Last week the BC Liberals announced they’d chosen Randy Rinaldo as their new candidate for Burnaby-Lougheed.
Patti Bacchus, a Vancouver School Board Trustee, shared some of Rinaldo’s past tweets and soon enough Twitter went digging. These tweets raise legitimate questions about whether Rinaldo is a good, let alone the best, choice to protect public interests, wield political power and represent a party that’s federal counter-part has chosen ‘sunny ways’ as its brand.
Declaring Romani rapists, that child-rearing should be limited to the wealthy and poverty is a ‘cultural’ issue (not sure which culture but my neighbour’s dog barks when I read it aloud), is more consistent with a storm-front than comforting beams of warm light.
Some people on Twitter and elsewhere called Rinaldo’s remarks offensive. I disagree, or at least I disagree that is the only problem with them.
Let me clear, something being offensive is legitimately problematic, particularly in a society as diverse as ours. However, when we call something offensive it suggests the interpretation is subjective or a matter of taste or perception.
But comments like Rinaldo’s are something else as well – they are wrong. Factually, scientifically, historically, ethically, morally, irrefutably wrong. Furthermore they are linked to acts of genocide and in the case of the poor, a litany of international and national crimes past and present too long to list.
There are wrongs we can overlook and wrongs that we, as a society must be prepared to say unequivocally we will not accept and we will say so every time you utter them because the risks of not challenging them are well known and documented.
Re-writing history and ignoring science have serious ramifications.
Look, for example at how spreading misinformation about vaccines may result in a re-emergence of previously eliminated public health dangers.
Rinaldo did not say I don’t like blue cars or blue cars are ugly or people who buy blue cars are ugly. His words reflect a particular political viewpoint that is linked with serious acts of violence and hate. He was spreading hate – capital ‘H’ Hate.
Racism is not drunk tweeting about your ex.
Drex, a local radio show host, pointed out Rinaldo is not the first politician in BC to say racist things online and still be chosen as a candidate. Jane Shin of the NDP will be his opponent in the next election and was found to have made a racist remark on a gaming site. In her case she made the remark 11 years before running for office and was 21 years old at the time.
Randy Rinaldo commented on this and made it clear age was not, in his opinion, an excuse – at least not in her case.
The take-away for the Canadian public is – racist comments are only a problem if spoken by someone in an opposing political party.
It is also worth noting that Rinaldo’s comments were, or should have been, well-known to the BC Liberals as he appears to have made them while he was president of a local riding association.
Rinaldo is not running as an independent – he is their choice. He is a BC Liberal.
As a BC Liberal what was Rinaldo’s response when asked to account for his comments?
He was flippant, glib and annoyingly 1950’s ‘little woman keeps me in line.’
It was not an apology.
Rinaldo’s response was like a convicted thief standing in front of a judge pleading for leniency saying ‘Funny thing your honour, my wife told me I should make sure all the neighbours were asleep before breaking into that house but I didn’t listen – I’ll know better next time.’
Later Rinaldo had a different tone and told the media his remarks then ( 3 -4 years prior) don’t represent his beliefs now.
If a child were born when Rinaldo said these things he or she might still be wearing pull-ups at night but his comments are ancient history.
Leaving aside Rinaldo’s poor judgment and lack of self-control – by his own admission, he requires his wife to remind him to ‘think’ before speaking – one wonders will she sit next to him if he is elected MLA? Perhaps they should be running her not him?
And, for the moment anyway, ignoring concerns about whether Rinaldo’s beliefs will shift in the interim while awaiting the election or during his term if elected – since his adult – not adolescent, not prepubescent – beliefs seem fluid enough to move from wholesale racism and poor-bashing to peppy positivism in a matter of months.
We are left without any evidence of remorse or what his new opinions on these issues are.
Beliefs evolve, change, some are abandoned completely, others are re-fashioned – that’s all valid. We are all works in progress. There may even be legitimate cause to worry about people who don’t alter their views over time because it could suggest dogmatism and/or lack of empathy and reflective thinking.
But this is not reconsidering Keynesian theory, or softening on free market capitalism. Rinaldo’s comments are racist. They are also quite vicious – not aggressive politics vicious – mean-spirited bully vicious. Not unlike someone grabbing headlines south of the border?
More significantly, in my experience most people who move past previously held ignorant or hateful opinions not only don’t deflect responsibility, they talk your ear off about how they came to realize their views were wrong and how terrible they feel for ever holding them. They are passionate about this precisely because it was a transformation of their thought process. Or what some call an ‘aha moment.’ Something clicked. Some sort of cognitive dissonance happened and an attitude change took place.
It is a stark contrast to the semi-regular stream of celebrities and politicians (two words that may soon be synonyms) staged apologies, which are pieces of mea culpa sorta for the sake of my career performance art not evidence of actual change.
How we measure such change from a distance is difficult, particularly when others are writing the scripts and lighting the shots.
Because of ‘if it’s not new it’s not news’ Rinaldo’s views may not even be raised during the election by the media. If they are, a good handler will teach him to redirect with key messages ‘I don’t want to talk about 2013, I want to talk about the future, let me tell you about my plans for economic prosperity in my region‘ cue cheering supporters.
Paid pundits will steer commentators into discussions about social media, and ‘nobody’s perfect’ and ‘times have changed.’ If necessary they can veer into the well paved multi-lane highway that is anti-political correctness. And before you know it, Rinaldo will be the victim and the Roma, the poor and those who speak up for them will be self-righteous warriors who need to get a life.
It has already begun.
BC has the highest child poverty rate in the country and its disability benefits are among the lowest despite skyrocketing housing costs. Suggestions that the poor are at fault for being poor are accepted as unchallengeable truth – and yet research does challenge it and defeat it – repeatedly.
If you want to read an elegantly written and moving personal essay on the impact of poor-shaming/blaming, I recommend this.
This UK report busts many of the myths that are about poverty in Canada, UK, the US and elsewhere.
So why would the BC Liberals pick Randy Rinaldo as their best choice for candidate?
His selection provides us an interesting glimpse into Canadian politics.
One of the founding political parties of this country just welcomed someone who has openly, and (unless measured using the geological time scale), recently, articulated racist and hateful views to stand as one of their candidates. What’s more, they didn’t pick him up at the side of the road – he has been with them, presumably sharing his views at least as openly with them as he has online.
Below is an excerpt from a piece that appeared in the Walrus magazine written by its editor Jonathan Kay. Kay explains why, in his opinion, Trump could not happen in Canada.
Kay asserts that our parliamentary system with its party discipline accompanied by the oversight of sage protectors of party brands act as screens able to catch and toss out blowhards like Donald Trump.
When I read Kay’s piece it bothered me much the same way many pieces on the Trump phenomena have bothered me. To me it implies his rise to power lays at the feet of the great unwashed. Clearly many of Trump’s supporters could stand to spend more time at a library and less time at a shooting range, but they are not who built the Jumbotron he projects from.
Many others have written eloquently on why Trump is the logical extension of the GOP brand; a brand built by some of the brightest, best-paid minds in the most powerful nation on earth.
The party of anti-science utilized a great deal of science to plot its path to power.
Even though Kay believes Trump doesn’t represent the GOP elites’ views, his reasoning doesn’t actually prove that.
I would argue that the GOP has not been forced into the gutter by the teeming masses but dug the gutter and dragged people in to it. Perhaps the GOP elites aren’t entirely pleased with the mosh pit melee that ensued but the band sets the tone.
Under Kay’s theory, we are fortunate because Canadian candidates have all been adequately civilized by the party ‘grandees,’ and groomed to behave in dignified ways. They don’t hire bikers for security and there is only preassigned seating allowed. It’s all well controlled.
But what if party branding is nothing more than masking what is underneath?
Is a candidate wearing a sheet under a suit much of an improvement to one wearing one on top?
If elected, Rinaldo may say the right things but I wonder if he will think them.
In Canada, do we weed out our racists or do we just give them elocution lessons and teach them to whisper?
What Rinaldo’s selection suggests, is that among some circles in Canadian politics, it is not the content of what Donald Trump says that bothers them – it’s that he has the poor manners to say it so loudly, so broadly and so ineloquently.
Trump is crass and a spectacle and unwilling to heed lessons in decorum.
But would Donald Trump be a better choice if he didn’t say those things and only thought them?
The BC Liberals response to Rinaldo’s remarks highlight how thin the veneer of branding is – we don’t care what he really thinks and believes, as long as he says what we tell him to in public.
What’s more, I see no evidence to suggest that brand will not change for the worse.
The BC Liberals may be a canary in the mine for Canadian politics. They are consistently awkward in their attempts at positive messaging and when confronted with query or facts about their inappropriate conduct they zip right past unapologetic into ‘so what are you going to do about it?’
Is it not feasible that the brand of the BC Liberals could become open and vile attacks on the poor and disabled not unlike what has transpired in the UK with consequences such as the dramatic spike in hate crimes against the disabled?
In Kay’s piece he suggests that even when Canadian politics ‘go there’ it is tame. He conveniently overlooks the video posted by the Conservative Party of Canada last year which juxtaposed images of ISIS drowning people alive (and treated us to close up views into the eyes of men about to be beheaded), with photos of a smiling Justin Trudeau – with musical accompaniment provided by ISIS. Crass, callous, vile exploitation of the images of crime victims by the party that claims to be defenders of crime victims. Props for political gain.
The CPC didn’t step into the gutter, they dove in – and there were no plebs to blame for it. One might even argue it was the public’s disdain and distaste for such conduct that made it stop. If the video had the desired effect, I doubt any grandee, even if inclined to object, would have succeeded in preventing its escalation.
I disagree with Kay. Canadians have no reason to relax and leave their politics in the hands of some invisible, weathered, and of course, wealthy and likely white hand. We need to not only judge the candidates on the quality of their character but judge a party on the quality of the character of their candidates.
Who a party picks is our pre-election window into what a party will do. Their choice is their values and their judgment applied.
The final argument of those apologizing, less for Rinaldo and more for the BC Liberals choosing him, is ‘if people have a problem with him don’t vote for him.’
Whether Donald Trump becomes POTUS or not, the damage he has done to the country is enormous.
Clearly Randy Rinaldo is no Donald Trump. It is unlikely he will be spewing his hate on the campaign trail – this time – and obviously Donald Trump will never be a serious contender to lead the GOP.