Nathan Cullen woke up in Cleveland on Nov. 9 with a collection of stunned Americans, but Americans ready for change.
The Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP was in the United States on a state department tour gathering input on the processes of elections down south and what lessons can be taken, or not taken, back to Canada. Cullen hit Washington, Louisiana and Ohio and gained a unique perspective on how and why Americans voted the way they did, and what that picture looks like compared to northwest B.C.
“As someone who works in politics, I very much disliked and I’m troubled by the way Mr. [President-elect Donald] Trump presents his views of the world. I think it approaches and goes beyond any normal conversation. It was very divisive and he was able to stir up an enormous amount of fear and hatred towards some very vulnerable groups in America, yet stir the hearts and minds of Americans who have been feeling like the system hasn’t been working for them,” Cullen said the morning after the election.
The MP, who was joined by academics, colleagues and pollsters on his tour talked with Americans voting for both Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, and Trump and the Republicans.
There was a wide dislike for Clinton and the institutions she represented, and a motivating factor played by Trump, who was able to get his message across, in whatever fashion he wanted, which appealed to a mass of voters.
The Americans Cullen spoke to put aside his views on women, Muslims, African-Americans and Hispanics and embraced his overall message of national security and tougher trade deals.
“He responds to people’s emotional perspectives and the details don’t matter. It’s entirely a heart appeal, not a head,” Cullen said.
“When you would ask questions about trying to get Mexico to build a $35 billion wall, which they’ve refused to, [Republican supporters] say ‘we’re not really going to build a wall, we’re just going to make our borders safe again.’ That just seemed to apply to virtually everything. And when you say ‘what about his comments towards women?’ A lot of women would say ‘I’m sure he’s not that way. He seems like a good father.’ People were just gravitated towards him.”
The MP is not envious of the prime minister, who must now form a relationship with the new president, and says he hesitates to offer any advice to him based on the difficulties he’ll face.
“I can’t imagine that [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] and Mr. Trump have a lot in common,” he said.
“Mr. Trudeau has made a great deal of it and calling himself a feminist. How do you talk about issues that affect women globally with someone like Mr. Trump, who says the most outrageous, and in my mind, disqualifying things about women?”
On the flip side, if Trudeau warms to Trump’s administration too much, Cullen said the impacts will hurt the prime minister’s image in Canada, where many view Trump unfavourably.
During his time in the U.S. Cullen often had to answer the question onof how easy it might be to move to Canada. When Americans found out the politician was Canadian they told him that there are many things to be thankful for in Canadian elections — such as the lack of gerrymandering or big money.
He also doesn’t see someone like Trump emerging north of the border, though he remains cautions.
“We shouldn’t be smug about this. In the last campaign, the Conservatives tried an element of this when they went after the so-called niqab issue and then launched their barbaric practices line, which was rejected broadly by Canadians, and Conservatives talked about how much they regretted that decision,” Cullen said.
“It’s hard for me to perceive in Canada how Mr. Trump would even get nominated to any of the parties. Many of the Conservatives in the House of Commons that I know and have known for years are completely disgusted by the way he conducts himself and it’s just not their conservatism.”