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the EPOCH JOURNAL

VOLUME XI ISSUE 2

Autumn 2017

featuring: A Note on the Origin of Political Speech by Ethan Rogers

and North Korea’s Nuclear Chess Game by Samuel Berrettini AU T U M N 2 0 1 7

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the EPOCH JOURNAL autumn 2017

volume xi, issue 2

editors-in-chief Stuart Lombard Sawyer Neale editorial board Adam Enkin Cyrus Schiller layout editor Stuart Lombard Max Wright contributors Samuel Berrettini Adam Enkin Charlie Hurd Matthew Manotti Ethan Rogers © 2017, The Epoch Journal disclaimer The Epoch Journal is produced and distributed in annapolis, maryland. opinions expressed in articles or illustrations are not necessarily those of the editorial board or st. john’s college. advertising please contact smneale@sjc.com for information about advertisements mailing address st. john’s college 60 college ave. annapolis, md 21404 submissions are you interested in writing for the epoch journal? we are currently looking for editors, columnists, and general submissions — for more information, contact the editors at epoch@ sjc.edu.

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3. Letter from the Editor Stuart Lombard (A’19)

Contents

9. On Social Constructions Matthew Manotti (A’18)

4. A Note on the Origin of Political Speech Ethan Rogers (A’18)

11. North Korea’s Nuclear Chess Game Samuel Berrettini (A’21)

7. Real Identity Politics Charlie Hurd (A’21)

14. The Trudeau Mandate

Adam Enkin (A’21)

Letter from the Editor The Epoch Journal, like so many other things, is in a state of change. We are both trying to stay true to the roots of the Journal, while also propelling ourselves into the future. My goal as Editor-in-Chief has been to study the past and bring those things that we have moved away from into the future. With this tide of change, I think that it is significant that our contributors for this issue are either just settling into St. John’s, or getting ready to write their senior papers. But despite the gap in years, each of our five contributors have chosen to write articles that relate well to each other. In ‘A Note on the Origin of Political Speech,’ Ethan Rogers (A’18) tells us how talking about issues became so complicated and divisive. Following from the origins of political speech, we are confronted by the manifestation of that divisiveness in Charlie Hurd’s (A’21) ‘Real Identity Politics,’ where he discusses the differences between the Left and the Right and how those labels change in meaning. In discovering the nature of identity politics, I find Matthew Manotti’s (A’18) ‘On Social Constructions’ to be a very complimentary piece, exploring how social constructions influence society as a whole. After such a narrative, it is only natural that we read about some examples of political speech, and other divisive aspects of politics. Samuel Berrettini (A’21) relates to us about the history of North Korea’s nuclear programme and how American politics reacts to that programme. Closing our issue is Adam Enkin, (A’21) who gives an analysis of Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s upcoming reelection in 2019. His insight into gives a welcome opportunity to learn about our neighbour to the north. We hope that you enjoy this issue of The Epoch Journal, and that if you are a student, you may be inspired to write with us. Sincerely, Stuart Lombard (A’19), Editor-in-Chief AU T U M N 2 0 1 7

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POLITICS

A Note on the Origin of Political Speech BY ETHAN ROGERS

Photo: Martin Falbisoner

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y the words political speech, I understand the same idea that every American instinctively understands by that national pronouncement “we don’t like talking politics.” Certain ideas are so contentious, so combustible, so fragile and so essential to our sacred individualities, that to attempt to resolve them through dialogue is degrading and stupid. Political speech is the articulation of ideas and sentiments that are no longer mediable by conversation. We Americans recognize the existence of these irreconcilables; we Americans demonstrate our civilized management of them by keeping as respectfully silent as possible about politics in the marketplace and by reserving our political opinions for the vote. In our domestic politics, we Americans have perfected the vote. The vote is the quiet, peaceable, and polite means by which we American resolve irreconcilable, political, disagreements. Two men with irreconcilable opinions walk into a voting place. The one comes out having become one of the vindicated majority of voters, whose opinion is to be legitimized and implemented. The other is defeated, but he holds it no shame to be defeated because he knows that the vote is sacred and civilized and because he knows that any attempt to implement his own opinion, which seemed so promising a 4

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few hours earlier, will be crushed by the overwhelming violence of the state. Such is the ingenious device, the vote, by which we Americans have agreed to resolve questions of the sort that might have otherwise come to blows. So, what ought a citizen to do when confronted with hard questions? It is obvious that the vote is both the most polite and the most effective means of resolving the irreconcilables. So, instead of talking about politics and risking insulting someone, we ought to vote. And what about before the vote? We ought not to waste time being uncivil to those whom we can only be reconciled against through state power. Awkward efforts at dialogue, even when they do not offend, only waste energy that could be otherwise used to unite one’s own party for the ultimate vote. The vote will decide all, so what else is necessary? Once upon a time, whenever they found themselves in an irreconcilable disagreement, our forefathers were sensible enough to stop talking. They did not prattle on, making each other feel uncomfortable. Nor did they waste time in irreconcilable contradiction. Instead, they would very politely agree upon a pair of pistols with which they would try to shoot each other. Although this method was doubtless honorable and sophisti-


cated and though it still carries with it something of an air of ancient romance, it must be admitted that the duel had major shortcomings compared against the vote. The duel still required individuals to take the resolution of their own disagreements into their own hands. This had the consequence that duels were often postponed indefinitely, were often indecisive, and sometimes even eliminated both poles of a contradiction unnecessarily. What is more, because of the expense of armament and the subtlety of education and the political freedom which it required, the duel as a means of satisfaction was accessible only to the upper classes. The perfected vote, on the contrary, offers decisive satisfaction to every citizen regardless of class and education. But enough of history. Once again, if the vote is the paradigm of politics, what is political speech? For speech to be functionally political, it must be a dictation of some policy action to be taken by the state. The meaning of our paradigm is that the state will take the policy action that wins the vote. The ultimate justification of political speech is not verification by criteria external to the political system. Political speech is justified when the state power implements the specific policy action. In brief, the vote means that the particular realities of social organization within our society do not depend on universal consent or agreement. The vote empowers a part of society to suppress what it sees as contradictory poles of political expression not on the basis of reason or dialogue but on the basis of the power of the state. Assuming the paradigm of the vote, political speech proves itself simply to be an effort to make man conduct himself in a particular way by taking control of the state. Any effort to determine the world through the state entails, at its bottom, sometimes more or less obviously, the threat of violence. It is thus very understandable why Americans rightly consider talking politics so impolite. Anyone who hears political speech, whether they agree with it or not, recognizes it for what it is, viz. a threat of violence. One person may insist that persons judged responsible for the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere should be

punished. Another may ask that certain persons be barred from entering or leaving the country. Another may content himself crying: “lock her up!” Whoever hears one of these phrases, or others like them, understands that their ultimate basis is in the power of the state and, therefore, that to discuss them is a waste of time. Why would anyone dialogue when the state apparatus is at her disposal? And besides, it is impolite to threaten people. In the Hobbesian interpretation, that is, in the statist interpretation, reason is a governing, but also a limited, factor in human life. Reason is governing because everyone has the power of choice. No one can obey a command merely because it is a command. She must also decide to obey this command. Reason is the foundation of the state inasmuch as individuals must decide to participate in the state for the state to exist. However, Hobbes limits reason and with it human choice to the bare minimum necessary to catalyze the emergence of state, the minimum rationale for obedience and rule. Reason is really nothing other than a primal urge for self-preservation. Or, what amounts to the same thing, man’s urge for self-preservation has the same relation to the sum of all other possible human motives as a line does to a point. Society, the externally realized form of this reason, becomes a universal monarchy, that is, it becomes a physically almighty body politic, capable of preserving itself against a hostile external reality by overwhelming physical might. Because the ultimate state is capable of preserving itself and with it man through absolute force, the absolute state is the culmination of man’s reason for being. The particular measures adopted by the state, whether one policy or another is enacted, Hobbes supposes to be irrelevant to reason. As long as the vote is always actualized with an insurmountable capacity for violence, a statist need not concern himself with the content of policy. The man who voted one way and the man who voted another way do not have any essential reason for their difference. If they did, the imposition of policy through violence rather than through agreement would not be justifiable. Violence would crush reason into dust with impunity. AU T U M N 2 0 1 7

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If the statist rationale is correct, however, then the vote is a means of arriving at the absolute state with a minimum of the necessary unpleasantries of oppression. If the majority rules, we need not aggrandize our irrelevant personal reasonings. We need only govern. We need only be ruled. â–

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POLITICS

Real Identity Politics

The True Meaning Behind the Left and the Right BY CHARLIE HURD

Photo: DeuxPlusQuatre

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n contemporary political culture many people toss around the phrase: “the division between the Left and Right. This vague term in America just refers to people who identify as liberal or conservative. Often these labels can be used as insults–such as a liberal calling somebody a “rightwinger” or a conservative calling somebody “a radical leftist”. It has become commonplace in political discourse for someone to disparage their opponent by labeling them as an extreme of whatever political ideology they identify with. This is especially prevalent on internet political communities who alter definitions of such terms to fit their own agenda. For example, Barack Obama has been known by many different labels during his tenure as a president. He was known by rightwing conservatives as a “communist dictator leftist,” while people who identified themselves far on the left labeled him as a “right-wing corporate sellout.” ‘The Left and Right’ are umbrella terms that can group Centrist Democrats alongside Anarcho-Communists while lumping Christian Conservatives right next to free market Libertarians. ‘The Left and Right’’ labels tend to simplify complex ideological terms by tying together many individual political sects into two opposing categories. The meaning of the ‘Left and Right’

has changed dramatically since the terms were first coined. The ‘Left and Right’ distinction originated during French Revolution in 1789 when members of the National Assembly sat in the left and right sides of the assembly hall. To the right were supporters of the king and to the left were the supporters of the revolution. During the years of change in France, sitting on the left always indicated an opposition to authority while those who sat on the right were supporters of monarchy. These terms were not used as indicators of political opinion until around 1914 in France when they started to be used as insults. Being on the left indicated that you were a socialist while being on the right indicated that you were a conservative. These terms spread throughout Europe and became especially prevalent during the Spanish Civil War when the Spanish republicans joined forces with the anarchist revolutionaries to fight against the fascist and Spanish nationalists lead by Francisco Franco. Instead of using the makeup of the different groups fighting to name the two armies, the terms ‘Left and Right’ became a simple way to talk about the political divide in the war. This solidified the meaning of the sides. The left was known for support of working class causes and egalitarianism with the right being asAU T U M N 2 0 1 7

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sociated with traditionalism, duty and authority. These terms were prevalent in the United States during in the 20th century and evolved to what we know today. Not only has the meaning of this distinction changed, but the power of the terms ‘Left and Right’ has grown. These two categories of political belief have become a new type of identity politics in which citizens with extreme opposition to one another will come together to support their side regardless of their own political differences. Two major providers of political content on the internet are Noam Chomsky and Stefan Molyneux. Both consider themselves anarchists but are almost ideological opposites to one another: Chomsky being an Anarcho-syndicalist (left) and Molyneux being an anarcho-capitalist (right). They both share the position of being against authority while economically they couldn't be more different. During the 2016 election they both did

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something surprising, they came out in support the candidate that was on their side of the spectrum. Chomsky urged leftists to vote for Clinton while at the same time speaking of his disagreements with her. Chomsky’s differences with Clinton are immense. Chomsky is a socialist while Clinton is a capitalist. Chomsky is anti-interventionist while Clinton supports Obama-era foreign policy. There is a very similar case with Molyneux and his numerous political differences with Donald Trump, but because of the broad brush of ideology, both ‘extremists’ conceded to vote for a candidate which neither truly supported. This broad brush of ideology is a powerful force. The political identity of someone can interfere with their true opinions and make them support causes which they do not entirely agree with. Identity can be more powerful than ideas when it comes to the political spectrum. ■


SOCIETY

On Social Constructions BY MATTHEW MANOTTI

Photo: By Robertgombos

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have often heard the words “social construct” sprung at ideas in a way that is unfair both to the idea in question and to the concept of a “social construct” itself. Those who weaponized the words have rarely realized their meaning. Often, the phrase is used to defeat a thought without applying thought, that is, it is an application of a sociological construct by which the critic is able to avoid critical thinking. “Virtue is socially constructed,” says the Freshman. The Freshman has not bothered to ask what virtue is, what a social construction is, or if a social construction is merely a term that reveals something as unreal. Thus, the Freshman avoids the problem of The Meno, and refuses to think. This misuse of the term is not isolated to Freshmen, of course. However, I have noticed that Freshmen are more likely to misuse it than others. This essay, then, is merely a gadfly for the benefit of those who are inclined to abuse the concept. The phrase is often illegitimately used as a synonym to “illusion.” Its abusers are insightful enough to notice that there are no geological differences between Canada and the U.S.A. This means that what divides the people of the two nations are social constructions. These constructions are not physical, and therefore not real. As such, national boundaries are mere illusions, created by society to keep us divided. The crux of this view is the meaning of

the word “real.” It is true that few national boundaries are physical. But the physical is not the only thing that constitutes something “real.” We act, after all, as though those national boundaries are real. If people cross the boundaries without permit, there will be consequences. These consequences are social, but also physical. Such an immigrant may be locked away–a social consequence. Or such an immigrant may be shot and killed–a physical and social consequence. The social world regularly leaks into the physical and vice versa. To draw a line between the two and mark one real and the other unreal is to miss a key element of human societies. All social constructs are imbued with meaning. That meaning creates the world in which we live our lives: the real world in which we interact with objects under certain teleological ends.. When we approach a chair, we sit on it. We do not encounter it as merely form and matter. We perceive it first as a tool whose use has been taught to us by society. To break that use (to stand on the chair) is to break with reality. We expect only madmen to regularly stand on their chairs under normal circumstances. It is worth noting that social constructions are not often encoded in law. A student, playing a prank or reaching something near the ceiling, can freely stand on his chair. He might be misusing the chair, but there are no serious social punishments for the misuse. In fact, there is AU T U M N 2 0 1 7

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a great danger in encoding social constructions into law. To do so would be to give credit for the construction to a particular lawmaker. But that would be another misunderstanding of the social construct. Implicit in the language of social construction is the idea that society has been the constructor, not an individual. This means that, when the concept of a national border was created, it was not because some mischievous person had the bright idea to draw a line. Instead, society as a democratic collective decided that this was a solution to a problem and, therefore, they ought to act as if it were real. Even this description may not accurately describe the invention. My sentence used words like “ought” and “decided.” But I doubt that there was a moment of decision, or an intention driving people towards what they ought to do. There was no meeting in the forum, no task force assigned to build walls. Instead, it was an event that emerged spontaneously from individual habits to national habits. Any line drawing by and map making was a result of enacting this prior concept. The social construct gives the form of the thought, intentional actions by people provide the content. Walls are built by nations, but nations are built by commonly shared ideas. In fact, if particular legal borders to not coincide with the social boarders, certain political conflicts arise, as can be seen in Africa after colonization. If such an event can be socially constructed, can it also be socially deconstructed? In other words, could a group of individuals work to undo the meaning that has become implicit in national boundaries? Perhaps. But this endeavor is not nearly as simple as it might first appear. After all, the goal is not merely to deconstruct whatever material inventions have been put at the border–a wall, for instance–but to deconstruct the reason why such inventions have been placed there to

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begin with. Such a task might not be achievable through a political movement. I say that because political movements have ends and goals. They exist intentionally, yet social constructs are largely unintentional. They emerged from no grand plan for society, but rather from an immeasurable change in individual actions and concepts over time, as people adapted to new environments. All that a political movement can hope to do is potentially change the content of the social construct. The forms that society takes are beyond our control. We may change who is in power, for instance, but I am skeptical that power relations could ever cease to exist by means of some social force. This does not mean that social constructions are unchangeable nor that some ought not be changed. I am merely saying that the means by which such changes take place may not be in our control. We do not stand above society, but within it; and our power and vision of our society is therefore limited. As such, social constructs are not the end of thought but the beginning. They are the categories of culture in which our thought naturally falls. When Socrates asks Meno to describe what virtue is, he is asking Meno to describe that very category outside of the content which normally fills it. This does not mean that the content or constructs are arbitrary, they ought not be casually dismissed. Social constructs rarely exist without reason, however, the reason is so deeply embedded and assumed within our cultural consciousness that it is extraordinarily difficult to see. It is comparable to seeing light. While we all see light, we do not perceive it. We perceive the shapes and colors that light reveals to us. We only become aware of light when confronted with the dark. ■


FOREIGN AFFAIRS

North Korea’s Nuclear Chess Game BY SAMUEL BERRETTINI

Photo: User P388388

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orth Korea has become an increasingly dangerous threat in the past few years. Its missile tests are now blatantly warlike, its latest missiles have the capacity to reach the U.S., and the conversation has changed from whether it has nuclear weapons to how many and what types. An observer might wonder how the situation got so out of hand, but what may not be apparent is that it was never in hand to begin with. Since its creation in the aftermath of World War II, North Korea has been more or less openly antagonistic toward the U.S. and Europe, first as a puppet of the Soviet Union, then by itself as it gradually alienated its Communist allies. This alienation was in large part caused by then-North Korean leader Kim Il-sung’s policy of “Juche,” or self-reliance. Il-sung hoped to cut ties with other nations and make North Korea selfsufficient, believing North Korea’s significant mineral resources would translate into a place of priority on the world stage. Economically, this strategy was a failure: when prices fell, the heavily resource-reliant North Korean economy tanked. xAs a political move, however, instating Juche had some positive effects; while it did lead to North Korea being surrounded by mostly unfriendly or neutral countries, the DPRK’s increasing political distance from the Soviet Union

allowed it to escape the consequences of its collapse, and its obstinate rejection of close ties with other nations has made it very difficult to bargain with. In the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea still was not taken seriously; after all, it was barely feeding its citizens, so why should it be capable of creating nuclear weapons? Thus, other nations were lulled into a false sense of security even as they propped up the regime with humanitarian aid. Every so often however, North Korea’s militarism would become apparent, leading to a brief period of panic followed by sanctions and diplomatic talks. Inevitably, North Korea would agree to curtail its military program in exchange for relief from sanctions, and the rest of the world would heave a collective sigh of relief until the North proceeded to act as if the talks had never occurred. The idea of Juche did not permit real concession, and thus, no matter what had to be said to gain relief from sanctions, the intent was always to continue building up military might. In hindsight, it is surprising that this cycle of aggression and concession did not raise more red flags: after all, DPRK officials said time and again they would stop at nothing to acquire nuclear weapons, and only recanted when it was necessary to ease sanctions. However, the preAU T U M N 2 0 1 7

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vailing outside opinion at the time was that North Korea’s belligerent posturing was surely no more than that. This mode of thinking received a jolt in 2006, when, just after receiving a warning to discontinue its nuclear program, North Korea detonated its first nuclear bomb underground. Even China, North Korea’s closest thing to an ally, denounced the test (North Korea had, in fact, only given China about twenty minutes’ notice ahead of time, which the Chinese used to inform the U.S.), but the U.N.’s solution was that same as it had always been: more economic sanctions. For a time, the U.S. pushed for a changes that would allow war on North Korea at the next provocation, but was unable to convince the other members of the U.N. In the wake of the sanctions, six-party talks among North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the U.S. resumed. At first, North Korea seemed contrite and agreed to shelve its nuclear tests, but, predictably, it reneged on the deal within a few years by conducting more test launches and detonations, leading the International Atomic Energy Agency to label it a nuclear power. The following years saw a rapid rise in North Korea’s weapons capacity coinciding with a transfer of leadership from Kim Jong-il to Kim Jong-un, a younger and comparatively less tested statesman. Initially, many observers assumed the change in regime would lead to a softening of stance, or even a total dissolution of the North’s power, but in fact, the opposite has occurred; in his six years as Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un has tested more than twice as many missiles as both his predecessors combined and made multiple threats against the U.S. and South Korea. This alarming turn of events, coupled with Jongun’s brinkmanship, has led many to conjecture that a major conflict may be just over the horizon. President Donald Trump has stated on multiple occasions that he is willing to attack North Korea if the situation calls for it, even as a preventative measure, and North Korea has threatened to nuke Guam if the U.S. attempts to curtail its ambitions. While that once may have seemed like an empty threat, the North’s dramatic increase in power and 12

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technology has been such that it’s likely it would have the ability to nuke Chicago within a year (North Korea’s missiles currently are thought to have the capability to reach Guam, although some analysts say the missiles would likely not be accurate enough when carrying a payload to be useful). North Korea could never emerge even close to victorious in such a war–they have between 20 and 60 warheads, according to most estimates, compared to the United States’s stockpile of around 4,000 warheads–but, regardless, many DPRK officials have stated that they are willing to risk annihilation if it means preserving their country from U.S. interference. This is in accordance with the ideal of self-determination that they have espoused for their whole history as a country. Many officials have also voiced doubts as to whether the U.S. has the appetite for such a risky, and deadly (most estimates put the death toll for an attack in the high hundreds of thousands to, possibly, millions) conflict. But let us step back from the brink for a bit. While many, including the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, have made statements to the effect that “the time for words is over,” there is still much confusion on both sides as to how far the other is really willing to go, and North Korea has, in the past, been open to the thought of a closer relationship with the U.S.; this was especially evident in negotiations during the Clinton administration, when Special Advisor William Perry was sent to North Korea and succeeded in getting it to temporarily call off its missile program to conduct talks. In his 1999 report to Congress on the situation, Perry recommended a “two-path strategy” in which “the United States and its allies would…reduce pressures on the DPRK that it perceives as threatening,” suggesting that such a path might induce North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Now that those ambitions have come closer to fulfillment, it’s unlikely the same end could be accomplished, and whether a nuclear North Korea is palatable to the current administration remains to be seen, but there are still alternatives to a direct assault. One such option is simply increasing sanctions even further, with the goal of com-


pletely crippling North Korea economically. Past attempts to do this have met with limited results. It is highly likely that, even if North Korea were to cooperate and call off its nuclear buildup, such a plan would only slow it down, as evidenced by its pattern of reneging on deals. In addition, now that North Korea has acquired nuclear weapons, such a plan becomes very risky; if the sanctions ever reach the point at which North Korea would actually be unable to endure as a nuclear power, it may just decide to take out a few other nations with it. This threat has been made both on and off the record by DPRK officials already. A second, less aggressive option would be to attempt a “freeze for freeze” in which the U.S. and South Korea would agree to dial back on military exercises and buildup on the DMZ in exchange for a ceasing of the DPRK nuclear program. It is not clear that this would work, given North Korea’s long-standing antipathy toward the U.S. and South Korea, but in any case, it is unlikely that the Trump administration would ever go for such an option, especially after having returned North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism on November 20th, 2017. If the U.S. does pursue military action against North Korea, it may not take the form of a “boots on the ground” invasion force, but rather an attempt to take out high ranking officials and Kim Jong-un in a precision strike. Such an effort, although it may sound cleaner and less dangerous, still carries a great deal of risk. Even if a strike were to be successful, such a targeted attack might cause the North Korean people to rally around the government and counterattack, and if such a strike were to fail, retaliation is virtually guaranteed. The only way a targeted strike could be safe would be if it absolutely destroyed North Korea’s capacity to launch any missiles, an

unlikely proposition given that we don’t know where most of their missiles–or warheads, for that matter–are. These same standards apply to a traditional invasion or even a nuclear strike: if it does not leave North Korea completely incapacitated, the consequences will be catastrophic. So, do we just have to sit back and let what happens happen? Well, while the situation is thorny, there are some practical steps that can be taken that are neither overly aggressive nor passive. First, there needs to be a shift in the U.S.’s perspective; put simply, we must confront the reality of a nuclear North Korea. Underestimating our adversary is exactly what has allowed the situation to reach this point. After that, steps such as implementing better missile defense systems for vulnerable areas and spying to find out where their warheads are and to give warning if they are to be used is just common sense. Second, diplomacy with North Korea should be conducted at a more productive level than threat and counter-threat. On each side, there is great distrust and unfamiliarity with the other, and this breeds conflict. North Koreans are fed history that portrays the United States as a boogeyman that used chemical and biological weapons against them during the Korean War (which is not supported by evidence) and wants them to be a second-class country forever. Clearly, we need to work on our PR. The road to a certain level of mutual trust and understanding with North Korea may be long and difficult, or even impossible given the deep-seated animosity on both sides, but we have a duty to attempt it, and for that to happen there must be a conversation that consists of more than just: “if you hit me, I’ll hit you.” ■

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The Trudeau Mandate A New Era in Canadian Politics BY ADAM ENKIN

Photo: 2017 Canada Summer

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here comes a time during the term of a world leader when the electorate looks back at the accomplishments that have been made and reflects on whether the politician has been competent or not. That time has come in Canada, as the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is halfway through his term, and recent polls suggest that Trudeau has lost a lot of popularity over the course of the last four months. Canadian politics in the age of Trudeau is compelling yet ambiguous; and to Americans the spectacle that is Canada is unknown and perplexing. In short, Americans must understand that Canada’s political structure differs greatly from that of the United States. For example, there are three main political parties in Canada: The Liberal, Conservative, and New Democratic Party. The New Democratic Party lies on the left of the political spectrum while the Liberals lies on the centre left and the Conservatives on the centreright of the spectrum. The current political leaders are Justin Trudeau (Liberals), Andrew Scheer (Conservatives), and Jagmeet Singh (New Democrats) and the Canadian electoral system differs greatly from America’s Electoral College system. In Canada’s electoral system (First Past the Post), each area of the country is separated into different ridings, and these translate into seats. The winner 14

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of each riding only needs to receive a plurality of the votes (the largest number of votes) instead of a majority of votes. This leads to a distortion of the popular vote of the Canadian electorate. In Canada’s most recent general election, Trudeau’s Liberal Party won a majority government despite only receiving about forty percent of the popular vote. In the 2011 Canadian general election, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party also received around forty percent of the popular vote. With all that being said, it becomes apparent why Trudeau cannot become complacent. Sixty percent of the electorate did not vote for him in the last election. This becomes all the more confusing when we grasp the state of Canadian politics and how we got here. Two months before the last election I had no doubts that Justin Trudeau would prevail. The excitement, especially in downtown Toronto, was palpable. He had made promises that excited the country and it was easy to recognize his appeal and understand what made him so popular. The prime minister during the year 2015 was Stephen Harper and people were ready for change. Harper has been prime minister for more than nine years and the choice for Canadians who yearned for change was between Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair. Canadians chose Trudeau because of his


charisma and his attractive promises to the nation. Trudeau was elected due to promises like legalizing marijuana and changing the current electoral system to a more proportional system that does not distort the choice of the Canadian electorate. Legalization of marijuana is looking more and more like a promise that will be kept and the Prime Minister Trudeau’s plan is to legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018. Trudeau’s promise to change Canada’s electoral system will not come to fruition after he reneged on that promise. The first two years of Trudeau’s mandate have been interesting because of how frequently he has angered voters on the right and left of him. Members to the left of him and those in the New Democratic Party have become infuriated with his refusal to invest large sums into protecting Indigenous youth and for refusing to focus on income equality. They argue that while he proudly exclaims his affinity for feminists and gender parity he has abandoned Indigenous children and those struggling Canadians working hard to join the middle class. These very same detractors argue that due to Trudeau’s wealthy upbringing he is not the one fighting for the common folk. Those on the right of him and those in the Conservative Party would argue that Trudeau has spent too much and that he promised to have deficits of around ten billion and instead the current deficit under Trudeau’s government has been between the high teens and mid-twenties in billions of dollars. Those on the right of him would

agree with his detractors on the left in that his Trudeau’s wealthy upbringing has given him a distorted vision of what Canada stands for. Trudeau has gotten a lot of criticism over the last two years and he has also been regarded with much adoration. Criticism and adoration come with the job when you are a world leader, but Trudeau has also proven his immaculate political strategy. He cancelled his electoral reform plan when it became clear that changing the electoral system would make it more difficult for him to get a majority government and he has refused to buckle to the demands of conservatives and leftists. This has maintained his base and given him a substantial lead in the race to the prime minister’s office in 2019. Trudeau has lost some support in polling numbers in recent months, but he is still track for another majority government. The reality is that during the first two years of the Trudeau mandate, Canadians have seen both a benevolent and erroneous prime minister who is nowhere close to as deplorable as his opponents would like Canadians to believe, while also not being anywhere close to being as superb and sublime as the Liberal Party wants Canadians to believe. The jury is still out as to whether Justin Trudeau is competent and should be re-elected to a second term. The jury has made its decision on one thing: it is absolutely a perfect time to become engaged in Canadian politics and learn what is really going on in Canada. ■

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THE EPOCH JOURNAL

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The Epoch Journal - Autumn 2017  

The Autumn issue of The Epoch Journal, a publication from the students at St. John's College.

The Epoch Journal - Autumn 2017  

The Autumn issue of The Epoch Journal, a publication from the students at St. John's College.

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