The Donald Trump phenomenon is fascinating to many of us Canadians. We marvel at his chutzpah and outrageous statements and give daily thanks that we do not have to face the possibility of him being our new leader. Some of us even wonder why the rest of us get so exercised about Trump since he's basically America's problem and not ours.
Does it really matter that Trump is (1) a clown, (2) a bully, (3) a demagogue or (4) all of the above? Even if he ends up in The White House, why should we care? He's not our problem. In four years (or eight at the most) he'll be gone and things will be back to normal.
Yet the more I think about it, the more I'm concerned that we here in Canada may be too complacent. After all, as Pierre Trudeau once said, living next to the United States is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant: "No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast....one is affected by every twitch and grunt."
Sometimes history provides some interesting parallels that can serve as a modern warning sign. In this case, I'm thinking of Austria in the 1930s, a nation that shared much culturally, politically and linguistically with its neighbor Germany but had only one-tenth its population. Sound familiar?
Playing the Hitler card is all too common these days but there may still be some lessons for us to learn. Say Mr. Trump becomes the 45th U. S. President. Surely there are enough checks and balances in the U. S. Constitution to prevent him from becoming America's first true dictator. Or perhaps not.
Armed with all of the executive powers of the office of the president, Trump could easily stir up trouble and create national and international crises. Attempting to build a wall along the Mexican border could inflame relations with that country. Implementing harsher and harsher measures against illegal immigrants could increase anti-immigrant sentiment among the American populace.
All that could easily lead to draconian measures such as deadly border patrols and prison camps throughout the country to house the increasing numbers of illegal aliens. To think that Congress or the Supreme Court would halt such actions is a bit naïve. One has only to look to Franklin Roosevelt's imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in World War II or Eisenhower's Operation Wetback in the 1950s to see how the limits of presidential power can easily be stretched.
The same thing could happen with Muslim immigrants to America. President Trump initiates a temporary embargo on such folks which leads to demonstrations and riots which in turn lead to crackdowns and imprisonments. Some Americans demand even harsher measures and the ill will leads to strained relations with other countries and possible war.
President Trump "bombs the hell" out of ISIS and then takes similar action elsewhere in the Middle East and possibly against Iran and North Korea as well. Americans become scared and stand firm behind their new leader. Canadians, too, fear America's enemies and seek solidarity with the new strongman Donald Trump.
Maybe we decide that we need our own nationalistic populist leader, someone who can take on the establishment and the intellectuals and stand up for the "common man." In short, someone like Trump.
The next thing you know we're experiencing our own version of the German Anschluss of 1938 and American troops are crossing the border into Canada unimpeded. Or maybe we invite the American military in or even unilaterally ask to join the United States.
As I said, Hitler analogies are all too common and often overplayed. The scenarios I've described are probably farfetched at best but they are within the realm of possibility. But why take a chance on a new American Reich with Canada as its new satellite state?
Best to do whatever we can now to forestall Herr Trump from remaking the North American map. Or maybe we still won't care. After all, it never seemed to be a big problem for Austria.
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