Thursday, May 18, 2023

Of Campaigns, Bigotry, and Dog Whistles

So, with UCP leader Danielle Smith regularly playing dodge-em with her own statements in the past, it shouldn't come as any big surprise that something would come bubbling to the surface from one of the UCP candidates.  

This week's entry into the bigot olympics comes via the UCP candidate for Lacombe-Ponoka, Jennifer Johnson, who thought it would be "clever" to compare having transgender kids in schools to adding fecal matter to cookie dough. I'm not going to go into dismantling the rancid stupidity of her comments beyond borrowing from Lily Allen, and saying "Fuck You Very, Very Much", Ms Johnson

I've listened to the recording, and it was offensive to say the least, and the other people in the room are all giving her laughs and knowing chuckles. Every last person in that room should be ashamed of themselves. 

After bubbling around for a couple of days, today, on the day of the leader's debate, Danielle Smith issued the following as a statement on the matter:  

This thing is one giant dog whistle from start to finish. There are a number of things about it I want to highlight. 

First, it doesn't eject Ms. Johnson from the UCP candidate pool, it just says "well, when government first sits, you won't be part of caucus.  But it also clearly leaves open the door for her to join caucus later.  It doesn't stipulate any conditions around that return. 

The message here is clear enough: "What you said is bad, but we're going to give you a nudge and a wink as punishment". The intent is simple:  wait for the ruckus to die down, and we'll quietly bring you into caucus then. 

There is an underlying dog whistle here, and I suspect it comes from the Take Back Alberta crowd: "To the base:  Shut up about trans issues, they're political dynamite".  They're not wrong about this, but we also know that TBA organizers are in full agreement with Ms. Johnson - as can be seen carefully coded in the following message promoting one of their events: 

Lurking in there are not-so-subtly worded comments aimed at transgender people living normal lives (and doing things like say ... swimming - a reference to an alleged, and disproven, indecent exposure event at a pool in Calgary), and drag queen story time events at public libraries. 

The second part is that "there are valid discussions to be had" - this is a carefully worded dog whistle that is little different to the 2019 issue around GSAs.  "Oh, we're protecting the children!".  No, you're not. The only meaningful discussion related to transgender children is to be had between the children, their parents, and their doctors. The only public policy matter is the one that says "how do we support these families so that we don't end up traumatizing the children with our bullshit as adults?".

Smith's comments "encouraging" candidates to become more informed are, at best, a limp attempt to paper over the unbridled hatred racing around inside her party. I can't help but think of it as little different than her attempts to defend Hunsperger in 2012 by saying "well, he's entitled to hold those opinions".  

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