Is it safe to assume most Canadians despise America’s new president?
Not necessarily. Sure, there is something distinctively un-Canadian about the bombastic, outrageous and often ridiculous businessman currently occupying the White House, but to say there is a unified Canadian opinion on Donald J. Trump is to misjudge our neighbors to the north.
Like any relationship, Canada’s feelings toward Trump are “complicated,” explained entrepreneur and independent impresario Jim Cressman with Invictus Entertainment Group, a Canadian I very much respect and admire as a successful business owner, proud father and husband. He’s also the 2016 Canadian Country Music Association’s booking agent, manager and promoter of the year. Cressman often holds his political opinions close to his chest, but early on, he predicted that Trump would shock the world and be elected to serve as the United States 45th President. As DJT approaches his 100th day in office, I decided to sit down with Cressman to discuss the Canadian perspective on Trump to learn how our neighbors to the north view the man currently occupying the White House.
First question — is there a unified Canadian opinion on Trump?
Some Canadians think he’s a savior. A lot of Canadians think he’s bananas. My own perspective is the guy is already in office, and love him or hate him, wanting him to fail is a bit like wanting the pilot of the plane you’re on to fail in his flight plan.
Makes sense, although I do think you can separate wanting some of his policy ideas to fail and wanting the country to fail.
True, but I actually think the Trump victory is gonna be a good thing for two reasons. Number one, I think whether he fails or succeeds, he’s gonna inspire and light the fire under the ass of a lot of people, many of whom are qualified and capable and will now drop their trepidations about running for office. I think there’s gonna be a lot of smart people in 2020 who are gonna want to take up the fight and find the courage to run for president. Because they’re going to be inspired by either the success or failure of Trump in office. Second, those of us who espouse left-leaning values really need to understand that if we want less men or women like Trump in power, we need to stop labeling people with terms like “racist,” “sexist,” and “homophobic.” Those terms shut down discussion. We need to engage, debate and persuade. We need to open up our mind a little bit and open up our hearts. And I understand how tough that is because anytime politics come into play, people get fired up. But the only way the left is going to win again is by bringing Republicans on the same side with their narrative. And you’re never gonna do that with insults. Gore Vidal understood that, Noam Chomsky understands that. But there’s a lot of people who don’t. If you look at social media, a lot of the weapons of the left have been to act offended, or to use insults or hashtags and that’s just not gonna work anymore.
It does seem like the left and the Democrats stopped trying to win the argument or stopped trying to persuade the other side.
If you’re on the right, you’re an outcast to some degree. I’m from Canada’s Conservative Heartland. I grew up in Alberta with its oil rigs and cattle ranches. I have some level of empathy for both sides. But one thing I’ve learned is you can’t influence someone when you’re judging them. So if the whole time you’re thinking the person you’re talking to is an uneducated idiot, you’ll never actually get through to them. The first thing you have to do is lower your guard, then find out why they feel the way they do. Then you have to get some leverage on them. Change their perspective.
I agree and I’ve been very critical of Trump. A lot of people have stopped trying to understand where his supporters are coming from. They’ve stopped trying to see their side. They’re basically saying you support Trump, that’s a non-starter. You’re racist.
That just drives people even further away. And guess what, they get in the voting booth and they do whatever the fuck they want. Trump has a lot of closet supporters, a lot of people who don’t want to go public. Sure he’s got a lot of people who are sycophants but he also has a lot of people who don’t want to talk about why they support him. But they do.
You didn’t support Trump, but pretty early on, you thought he was gonna win. What were you seeing and hearing that made you think that?
His rhetoric resonates with two very important groups of people. Those who want change, and he does represent change, even if it’s terrifying, and the people who want things like it was in America 30, 40 or 50 years ago. It’s very hard for a candidate to lose when he taps into those two groups at the same time.
So November 9 comes, election’s over. What was the reaction like immediately afterward in Canada?
I was actually in Hawaii with Ringo Starr at the time. We’re promoting a Beatle, Mr. Peace and Love, on the night that Trump got elected. So when we made our way back to Canada there were a lot of people I deal with day in day out in the arts who were really upset. People who kept throwing around terms like “Hitler” or saying the “Nazis are in power.” I think that rhetoric is dangerous. It’s too extreme. It just causes people to entrench further in their narrative and get even more stubborn.
What about in a more conservative part of Canada like Alberta. What reaction did you hear?
In my home province, people were like, “Cool, maybe he’ll work with Trudeau on the pipelines and we can get back to work in the oil patch.” There was some optimism that came along with his election too. Ultimately he’s in office. Unless you have another plan, this is the guy you’re going to have to deal with for the next four years. You make the best out of that situation.
What do the Canadians generally think of Democrats?
Bernie Sanders was probably the most Canadian of all the presidential candidates, right? Bernie was like an honorary Canadian.
Why is that?
I think it’s got a little bit to do with his personality and his beliefs in a social safety net. I’m not speaking for all of them when I say that. But generally I think Canadians see the validity in having a healthcare system where you’re not necessarily gonna lose your house if your kid gets sick.
How about your prime minister Trudeau? Down here in the United States, people see Trudeau as this handsome guy who’s very charismatic. I think there’s generally a good feeling about him on both sides. What do Canadians think?
He’s the head of the Liberal Party. He’s a very likable, affable guy with rock star charisma. Obviously a mass appeal guy — he can win a popularity contest which is to say he can win an election. He’s mostly loved by the press up here which makes things a lot easier for him. He doesn’t have that adversarial relationship with the press which Trump has. Trudeau says the right things and although some Canadians question his level of acumen on some items, for the most part, his heart is in the right place.
Trudeau was one of the first leaders to visit the US and meet Trump. How was that visit viewed in Canada?
It didn’t look adversarial at all. I think there were a few Canadians who were like, “Trump’s gonna chew Justin up and spit him out because he’s so much more aggressive and alpha.” But I think those people underestimate Trudeau’s true strength which is he is an ingratiating guy. What I took away from that meeting was that Trump has a fondness for Trudeau and Trudeau seemed to be very respectful. He held Trump in a high regard. I think they got along pretty well. I don’t feel like either one of those guys can walk away from that meeting and go, “I got the upper hand.” Their meeting was a great example of how two people with stratified opinions on key issues can still find common ground as long as they’re both coming from a place of respect. There’s a lesson for all of us in the Trump- Trudeau meeting.
Trump isn’t just in the news every day here in the states — he is the news. What do you think of his non-stop attacks on the media?
For awhile it was entertaining, but now it’s starting to get concerning. It seemed to be sustained toxicity on both sides of the spectrum, especially with Trump and the press. You’ve got Rachel Maddow saying she’s gonna bring Trump down with his tax returns. And honestly, there was really nothing there. There was nothing earth shattering. And then you’ve got Trump calling mainstream media sources “fake news” and attacking the press at every turn. Some people might say, “Listen, it’s just keeping everyone in check.” But I’m wondering, when you’re tied up with all of those conflicts all the time, what are you not getting done?
Trump is definitely someone who seems to need an antagonist at all times.
Same goes for the press. If you wake up everyday with the idea that you’re gonna try and bring Trump down, what other news items are you missing? What are you missing if that’s all you’re focused on? Trump’s bitterness? He didn’t try to be a statesman after he won. He should have reached out to the press and said “Listen, I’m here now, you guys feel free to call me out if you feel like I’ve really done something wrong. I believe in freedom of the press. But I have a job to do and I’m here for four years so let’s find a way to coexist.”
It’s interesting because he’s the kind of person who has taken this really aggressive stance against the media. Calling them the enemy. I’ll never forget him saying “the leaks are real but the news is fake.” Especially since he’s someone who has really benefited from the press — it’s obvious he really cares what is reported on him.
Here’s one thing you learn as you get older. You can’t command respect, you can only earn it. It doesn’t matter what I accomplish, if I’m a fucking inauthentic insincere dick to every person I encounter, I may be successful but there are gonna be people rooting for my demise. Or rooting for my failure. If I am authentic, it doesn’t mean I’m gonna be nice to everybody all the time. But if I’m authentic and I’m working hard, there’s a pretty good chance people will begrudgingly respect me. The problem with the mentality of a lot of leaders, not just Trump but a lot of leaders, is they think that their position or their office or their status means they’re entitled to respect. They’re not. It doesn’t matter who the fuck you are, you still have to earn it.