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The Dangerous Virtue-Signaling of Western Leaders

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Do you ever see a leader of a Western nation pontificating and wonder why he or she seems so divorced from your own day-to-day reality? You go to work every morning, take responsibility for your life, follow the rule of law ... and wonder why these leaders whom you watch on TV seem to inhabit a different planet.

When was the last time you complained to your pals that your country was facing a troublesome shortage of illegal immigration? Yet the words and actions of Western leaders have provided rhetorical cover for such lawbreaking.

Welcome to the world of virtue-signaling, where leaders are more interested in making preachy statements from the pulpit than in governing rationally. They do it because pandering to people's base emotions works. It's a form of peer pressure, or even blackmail.

This tactic has become so commonplace that many citizens are now unnerved when a leader fails to engage in virtue-signaling. For example, I can't tell you how many people I've encountered this summer in Europe and North America who have denounced U.S. President Donald Trump because of "the way he talks" or "the mean things he says." I ask them which of Trump's specific actions, beyond his rhetoric, have led to problematic policy. They almost always respond by blinking silently. They're emotional hostages of the left who have lost all capacity for critical thought. All they know is that Trump's words ruffle their feathers -- and that government policy should align with their emotions.

So it's hardly surprising that when the Trump administration said the president was reconsidering the Barack Obama-era legislation that allowed the children of undocumented immigrants who came to America in 2007 or earlier to obtain renewable work permits, he was roundly denounced as cruel by leftist critics.

For an example of the hell that can break loose if adults allow emotion to dictate action, consider the situation currently unfolding at the U.S.-Canada border, where Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now reaping what he sowed earlier this year when he implied via Twitter that Canada would welcome the world's refugees, in contrast to that meanie Trump.

Thousands of migrants, primarily of Haitian origin, have made a beeline to Canada from the U.S. in recent weeks, fearing the non-renewal of their U.S. temporary residency status seven years after the Haitian earthquake. The Canadian military has had to set up tents at the border to shelter all of the asylum seekers. While they wait months for their case to be adjudicated, the asylum seekers can work and collect benefits, all courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer.

The only way that such a mess can plausibly be shoved down the throats of Canadians is by making them believe that it reflects well on them as human beings. Ironically, the immigrants are crash-landing almost exclusively in the francophone province of Quebec, whose citizens are always fighting for the preservation of their culture and heritage. Now they're facing an immigrant invasion while Trudeau's government does little more than attempt to backtrack. The interests of Canadians and legal immigrants have to queue up behind those who game the system, because diversity trumps honesty in the game of virtue-signaling.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her opponent in upcoming elections, former European Parliament President Martin Schulz, faced off in a debate on Sunday. Both spoke of Germany's massive intake of migrants -- one million in 2015 alone -- as if it was just business as usual.

None of this is rational. Somehow the anti-capitalist movement of recent decades has morphed into an anti-rationalism movement: The sort of capitalism that critics opposed for decades was really just corporate welfare, or in some cases corruption by special interests. Simply removing government interference and dirty cash from the system would have sufficed. That has yet to happen. Meanwhile, critics have attacked the faux-capitalist system from another angle: by imposing their own form of "wealth redistribution" through emotional blackmail. In such instances "wealth" amounts to "privileges," and redistribution has benefitted those designated by the left as "victims."

This attempted redistribution, divorced from merit and based entirely on leftist virtues, is cultural Marxism. Virtue-signaling is its bullhorn. Radicals are attempting to hijack democratic societies using these tactics. If they can control citizens through emotional blackmail, then they can replace any electoral mandate with their own.

A true meritocracy, blind to origin and gender, is the only just society. Leaders such as Trump who refuse to get down into the weeds on divisive social issues and who insist on equality of opportunity, the protection of the homeland and respect for the rule of law are all that's left standing between civilization and chaos.

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