“Could you imagine if I lose? My whole life, what am I going to do? I’m going to say I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics. I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country. I don’t know.” – Donald Trump, Oct. 18, Macon, Georgia
Hmm! By all means leave your country, Mr. President, if you must. In time, the American people, with the support of grief counsellors, could learn, as Hoagy Carmichael sang, to get along without you very well.
But please, Sir, don’t look in this direction. Don’t even think about it! On Tuesday night 37-million Canadians, give or take a few hundred outliers, will be cheering for your defeat, for a rejection so massive, so incontrovertible that you would be laughed out of the courts you have packed with Republicans if you took it into your head to challenge the outcome or contest the legitimacy of the election.
Because Donald Trump is a self-fixated politician who never makes jokes at his own expense, only at others’, I think we can safely assume he was being sarcastic when he spoke in Georgia about maybe having to leave the land that he made great again.
The troubling question is not whether he would leave the country, but whether he would leave the White House. That’s if Tuesday night leaves a sliver of hope that his 6-3 Conservative majority on the Supreme Court would to do for him what the court did for George W. Bush in 2000, handing him an election he had lost at the ballot box.
Campaigning in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Trump repeatedly attacked the legitimacy of voting procedures, eligibility rules and ballot-counting in various states. He predicted post-election “bedlam” and weeks of uncertainty about the outcome.
It’s predictions like this that alarm law enforcement agencies, community leaders and seasoned election-watchers in the United States. They fear protests could quickly escalate into violence from the left or the right – or conceivably from both. From the left, if groups like the ones that generated the Black Lives Matter protests believe Trump is using the courts to “steal” the election. From the right, if fringe groups responding to Trump’s rhetoric, like those in Michigan recently, turn to violence in attempts to keep their hero in White House.
These concerns are shared by the government in Ottawa. About all it can do is wait, watch, and hope for the best, while preparing for the worst – for all eventualities, as Justin Trudeau puts it.
The preferred eventuality is a clear Democratic victory. Joe Biden does not set hearts racing. He is simply the alternative, a one-time, likely one-term vehicle for getting rid of the man he calls the worst president in American history and for restoring a measure of dignity and truthfulness to American political life. If he can also flip the Senate and cleanse the Washington swamp of Trump enablers like Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, he will earn the gratitude of most Americans and the admiration of Canadians.
No one would expect a “bromance” between Trudeau and Biden like the purported one between Trudeau and Barack Obama or the closeness that developed between Jean Chrétien and Bill Clinton or Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan. Personal relations can smooth differences between nations, but shared objectives and ideals matter more.
On the bilateral front, Biden would almost certainly kill the Keystone XL pipeline. The Liberal government, still seeking a balance between resource development and environmental protection, may have to live without that pipeline. But Biden’s “Buy American” policy is nothing new. Canadian negotiators should be able to work around it without working up a sweat as they did while renegotiating NAFTA with Trump’s people.
On the global front, Trudeau and Biden administrations would be in sync where Trudeau-Trump conspicuously were not. Both support the World Health Organization, United Nations, NATO, NORAD, Planned Parenthood and assorted international agencies in the field of human rights.
More important, Trudeau and Biden share a commitment to, and a faith in, democracy – a commitment Trump has never made and a faith he regularly spurned.
But back to Trump’s future. In defeat, if he found himself in demand by multiple prosecutors for income tax and other alleged misdeeds in his business career, he might welcome a change of scenery. Let’s speculate for a moment. Where could he fetch up?
It’s a pity Denmark refused to sell him Greenland. But there are other options. Trump’s pal, Vladimir Putin, has just granted Edward Snowden, wanted for leaking classified National Security Agency documents, permanent resident status in Russia. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has a soft spot for Trump for letting him keep his missiles. And Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, owes him a few big ones.
There are friendly despots to turn to. But not to Canada, please.
Cambridge resident Geoffrey Stevens, an author and former Ottawa columnist and managing editor of the Globe and Mail, teaches political science at the University of Guelph. His column appears Mondays. He welcomes comments at [email protected].