[This week’s Hill Times column, also open on their web site, and therefore here on HuffPo.]
It feels like a lifetime. But the Trump regime has only been in power for just over a month.
When you look at the wreckage littering the landscape – unconstitutional anti-Muslim bans, scandal and high-level resignations, protests drawing millions, and seemingly-bottomless chaos and confusion – it seems like it has gone on forever.
It also seems like there is only one thing that you can say about Trump: with him, all that is predictable is how unpredictable he is.
Forget about the experts. Forget about precedent and facts. All that anyone can do, now, is get up in the morning and peer at Twitter to see what the madman in the White House has been tweeting in the middle of the night.
That is what we have been reduced to. Tweets, complete with spelling errors and bald-faced lies. It is madness.
In the past few weeks, however, one thing has become apparent. It is something that Trump shares with many of the successful right-wing populists who preceded him.
Knowing that he will never enjoy wide support – indeed, he is at this point, already the most unpopular president in the history of polling – Trump has opted for the cliché always preferred by his ilk.
“You may not ever love me,” Trump will say to his legions of critics. “But I’m doing what I said I would do. Promise made, promise kept.”
And, it is true. If there is one thing that Trump has done in the frenzied first few weeks of his tenure, it is that: he has done what he said he would do.
With the exception of locking up Hillary Clinton – and there is still plenty of time to do that, of course – Trump has been true to his word.
He has sought to stop Muslims from entering the U.S. He has served notice he intends to kill, or rewrite, trade deals. He has signed an executive order to start building a wall on the Mexican border. He has reversed course on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. He has started dismantling Obamacare.
Say what you will about Donald Trump – and, personally, I have said, and say again, that he is a racist, sexist, crypto-fascist creep who brags about sexually assaulting women – but there is one thing that he says that is mostly true: he keeps his promises.
So, up here in the Great White North – which Trump, like most Americans, gives no more than a few minutes’ worth of thought every week – who wins and who loses in Trump’s New World Disorder?
•Winner – Sub-national governments: Business, and money, dislike unpredictability. They dislike uncertainty. Trump, if he is anything, is that. And he will not change. He will never be Obama or Reagan. His key promise was to shake up the established order, and he is doing that.
So, take advantage of it. Already, major high-tech firms like Apple and Microsoft are objecting loudly to Trump’s regime. Canada – and Canadian municipalities – can offer those firms of the future a more hospitable business climate. One where we have competitive corporate tax regimes, and where our workforce is among the best-educated and best-trained on the world.
•Loser – free traders: NAFTA and TPP and other trade agreements weren’t put on life support in November – they were rushed to the ER, months before, in June, when Brexit happened. Trump was merely the North American echo of a massive backlash – or whitelash, as Van Jones memorably put it on CNN – against globalization and economic cooperation. Brexit opened the door through which Trump walked.
The Brexit and Trump demographic favour walls, economic and otherwise. Overwhelmingly – but not exclusively – they are white, older males who are angry at having lost something, usually a job. When, in fact, they’ve lost their job to a microchip, not someone with brown skin.
The impact of this anti-trade turmoil will take a while to be felt. But, without a doubt, it will mean things will cost more, there will be more unemployment, and there will be more job refugees–people moving around in search of work. It won’t be pretty.
•Undecided – Trudeau government: Justin Trudeau is walking a Trump tightrope. So far, he hasn’t fallen. But can he stay up there on the tightrope for the next four years? I doubt it.
Sooner or later, he will fall. And will he come out against Trump – as have the millions of progressive voters who put him in office? Or will he continue to take the Neville Chamberlain-like approach, with cleverly-worded tweets, and looking the other way when the Mexicans, Australians, and NATO are thrown under a Trump Hotel shuttle bus?
So far, Trudeau has done well. He handled the Trump handshake dilemma, literally. And he practically jogged out of the Rose Garden, no target visible on his back.
But polling shows that Canadians–and Liberals like me – want a leader who will, in the words of his father, speak for Canada. Condemning the bigotry of Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary is easy – they don’t have power. Donald Trump does.
Eventually, sooner or later, silence in the face of oppression and hate is complicity. Mark my words: if Trudeau – and his Conservative opposition – -continues to opt for appeasement, Canadian voters will go looking for a political option who won’t. And the NDP, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain in denouncing Trump, will be the main beneficiary. They will stand up to the orange bully – and they will win plenty of votes for doing so.
Donald Trump is doing what he said he would do. You may despise him or dismiss him, but give him that much: he is keeping his big promises.
That requires all of us to make choices, big and small. Deciding to do nothing – deciding to keep quiet – helps only one side: his.
If history has shown us anything, it has shown us that.