Politics

Kellie Leitch’s War on the 'Elites' Is a Hot Mess of Irony

The 'anti-establishment' candidate’s backers include an awful lot of super-rich bankers and media moguls. Weird how that happens.

by Drew Brown
Apr 4 2017, 2:59pm

Photo via Facebook.

As everyone is surely aware by now: the Kellie Leitch campaign is extremely good. Of all the candidates crammed into the Conservative clown car as it careens over a cliff into the side of a canyon and explodes in the most boring fashion possible, Kellie Leitch is the best one. Brad Trost is like a carnival freakshow, quaint and darkly fascinating, and also monstrously offensive to most people born after 1960. "Kevin O'Leary, Politician" is a damning performance art piece satirizing the decay of Victorian-era political institutions in the glare of 21st century post-reality media. Kellie Leitch is just an awkward middle-aged doctor being a very shitty politician. It is delightful.

For instance: the Leitch campaign has very hamfistedly aped the populist/mob justice/"fuck nerds" zeitgeist of Anglo-American right wing politics. The central message of her campaign is that out of touch elitists with arts degrees hate Canada (which is why they are flooding it with unscrupulous Mohammedans) and that Leitch is the only person who cares about Canadian Values™ like, uh, tolerance. It's never spelled out exactly what an elite actually is here, but like pornography and #good #content, you know it when you see it.

And then it turned out that the people bankrolling Leitch's populist crusade are overwhelmingly corporate executives from the Greater Toronto Area, because this is the campaign that keeps on giving.

The CEOs of Manulife and CIBC both maxed out their $1,525 campaign donation limit by giving to Leitch, as well as Postmedia Chair Rod Phillips, who I can only assume is the good kind of establishment mainstream media oligarch. Other top Leitch donors included a bunch of old-school Tories with ties to Mulroney and the Ontario PCs, which is anti-establishment as hell. Robert Steele, CEO of Newcap Communications, also gave the max donation, which breaks my heart because Newcap owns the VOCM talk radio station in Newfoundland and I fucking love Newfoundland talk radio and now it's Problematic. (PS: Rob if you're reading this, bring back the Friday Night Sex Show, thanks.)

At face value this is just more evidence that suggests Leitch is not leading or even tapping into a populist uprising so much as trying to astroturf one with corporate money. Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen, Kellie, etc. But this itself is a valuable ~teaching moment~ about the state of right wing anti-politics, I think.

Kellie Leitch. Photo via Facebook.

Obviously, when Kellie Leitch and other aspiring reactionary rabble-rousers denounce 'elites', they're not talking about real elites—ie. those individuals or small groups who hold disproportionate economic and material power, ie., her donors. Instead, they're taking aim at cultural elites, the Laurentian Elite, a mysterious cabal of Liberal and NDP-voting neo-Marxist professors and newspaper columnists who believe there are 38 genders and all of them are allergic to ethically-fracked Canadian petroleum products.

It's a total sleight of hand. Canada does have a problem with elitism—our political institutions are basically designed to celebrate the wisdom and status of the rich and powerful, why the fuck else do we have a Senate or Leadership Colleges? Really, the biggest difference between the corporate execs and real estate moguls bankrolling Leitch's campaign and the cosmopolitan liberals they hate so much is a difference of political and aesthetic opinion—and that people who run banks are a lot more powerful than anyone writing an op-ed in the Toronto Star.

But none of this is surprising—it's all part and parcel of the same Donald Trump script that Leitch is ripping off. Trump's promise to drain the swamp was a brilliant bit of PR and a total lie. He wasn't popping off the political establishment, he was replacing one set of DC technocrats with a bunch of sycophant finance execs from New York. It's not anti-establishment so much as it's replacing one set of rich people with rich people who have shittier politics. In much the same way that the real base of right-wing reaction isn't a disenfranchised blue-collar workforce frothing with misplaced rage at the mundane chaos of global capitalism so much as it's scared suburban helicopter parents running scented candle businesses out of their garage.

Anywho, beyond the hilarious mockery all this makes of the popular understanding of, uh, populism and the class politics behind the sudden gentrification of fascism, it also makes you genuinely wonder why we assume powerful business people are particularly smart or clued into the world in any way beyond their very narrow specialty of exploiting people for fun and profit. The Leitch campaign is fucking terrible and all these people wasted $1,500 on it.

But what do I know! She is apparently in second place now, according to an unnamed poll known only to her. The banks might make a return on their tiny, tiny investment after all.

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