science, knowledge, and the pursuit of truth were valued above trendy and cheap political ideologies.
After the initial excitement of finally hearing a politician who speaks out against political correctness, I had to face a few unpleasant facts about Bernier's movement. The first was that some were calling him "Mad Max". He seems to enjoy this and indeed helps to spread the name himself – thank God "Feel the Bern" was already taken by the extremely wealthy American communist and perpetual poverty-for-everyone-else advocate, Bernie Sanders. I'm concerned that Maxime's ego might be very slightly healthier than what is actually healthy, and that it might drive him more in the direction of personal success and gain than in the success and improvement of our country. Also, one of my deeply held desires is that politics in my country might one day become more elevated and civilized. Bernier's past behaviour, and his apparent affection for his cringe-making nickname, do not inspire confidence that my naive but nevertheless hopeful desire might be realized.
I might dismiss the nickname defect as a case of my demanding too much perfection from another human being, except that it immediately brings to mind an almost forgotten scandal. Maxime Bernier was ousted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government in 2008 after a string of careless and self-indulgent behaviour. Bernier had become romantically involved with a woman named Julie Couillard. She had connections to serious organized crime figures. He ended up leaving sensitive classified documents unattended in her apartment.
I'll forgive any man for falling in love with an attractive woman. And I'd be lying if I tried to convince myself or anyone else that I would have resisted Ms. Couillard had I been in the same situation as Bernier. However, I cannot forgive him for his carelessness with classified government documents or for, in the previous year, his flippant attitude towards the care of public money after spending $22,573 on a flight to attend a two-day conference. And these are only two of many displays of Bernier's incompetence and disregard.
Actually, I can forgive Maxime Bernier for all of these things. But in order to forgive, it's not necessary to forget that he has an innate nature that might not be compatible with the very serious job he is currently attempting to convince voters to place him in. He appears to me, based on past and present behaviour, to be thoughtless, simplistic, intellectually lazy, and overly concerned with his appearance. We already have a guy like that running the country in the form of Trudeau, and it's not working out very well.
Bernier's claimed libertarianism is another reason I wouldn't be able to vote for his party. Libertarianism on its own is an absurd proposition. I'll go off on a small tangent here to say why I think this is the case. I once watched Don Boudreaux on The Rubin Report and it was very slightly irritating to me that Rubin let Boudreaux slip a very weak idea past him. I like both Rubin and Boudreaux and I enjoy and respect their work. However, we're all primates and we would be wise to remember that it's foolish to allow too many of any one man's ideas reign over us. Boudreaux offered his theory that there is no need to have a licensing system for electricians. He asked us to believe that the market would take care of deciding if electricians were competent and that this would work better than government regulation. He based this half-baked notion on the idea that if an electrician wired your house incorrectly and it burned down because of the faulty work, that you would not call that electrician back for future work, and that because of this, he would be very careful to perform his work properly. This sounds okay until you think about it for a minute. What if an unemployed guy whose family is hungry and whose child is sick tells you he's an electrician and offers to wire your house? He doesn't care if your house burns down or if you call him back for future work – he needs money, and right now. Thankfully, we can save ourselves all this grief by simply checking to see if the guy has a licence. Another of Boudreaux’s libertarian ideas was that we don't need regulations for airlines because the marketplace will naturally promote airline safety. I'm sorry, but this is harebrained. Anyone who has worked for a large corporation, and pays attention, is aware of the fact that profit goes up with risk-taking. Executives who take big risks, and save big money as a result, get big salaries and bonuses. These people do not care about your life, or the long-term success of their own corporations – they care about the next quarter and their own profits. The libertarian philosophy fails miserably here and actually encourages disaster. However, if Bernier wants me to believe that he's a libertarian, I'll will.
One thing that Bernier has to be given credit for is the fact that he has the intelligence and the instincts to tap into the unspoken concerns of everyday citizens. Those who really understand why Trump won the American election understand this important political angle. David Frum and Stephen Harper have each written a book that offers much insight into the political zeitgeist that put Trump into power. I read both books – Harper's twice - and was once again reminded of how little I actually know. What I learned from both books is that we are in a growing and uncertain political shift. Politicians who ignore this powerful and growing force will be replaced by those clever enough to exploit it. Both Frum and Harper have offered roadmaps to counter the growing influence of charismatic demagogues by simply refining traditional political messages and by really listening and responding to voters. From Harper's book, I also learned that I didn't really understand him or his political positions. If you're a liberal, I highly recommend Harper's book. If you were like me at all, you hated Harper while he was in power. If you read his book, you're likely going to realize that you completely misunderstood the man. He was constantly maligned by a dishonest media and is far more in line with real liberal positions than you might have thought. I'll go a step further and say that I now view him as a very decent human being, and that's a big deal. I’m not sure if Bernier is decent or not, but after reading Frum and Harper, I now see very clearly how Bernier found his opening.
I have no desire to see a Maxime Bernier, a Donald Trump, or a Justin Trudeau in power. To me, they are all the same. They're exploiters. They're hollow plastic replicas of what they present themselves as. They're clever demagogues and manipulators who exploit decay and only make things worse while increasing personal wealth and power. I don't think that any of them actually believe in anything important or really care about the people they claim to represent.
We don't need Maxime Bernier to declare the end of political correctness via Twitter. Political correctness will not be eliminated by politicians – it will be eliminated first by comedians and then eventually by everyday citizens. Finally, once it's completely safe, our pathetic journalists might even start to come around. We don't need Bernier for any of this. It's up to us. No one is going to lead the way for us on this – especially not a clever demagogue.
For myself, I've picked a party to vote for. It's not Bernier's party. My values are very straight forward and simple. I'm not guided by ideology or any cult of personality. I value the rule of law, a respect for science, a fair and just society that's free from discrimination, free speech, government assistance for those who really need it, personal responsibility, a lawful and reasonable immigration system, and merit-based employment. The only party promoting these values is Andrew Scheer's CPC. In fact, it looks to me as though Scheer's party is the only one upholding our traditional liberal values. Voting for the Conservative Party of Canada is a bizarre position for a liberal to be in; however, it is where we currently find ourselves.