NDP MP Charlie Angus has one word to describe his experience at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week.
“Bizarre,” Mr. Angus said by phone from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Thursday, where he was on his way to his Timmins, Ont., riding after two days in Ohio.
“It’s very different than Canadian conventions … there was a very unsubtle current of extremism.”
Mr. Angus, a member of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, travelled to the convention on a fact-finding mission of sorts, along with three other parliamentarians: Liberal MP Wayne Easter, Conservative MP Phil McColeman and Conservative Senator David Wells. An official from the Library of Parliament also tagged along.
The point of the visit was to network with officials, gather information about the current state of American politics, and observe what life would be like under Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
For Mr. Angus, it wasn’t pretty.
“It was a convention almost entirely full of white people, and very little messaging as to why Trump was a credible leader. It was mostly focused on a real deep, deep visceral Republican hatred of Hillary Clinton,” he said. “One of Trump’s aides said she should be shot by a firing squad.”
Mr. Angus also considered New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s speech, in which he went after Ms. Clinton’s record in a prosecution style of guilty or not guilty, to be “very much over the line.”
“Seeing an arena full of white men in cowboy hats chanting ‘lock her up’ was pretty disturbing,” he said.
He said his takeaway from the convention is that Canada needs to be careful.
“It’s a lesson for Canada. We shouldn’t be smug and think we’re superior to those kind of politics. We just have to maintain, I think, our guard to have more civil politics, and more carefully spoken politics, so that we don’t end up with the kind of extremism and demagoguery that we’re seeing with the Trump campaign.”
Conservative leadership candidate Tony Clement, a “political junkie” who attends both Democratic and Republican conventions, is also in Cleveland this week for meetings with his right-of-centre organization, the International Democrat Union, of which he is the deputy chairman.
Mr. Clement, who said he will not take a side in the presidential race, said what struck him is the level of disunity within the Republican Party, with some senators and members of Congress openly criticizing Mr. Trump and his policies.
“When a party is not united, it is very difficult to win. That’s a lesson for us as Conservatives going through our leadership process. We have to emerge from that process united, ready for battle, ready to advance our ideas,” Mr. Clement said.
He added that in his 40 years in politics, he’s “never seen anything” like the crowd’s reaction to Ted Cruz’s speech, after the Texas senator refused to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy. “The room was devoid of excitement for the rest of the evening. It just was very, very tangible.”
Mr. Easter, too, said he’s keeping an open mind about who should win the presidency. “Whoever’s there, we’re going to have to work with.”
His most memorable moment was being caught up in a demonstration outside the Quicken Loans Arena, only to be swarmed by police troopers on foot and by horseback.
“Someone had burned a flag, and so the police moved in. You couldn’t get in or out of the convention centre for quite a little while,” Mr. Easter said. “For the kind of abuse that some of the police officers were taking, I really had to respect the restraint the police showed.”
Mr. Angus said he was impressed by the diversity on the streets outside the convention, including a Sikh man dressed in red, white and blue holding a sign that read, “Let’s kick some intolerant ass with compassion,” standing beside a U.S. marine holding a flag with a peace sign on it.
But he said he would miss Mr. Trump’s speech on Thursday night to attend an event in one of the Cree villages in his riding on Friday.
“I don’t need to hear Donald Trump,” Mr. Angus said. “I’ve got people back home that I’ve got to see.”
OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jul. 21, 2016 7:12PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Jul. 22, 2016 9:27AM EDT
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