America’s far right could see a mid-term boost. What would that mean for Canada? – National
The US midterm elections on Tuesday, more far-right candidates could take federal and state office, expanding their influence on the country’s politics – which experts say could have implications for Canada.
The US congressional elections and various gubernatorial races are taking place amid the most polarized and heated political climate in decades, with officials warning of an increased risk of violence and the potential for attempts to undermine the electoral system.
Political observers say the rise of far-right, nationalist figures within the Republican Party, many of whom were influenced and promoted by the former president Donald Trumpthey are mostly guilty.
“Yes, there is heated rhetoric from both (Democrats and Republicans) … but Republicans are 95 percent of the problem,” said Matthew LeBeau, a political science professor at Western University in London, Ont.
“Only one party has members and candidates who advocate violence and cast doubt on elections. Maybe there are people on the left who are ideologically distant from the center, but they are not anti-democratic.”
American intelligence agencies warn of attacks on politicians, polling stations as the dates approach
Fears of rising extremism and violence were heightened Friday when an intruder broke into the San Francisco home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – the top Democrat in Congress and second in line to the presidency – and allegedly assaulted her husband, Paul Pelosi.
Authorities said Monday that the suspect targeted the home and called “Nancy” while she was inside, with plans to kidnap and attack her to show other members of Congress that there are “consequences for actions.” Although the attack was called “politically motivated” by the San Francisco District Attorney, the suspect’s policy was not explicitly stated.
On the same day of the attack, however, a new domestic intelligence assessment by the US Department of Homeland Security and other agencies warned of an “increased threat” of extremist violence during the midterm elections, with the greatest danger posed by “lone offenders” of election fraud.
Trump continues to deny that he lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, and his supporters are trying to consolidate their power in future elections. Multiple Republican candidates for secretary of state, who would oversee the election if they win, have promised to tighten voting restrictions and even allow lawmakers to overturn the results.
Choice deniers are on the ballot everywhere in America’s midterm elections
Washington Post analysis found that the majority of Republican candidates on the ballot this November — 291 in all, spread across nearly every state — echoed Trump’s false claims of election fraud. Of them, as the analysis showed, 171 are likely to win their seats, while another 48 have a chance in more contested races.
Some of those candidates not only questioned Trump’s loss, but refused to consider the possibility of their own defeat.
Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, for example, declined to tell CNN last month whether she would accept the election results if she lost, only repeating that she was confident she would win “and I will accept that result.”
LeBeau says an expanded far-right caucus within the House and Senate would lead to “constitutional hardness” in Congress, pressuring the Republican leadership to support extreme tactics like trying to impeach Biden and members of his cabinet while blocking legislation.
It could also set the stage for a contested 2024 presidential election where the Republican-controlled Congress refuses to certify the results — which could also be thrown out entirely if candidates like Lake gain control of battleground states — sparking a full-blown constitutional crisis.
“As scholars of American politics, none of us have any idea how this ends,” Lebo said.
“All we know is that the country is in very serious trouble.”
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Experts, meanwhile, are increasingly worried that the rise of the extreme right in the US could also affect politics in Canada.
“(This kind of extremism) is not something that needs to be imported into Canada, but we certainly see some of the same attitudes from far-right media, campaigns and so on taking root here,” said Hazel Woodrow, an educator for the Canadian Network Against Hate.
She points to protests north of the border against gender-inclusive classrooms and youth-friendly gatherings, which have fueled panic among the American right about so-called “groomers” indoctrinating children without any evidence to support such claims.
A drag queen’s book reading sparked a protest outside a downtown Edmonton library
Hate crimes against LGBTQ2 people are on the rise, according to Statistics Canada, which found Police-reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender increased dramatically between 2020 and 2021.
More anti-trans candidates than usual he recently ran for school board positions in municipal elections in several provinces, including Ontario and British Columbia.
But the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests that took over downtown Ottawa and blocked border crossings in several provinces raised lingering questions about the degree of connection between the Canadian and American far rightand what it means for Canada.
Fox News and other right-wing media outlets in the US cheered the protestscalling on Republican politicians like Ted Cruz to declare they stand with the organizers and urging viewers to donate to their cause.
Donor information leaked revealed that millions of dollars given to “Freedom Convoy” online campaigns came from American sources before the money was frozen.
Live broadcasters following the convoy regularly replayed full broadcasts of the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News, where host calls Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “dictator” when he invoked the Emergency Law to help police remove the blockades.
Since then, Trudeau has continued to be a target of the American far right.
On his Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones hailed “a new Canadian leader poised to beat Trudeau” — apparently referring to Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who publicly supported the convoy — as an example of the rise of far-right “anti-globalist” politicians.
“You look all over the world, we’re rising right now,” Jones told his millions of followers last month.
About 10 percent Infowars‘ audience is based in Canada, according to web analytics firm SimilarWeb.
At the “Great Awakening” Christian Nationalist Conference in Mannheim, Penn., in October, Trudeau was involved among the faces of numerous politicians and media figures whom the speaker declared would be visited by the “Angel of Death” and branded as traitors.
“There really are no boundaries when it comes to online conspiracies like QAnon that many of these figures are running,” Woodrow said.
“Justin Trudeau’s politics are very different from Donald Trump’s politics … (whose) supporters will not stand for that. This is a movement that wants to grow, and that means looking both internationally and at home.”
Experts say Canadians seem clearer about the threats posed by Trump, who remains the de facto leader of the Republican Party and he is reportedly expecting another presidential candidacy in 2024.
Leger’s survey in September found that 72 percent of Canadians hold Trump responsible for the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol to protest his election loss, compared to just 54 percent of American respondents.
But Woodrow says Canadian politicians need to do more to condemn the far right — especially Poilievre, whose party appears poised to gain politically the most from growing far-right sentiment.
“We are in such a moment of crisis right now that any of us will always have more to do,” she said.
Biden says ‘there is no place for political violence in America’, blames ‘MAGA Republicans’ ahead of midterm elections
Leger’s poll also found that only 28 percent of conservative-affiliated respondents want Trump to run again. NPR/PBS poll around the same time he suggested that two-thirds of Republicans would support his re-election bid.
If Trump loses again, the stage could be set for an even uglier reaction from his supporters than last year’s attack on the Capitol. Ipsos survey in July found that nearly 12 percent of respondents said violence would be at least “somewhat justified” if it meant Trump’s return to the presidency.
CBS poll in September suggests that 64 percent of the country predicts an increase in political violence in the coming years – up from 51 percent in January 2021.
Lebo says he shares those fears, both about Tuesday’s election and the next one.
“2024 terrifies me,” he said.
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