[NOTE: As much as I enjoy discussing politics, I am loathe to do so on this blog. That goes double for American politics. Like most Canadians, however, I have an EXTREME dislike for the 2016 GOP presidential candidate. To me, he embodies the worst that America has to offer. Obnoxious, arrogant, bloviating... He is the living stereotype of the crass American that Canadians fear they will get stuck sitting next to on a transatlantic flight. I will attempt to stay focused here... But please forgive me if I run off the rails.]
As the 2016 American election comes to a close, most are breathing a sigh of relief that Donald Trump's chances of becoming the next President of the United States of America are becoming progressively slimmer. A controversial nominee from the very start of his political career (and even before), Trump's presidential campaign has been marred by charges of racism and sexual misconduct.
Normally, bragging about how not paying taxes for twenty years made him "smart" would have been the death-knell of any presidential campaign. For Trump, his tax dodging was soon forgotten thanks the release of now infamous Access Hollywood tapes where he boasted about sexually assaulting women.
Trump is now desperately behind in the polls and even members of his own party are trying to distance themselves from him. Worse still, some Republican heavyweights (including George H.W. Bush and Colin Powell) have openly supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In response, Trump has denounced the very party he represents.
So why not just kill time until November 8th and then go back to business as usual?
While Trump's chances of becoming the next American president may be nigh-impossible at this point, one should not ignore the rest of the story. Trump may be at a severe disadvantage in the electoral college, but polls still show him at over 40% of the popular vote.
To reiterate: This is a man who has bragged about groping women, dodging taxes, and has incited hate against Muslims, Mexicans, and other groups. His stance on the use of nuclear weapons is chilling... Yet he still emerged as a major presidential candidate with over 40% of the popular vote.
Despite all of the controversy, there are still a great many of Americans who agree with Trump's political rhetoric. This should be worrisome to Canadians.
Trump has advocated for a more nationalistic and withdrawn United States of America. Renegotiating free trade deals, building a border wall between the US and Mexico, and other protectionist policies portray a much more isolated America. He has no love for NATO, nor for NATO members that pay less than their "fair share" (of which Canada is one).
The message is clear. A Trump presidency would see a more withdrawn USA using its military might to take care of its own interests. This would force other NATO nations like Canada to make a difficult choice: Either take on more of the burden themselves or to become more isolationist themselves.
Never mind the fact that some of Trump's military policies would be considered war crimes.
In retrospect, we should have seen this coming. While the Republican base has never been more loyal, it has moved further away from the public as a whole. This has been exacerbated by the rise of right-wing media outlets like Fox News promoting pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter. Trump is the end result of this, personifying the Tea Party movement in a well-known celebrity executive.
Trump's rise illustrates a very simple fact: Americans are angry... And rightly so.
Years of riding high after the end of the Cold War, the USA was dealt a harsh blow on September 11, 2001. Then-president George W. Bush responded by declaring a "War on Terror". This seemingly never-ending conflict has seen thousands of American soldiers die while military spending skyrockets.
In 2008, the stock market crashed in what is now known as "The Great Recession". This was helped along with predatory lending practices that saw many Americans lose their homes and life savings while those responsible survived mostly unscathed.
Combine these with an ever-increasing divide between the rich and the poor and government gridlock and you have a recipe for revolt. Business as usual will no longer do for many Americans. Trump has merely tapped into this animosity.
In the short term, the most worrisome thing would be Trump's refusal to accept election results after accusing the process as being "rigged". This rhetoric, could lead to civil unrest in an already-polarized America.
Even if Donald Trump (uncharacteristically) graciously backs away after an election loss, the long-term effects of his candidacy will be felt for years to come. On track to lose control of The Senate as well as the presidency, this election cycle has seen a dismantling of the Republican party as a whole.
Whichever way the election turns out, the Grand Old Party will likely see a massive paradigm shift shortly thereafter. Win or lose, Trump's populism will likely carry on to either define the Republican party... Possibly by splitting it. Either way, Trump's legacy will live on, as well his policies. There is no ignoring the fact that Trump is entering the election with over 40% of the popular vote despite all the controversy surrounding him. A more properly vetted candidate, like Mike Pence, could very well carry an election using the same secessionist policies.
|Not funny, South Park.|
For Canada, the lesson should be very clear: GET READY.
Canada needs to prepare itself for the possibility of a USA that is more withdrawn from the world stage. A more nationalistic America pulling its military might away from the world stage to defend its own borders would result in a vacuum. Canada and its allies would be forced to fill that vacuum or see it filled by more unsavory powers. We may be forced into playing a bigger role in NATO. Trump's vitriol against "freeloaders" could lead to the need for a larger contribution to NORAD.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Trump's rumored "bromance" with Vladimir Putin would not bode well for Canada's arctic sovereignty. Any dispute with Canada and Russia would likely be met with Trump shrugging his shoulders instead of offering support.
Most chilling of all may be Tump's unwillingness to concede defeat if he loses on election day. His claims that the process is "rigged", combined with the tenacity of his voter base, could lead to an actual revolt. This may seem like hyperbole, but this election has proven that NOTHING should be taken for granted.
The American election quickly approaching and polls tightening. November 8th may prove to be the end of the election cycle but the start of something else more sinister. The only thing can we can be sure of is that, no matter what the outcome, US politics will never be the same.