ALBANY, NY — The first thing you notice, when you cross the border into the Disunited States of America, is it basically looks the same.
Same landscape. Same gregarious, generous, gun-loving people. Same policies: more spent on immaculate highways than on public health care. Same pro-Trump banners on rural fences, same pro-choice stickers on urban electric vehicles. Same split, same divisions.
It’s been like that since 2016, give or take, when Donald Trump surprised the world — and himself, because he never thought he’d win, either — and became the President of the United States.
Except it’s not the United States anymore, as aforementioned. It’s two countries pretending to be one. They’re two nations heading in opposite directions.
Proof is easy to find.
Joe Biden may have won — but 70 million Americans still voted for Trump. Thousands protested the murder of George Floyd — and thousands of white maniacs ransacked the U.S. capitol on Jan. 6. Pro-choices forces rallying around the country, and even protecting abortion rights in places like Kansas — while the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court declare women’s wombs public property.
Everywhere you look in the U.S., these days, culture wars are raging. Wars over race and religion and rights, too. The Left and the Right are running, fast, in opposite directions.
Canadians may think we’re immune to all this division and disunity, but we’re not. The top songs and shows in the U.S. always become our top songs and shows, too. Their economy dominates ours. And, whether we like it or not, our politics always ends up aping theirs.
Sure, but we don’t (yet) have insane approaches to guns. Sure, we have public health care (for now). Sure, we (presently) have a different way of electing people.
But the rancor and ugliness that dominates American politics is increasingly seen in Canadian politics, too. Their divisions are becoming ours.
The Democratic Party, like the Liberal Party, are moving ever-leftward, into a realm where only pious woke types are welcome — and stupidities like Defund the Police and assaults on the energy sector are de rigueur.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party, like the Conservative Party, are moving ever-rightward, championing conspiracy theories and ugliness and extremism.
Our Prime Minister — and his likely opponent, Pierre Poilievre — are personally responsible for widening the divide in our politics. Justin Trudeau and Poilievre are the wrecking balls of Confederation, tearing down moderation and compromise. Demonizing their ideological opposites, and pouring gas on smoldering differences.
Trudeau and Polievre are the worst federal leaders in generations. Because both use microtargeting and geo-demographics to zero in on their base to win — and to Hell with anyone who disagrees with them. Both have won by pandering to the few, not to the many.
Where — in America, as well as in Canada — is the middle, these dangerous days? Where is the political centre? Increasingly, it has been abandoned by the main political parties, leaving millions of citizens feeling ideologically homeless.
Canadians, and Americans, are turning their anxious eyes to political options which seemingly aren’t there. Sure, there’s Andrew Yang’s latest ego trip down here, but that’ll go nowhere. Ditto the Centre Ice Conservatives, who seem more like a nostalgia act than a real option.
We live in divided times. It feels like it’s getting worse, never better.
Off to dinner in a U.S. food court with my daughter and her boyfriend.
We’re going to eat fast.