Canada’s Secret to Resisting the West’s Populist Wave

Outsiders might assume this is because Canada is simply more liberal, but they would be wrong. Rather, Canada has resisted the populist wave through a set of strategic decisions, powerful institutional incentives, strong minority coalitions and idiosyncratic circumstances.

.. In other Western countries, right-wing populism has emerged as a politics of us-versus-them. It pits members of white majorities against immigrants and minorities, driven by a sense that cohesive national identities are under threat. In France, for instance, it is common to hear that immigration dilutes French identity, and that allowing minority groups to keep their own cultures erodes vital elements of Frenchness.

Identity works differently in Canada. Both whites and nonwhites see Canadian identity as something that not only can accommodate outsiders, but is enhanced by the inclusion of many different kinds of people.

Canada is a mosaic rather than a melting pot, several people told me — a place that celebrates different backgrounds rather than demanding assimilation.

.. Around the world, people tend to identify with their race, religion or at least language. Even in the United States, an immigrant nation, politics have long clustered around demographic in-groups.

Canada’s multicultural identity is largely the resultof political maneuvering.

.. Mr. Trudeau’s solution was a policy of official multiculturalism and widespread immigration. This would resolve the conflict over whether Canadian identity was more Anglophone or Francophone — it would be neither, with a range of diversity wide enough to trivialize the old divisions.

.. It would also provide a base of immigrant voters to shore up Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

.. Then, in the early 2000s, another politician’s shrewd calculation changed the dynamics of ethnic politics, cementing multiculturalism across all parties.

Jason Kenney, then a Conservative member of Parliament, convinced Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the party should court immigrants, who — thanks to Mr. Trudeau’s efforts — had long backed the Liberal Party.

“I said the only way we’d ever build a governing coalition was with the support of new Canadians, given changing demography,” Mr. Kenney said.

He succeeded. In the 2011 and 2015 elections, the Conservatives won a higher share of the vote among immigrants than it did among native-born citizens.

The result is a broad political consensus around immigrants’ place in Canada’s national identity.

.. That creates a virtuous cycle. All parties rely on and compete for minority voters, so none has an incentive to cater to anti-immigrant backlash.

.. In Britain, among white voters who say they want less immigration, about 40 percent also say that limiting immigration is the most important issue to them. In the United States, that figure is about 20 percent. In Canada, according to a 2011 study, it was only 0.34 percent.

.. One reason may be Canada’s unusual immigration policies. A sponsorship system, in which Canadian families host newcomers, allows communities to feel they are a part of the country’s refugee resettlement program.

And a points system, which favors migrants who are thought to contribute economically, makes immigration feel like something that benefits everyone.

.. Virtually every immigrant to Canada is brought here deliberately. Research suggests that uncontrolled immigration, for example the mass arrival of refugees in Europe, can trigger a populist backlash, regardless of whether those arrivals pose a threat.

“We have the luxury of being surrounded by oceans on three sides, and then by the U.S. border,” Mr. Hussen said. “Which, relative to your southern border, doesn’t have the same amount of irregular migration.”

.. Immo Fritsche, a professor at the University of Leipzig, in Germany, has found that when people feel a loss of control, they cling more closely to racial and national identities. And they desire leaders who promise to reassert control.

.. But Canada’s points- and sponsorship-based systems, along with its geographic position, help communities feel a sense of control over immigration so that, even as new arrivals change politics and society, backlash has been minimal.

The End of the Left and the Right as We Knew Them

Trump accelerated a realignment in the electorate around racism, across several different measures of racial animus — and that it helped him win. By contrast, we found little evidence to suggest individual economic distress benefited Trump. The American political system is sorting so that racial progressivism and economic progressivism are aligned in the Democratic Party and racial conservatism and economic conservatism are aligned in the Republican Party.

.. In the French parliamentary elections this month, the ruling Socialist Party saw its 280 seats dwindle to 29 out of 577. In the Netherlands, the number of seats held in parliament by the Dutch Labor Party fell from 38 to 9 after the March election.

.. The Financial Times has documented a steady decline in class-based voting in Britain. In 1987, the British middle class voted for the Conservative Party by 40 points more than the national average, while the working class voted for the Labor Party by 32 points more than the national average — a 72-point spread. By 2017, the spread had dropped to 15 points. Once a Tory stronghold, the British middle class now splits its vote evenly.

.. education emerged as the strongest predictor of votes for a right populist option, where the less educated chose it more often than those with degrees.

.. Austria to this list. The presidential election there in May of 2016 pitted Van der Bellen, the center-left candidate, against the hard-right populist Norbert Hofer. Polls showed that Van der Bellen won decisively among the well educated and the better paid, while Hofer won workers and the less well educated in a landslide. The election in the Netherlands was also emblematic

.. Macron’s genius has been to argue that he can thread the political needle, by embracing globalization and reinforcing social protections to compensate those exposed to its downside. In the process, he has obliterated traditional parties of the left and the right, while promising a synthesis tailor made for the twenty-first century. If he can bring it off, he will become a model for other leaders to follow — including in the United States.

.. among all voters, Clinton won 52-42 among the college-educated while Trump carried those without degrees 51-44.

.. A candidate making that appeal, however, and seeking to build a broad majority biracial coalition, must in fact have broad biracial appeal. As of now, Sanders is far from personifying broad majority biracial appeal. Worse, existing Democratic candidate recruitment and nomination processes have paid insufficient attention to the selection of candidates who are competent to build bridges across America’s immense cultural gaps.

.. there is a “growing tension” between the Democratic Party’s “ascendant militant wing and Democrats competing in conservative-leaning terrain.”

.. The “ascendant militant wing” — a colorful, if controversial, description of the Sanders-Warren wing of the party — has the moral high ground within Democratic ranks but the votes they want the party to seek are those of some of the least reachable constituencies — white men and women whose views on immigration, race and political correctness are in direct conflict with liberal idealism. It would be an extraordinary challenge to get these particular voters to join with minorities and progressive activists.

.. Liberals must take seriously Americans’ yearning for social cohesion. To promote both mass immigration and greater economic redistribution, they must convince more native-born white Americans that immigrants will not weaken the bonds of national identity.

In practical terms, Beinart writes, “it means celebrating America’s diversity less, and its unity more.”

.. The hard part

is backing tough immigration enforcement so that path to citizenship doesn’t become a magnet that entices more immigrants to enter the U.S. illegally.

.. Exposure to difference, talking about difference, and applauding difference — the hallmarks of liberal democracy — are the surest ways to aggravate those who are innately intolerant, and to guarantee the increased expression of their predispositions in manifestly intolerant attitudes and behaviors. Paradoxically, then, it would seem that we can best limit intolerance of difference by parading, talking about, and applauding our sameness.

.. Americans, Beinart contends,

know that liberals celebrate diversity. They’re less sure that liberals celebrate unity. And Obama’s ability to effectively do the latter probably contributed to the fact that he — a black man with a Muslim-sounding name — twice won a higher percentage of the white vote than did Hillary Clinton.

What we are seeing now is the replacement of class-based politics, a trend apparent in the United States and Europe. This gives us a more racialized and xenophobic politics, on one hand, and a politics capitalizing on increasing levels of education and open-mindedness in the electorate on the other.

Political Divisions in 2016 and Beyond

Tensions Between and Within the Two Parties

One way to understand the 2016 election, then, is to note that by making questions of national identity more salient, Donald Trump succeeded in winning over “populists” (socially conservative, economically liberal voters) who had previously voted for Democrats.

.. Trump’s candidacy has brought more economic liberals into the Republican Party, moving the party’s center of gravity on these issues to the left. Trump has also moved the party to a much more nativist position on questions of national identity.

.. The View That Politics is a Rigged Game

  • Elections today don’t matter; things stay the same no matter who we vote in.
  • People like me don’t have any say in what the government does.
  • Elites in this country don’t understand the problems I am facing.

.. The Importance of Social Security/Medicare

  • How important is Social Security to the respondent?
  • How important is Medicare to the respondent?

Attitudes on Foreign Trade A battery of questions on the costs/benefits of free trade.

Attitudes On Gender Roles A battery of questions on the role of women in society.

Pride in America

  • How proud are you of America’s history?
  • I would rather be a citizen of America than any other country in the world.

The Perception That “People Like Me” Are Losing Ground

  • Life in America today for people like me is worse compared to 50 years ago.
  • In America, the values and culture of people like me are becoming rarer and less accepted.

Attitudes Toward African-Americans A battery of racial resentment questions toward African-Americans.

Feelings Toward Muslims

  • Favoring or opposing temporarily banning Muslims from other countries from entering
  • the U.S.
  • Feeling thermometer rating toward Muslims.

Attitudes on Immigration

  • Whether illegal immigrants contribute to American society/are a drain.
  • Favoring or opposing a legal way for illegal immigrants already in the United States to
  • become U.S. citizens.
  • Whether it should be easier/harder for foreigners to immigrate to the U.S. legally than it is
  • currently.

Attitudes on Moral Issues

  • View on abortion.
  • View on gay marriage.
  • View on transgender bathrooms.

Attitudes on Economic Inequality

  • Whether our economic system is biased in favor of the wealthiest Americans.
  • Whether we should raise taxes on the wealthy.
  • Whether distribution of money and wealth in this country is fair.

Attitudes Toward Government Intervention

  • Whether we need a strong government to handle complex economic problems.
  • Whether there is too much/too little regulation of business by the government.

.. Divides get much wider as we move toward questions of race and national identity. Trump voters have more negative attitudes than Clinton supporters about African-Americans, are much less supportive of immigration, and have much more negative feelings toward Muslims.

.. To summarize, supporters of Clinton and Trump are very polarized on identity and moral issues. Views on economic issues are more of a mix. Both candidates’ supporters are generally supportive of the social safety net, and somewhat concerned about trade. Yet they diverge very much on how concerned they are about inequality, and how actively they want to see government regulate business and intervene in the economy.

.. The data suggest that the main divide within the Democratic Party electorate is about attitudes toward the establishment and the existing order than it is about specific issue positions (with the exception of trade policy).

.. For the most part, Trump and Cruz supporters look fairly similar, though Cruz supporters are considerably more conservative on moral issues, and notably less concerned about inequality and the social safety net, and more pro-free trade. In other words, Cruz voters were more likely to fit the description of traditional
conservatives.

.. For the most part, Kasich supporters are the true moderates, caught in between the two parties on almost every issue, both economic and social. Kasich supporters come closest to Democrats on their feelings about immigration and about Muslims specifically.

.. Looking at the correlates of candidate favorability, we can more clearly see the potential divide in the Democratic Party. Again, it is more about disaffection than issue positions. The strongest predictor of Sanders support (holding all else constant) is a sense that the system is rigged. Clinton’s biggest boosters, by contrast, are more comfortable with the system as is, are less likely to see things getting worse, and are generally prouder about America. They are also more supportive of free trade. Interestingly, support for Muslims is noticeably more highly correlated with support for Clinton than for Sanders. This is somewhat surprising.

.. Still, to the extent that many of these divisions are establishment/antiestablishment divisions, they are somewhat muted by Democrats now being the opposition party. By contrast, had Hillary Clinton become president, these disagreements might have widened, since governing requires the kind of compromise and incrementalism that would be most likely to drive the Sanders wing of the party into rebellion.

.. we can see that Trump’s biggest enthusiasts within the party are Republicans who hold the most anti-immigration and anti-Muslim views, demonstrate the most racial resentment, and are most likely to view Social Security and Medicare as important.

.. By contrast, the strongest predictor of support for Ted Cruz is a set of strongly conservative views on moral issues, and somewhat pro-free trade views.

.. Notably, among Trump supporters, the age gap is nonexistent on resentment toward African-Americans, and very small on immigration. There is a wider gap on feeling toward Muslims, with old Trump voters being more anti-Muslim.

.. The widest within party variation by age cohort is within the Democratic Party on the indexes measuring pride in America and the perception that “people like me” are losing ground. Younger Democrats are both the most optimistic about their own future, but the least enthusiastic about America. To the extent that politics is increasingly organized around a conflict over ethnonationalism versus multicultural cosmopolitanism, the vanguard of this struggle is younger Clinton voters opposed to older Trump voters.

.. In both parties, this donor class is both more conservative on economic issues and more liberal on social issues, as compared to the rest of the party. However, there is a slight but notable asymmetry between the two parties on identity issues. Among Democrats, the donor class is notably to the left of the working class on these issues.

.. Already, we saw that in 2016, many of the party switchers appear to have been motivated by identity issues.

.. What Divides The Parties Now?
The parties are divided on both social/identity and economic issues, but more so on identity issues. The gaps between the Clinton and Trump voters on questions of racial resentment, immigration, attitudes toward Muslims, and moral issues are consistently wide. There is very little overlap between the two camps on these issues.

.. By contrast, although the parties are divided on economic issues, there is more overlap. Particularly in the Republican Party, there are a wide range of views on economic issues, now that the party has expanded to include more and more populists who were formerly Democrats.

.. Many of the Romney voters who supported Clinton did so because they were uncomfortable with Trump’s far-right positions on immigration and other identity issues.

.. Early indications suggest that Trump was serious about his ethnonationalist agenda, which will keep identity issues, especially immigration, at the center of our politics. If this happens, it may put pressure on the remaining pro-immigration Republicans and the remaining anti-immigration Democrats (some remain in both camps), further realigning the parties.

.. Democrats may also be pressured to move further left on these issues, given that both younger voters and the party’s donor class are quite far to the left on identity issues. If so, American politics would become further polarized along questions of culture and identity.

.. Since Republicans have picked up more economically liberal voters (and may continue to do so since there are still some populists who vote for Democrats), it may be harder for Republicans to continue to push a traditional conservative free-market agenda. If so, this would leave conservatives with little place to go. Democrats might move right a little bit on economic issues, but they are limited by where their voters are on the issue. In addition, a move rightward might activate more of the anti-establishment sentiment that could potentially cause a rift in the Democratic Party.

In Search of the American Center

helps explain one of the mysteries of American politics — given that the Republican economic agenda is unpopular and the country has swung left on social issues, why can’t Democrats win more elections? The answer (one of them, at least) is that as the country has moved left, the Democratic Party’s base has consolidated even farther left, and in the process the party has lost the ability to speak to persuadable voters who disagree with the liberal consensus on a few crucial issues.

.. On abortion, where public opinion has been stable, Democrats have ditched their old attempts at moderation, undercutting the gains that secularization and the liberal turn on other culture-war issues should have naturally delivered them. And the party’s base has no patience anymore for the kind of careful triangulation that Bill Clinton practiced on issues like crime and welfare policy, or for the then-Democratic voters who were reassured by it.
.. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters didn’t differ very much on the actual issues.
.. Whether the Sanders or the Clinton faction rules, the demands of its large, consistently liberal core won’t allow much room for the experiments in outreach that a minority party needs.
.. On both sides of the Atlantic, if you tried to build a consensus politics based around what voters actually want, it would be very moderately culturally conservative and very moderately economically liberal, and it would sit low in the upper left quadrant of our chart — the place where Trump won voters who had previously voted for Obama.
.. But on both sides of the Atlantic, if you sought to place the elite consensus on the same chart, it be much closer to the emptiest of quadrants — the land of austerity and open borders, free trade and the permanent sexual revolution, the Simpson-Bowles plan and Emmanuel Macron.

.. Both Bill Clinton’s self-consciously moderate liberalism and George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism were rooted in a recognition that what the Acela Corridor wants is not quite what the country wants.