Smashing institutions is not conservative

Smashing institutions is not conservative

Pierre Poilievre was elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and of Canada’s loyal opposition during an extraordinarily dull ceremony Saturday night. But to be fair, it was also very cringey, especially the part where the winner’s wife talked at length about her husband being married to her in the sense of her being his wife. 

Anyway, they’re married.

But that’s not the worst about this affair, and I don’t just mean the blue light that made everyone in the audience look like a zombie that’s slightly past its due date. The worst, of course, is the fact that what was once an honourable political party representing right-of-centre Canadians, is now a ragtag bunch of anti-institution radicals whose understanding of fundamental principles only equals their inability to speak coherently about, well, anything. 

Perhaps you think I’m harsh. 

I have the January 6 riots to point to. All the people who said, in 2016, nah, you’re too harsh, the Trumpians have some good points, relax already, it’s not that bad — were the most surprised by the violence that erupted at the, ah, suggestion of those who refuse to believe anyone else could legitimately win an election. I wasn’t surprised one bit; and what’s more after Charlottesville I don’t think anyone should have been either. Because we saw what would happen if we tried to pacify a movement that considered government institutions a “swamp” to be drained. 

The January 6 violence is the logical end of a movement that starts with vaguely libertarian principles, hooks a left via anarcho-capitalist principles, skates by Austrian economics without digging it because math, swings around the sex scenes in Ayn Rand novels and winds up in a bathtub on Wellington drinking cheap beer thinking that somehow this will make chest hair grow thicker. That’s true in the United States and that’s true here. 

Harsh, you say? I haven’t even gotten started. 

This movement, which Poilievre is riding, demands “freedom” for some people very much at the expense of others. Witness the weeks-long occupation of downtown Ottawa by people who genuinely believed that making a racket and — literally — shitting on the front porches of downtown Ottawa residents was their god-given right. 

They don’t think decency applies to them. They don’t even think laws apply to them. There’s a growing movement, of so-called “sovereign” citizens that gives judges and lawyers crazy headaches by invoking bogus rights to have the laws of a country magically not happen to freedumb-loving dunderheads. 

I’m not even kidding. 

John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was recently bemoaning the fact that people seem to confuse being unhappy with rulings with questioning the very legitimacy of the Court itself. 

A sentiment that echoes the one expressed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner, back in June

Without trust in institutions like parliamentary democracy and an independent judiciary, we don’t have much to fall back on, just-society-wise. 

People who support Pierre Poilievre think the justice system is not legitimate, especially if they don’t like a particular court decision, and that the Bank of Canada governor is political and can be treated like a minister’s staffer. They are convinced the media are bought by their enemy and that anything that doesn’t go their way is a conspiracy to keep them down. There’s just no arguing with any of that. They’re only here to smash whatever’s in the way of their tantrum. 

Pierre Poilievre, who has done nothing more useful in his adult life than taking money from the taxpayers to bark inanities in the House of Commons, does not actually believe the laws passed by Parliament are illegitimate. Certainly not the ones that guarantee his salary and lifelong pension, or protect his right to earn money renting out dwelling units he owns. But he’s giving a platform to the doofuses who do, and using the deluded masses to propel himself to the top job. Or so he thinks. 

That is not what conservatism means. 

Conservatives are supposed to uphold — almost venerate — institutions that have made countries like Canada what they are today. Parliamentary democracy. The rule of law. Constitutional monarchy. Human rights. Decency. Law and order. Did I mention decency? 

No true conservative would caution the kind of destruction the January 6 mob inflicted upon Congress. Or the vandalism and sheer vulgarity of the freedumb occupiers in downtown Ottawa. No self-respecting conservative can endorse taking a dump on someone else’s private property, no matter how salient the political point conveyed by the excrements seems to be at the time of excretion. 

That’s just not what conservatism is about. Conservatism is about preserving good things from the past. Conservatism, more or less properly understood, is about protecting traditional institutions that have made this country such a desirable place to live that people from all over the world will risk almost anything to get here. 

There are millions of decent conservative people in Canada. They don’t want to smash institutions in a fit of incoherent fury. They want to keep institutions going so they have a decent society to pass along to their children and grand-children. 

Yet they voted for Pierre Poilievre. Now they need to retake their party from the anti-institution hooligans, and fast. 

That is all.