Before fainting dead away, I implore my readers and Canadians to consider this: A Trump presidency could break the logjam of American failure at home and abroad, something that could be of considerable benefit to its neighbors and the world.
No, this is not satire. It is reality.
The rage that has enveloped the Republican presidential campaign – and to a lesser degree the Democratic – stems from the widespread conviction that a corrupted political establishment has failed to meet the challenges America has faced at home and abroad.
Its institutions have been irresponsible in catering to the powerful in managing the economy, its reckless foreign policies have paved the way for Islamic extremists to take over vast swaths of the Middle East, and in Washington – once the capital of the “free world” – partisan rancor has paralyzed its government.
The nervous breakdown running through the American body politic is reminiscent of upheavals that have swept governments out of office in other countries. And as in any revolutionary period, outrageous behavior that would be normally unthinkable becomes not only acceptable but popular.
Many in France despised that country’s Third Republic at the onset of the Second World War. It took Charles de Gaulle, a virtual outsider, to hold together the French Empire, restore France’s “grandeur” and then convince his countrymen to give up Algeria. A conservative, he nationalized banks and the auto industry and set France on the road to a welfare state.
Donald Trump’s often vulgar and frequently tough talk – threatening “more than water boarding” against terrorists and proclaiming his desire to “punch out” a protester – makes him look to some like a blustering egocentric oaf.
He has, however, cleverly amended direction when he has been called out on reckless positions. He will become more amenable to conventional niceties as he moves into full campaign mode, while always reserving the right to shock the public with brutal assaults on Hilary Clinton.
Should Trump become President, a distinct possibility now that he is the presumptive Republican nominee, history and the realities of realpolitik suggest a further mellowing of his distemper.
But some crucial differences – not all of them outrageous – will cling to hinder, or hamper, this most irascible of modern American candidates.
On the most incendiary issues facing U.S. voters, immigration reform and homeland security, Trump has railed against Mexicans and Muslims. Mexico will never agree to pay for the wall he would build, but Mr. Trump is right that the U.S. must find a way to control its borders. He will have the support of the public and Congress on whatever practical steps he can take to reduce illegal immigration.
Mr. Trump has made it clear that as president he would pursue the fight against ISIS, but would pull back from attempts to destabilize authoritarian regimes, as has been the case with Iraq, Libya and Syria where Hilary Clinton supported U.S. intervention. Such a tilt to isolationism, if it kept the U.S. from fomenting new regional wars, would be welcomed in Canada and Europe. A more nuanced approach could be expected toward Vladimir Putin who, Mr. Trump says, accorded him a “great honor” by praising him as an “absolute leader.” And his willingness to meet personally with North Korea’s Kim Il-sung, might actually lead to a toning down of the Hermit State’s wild sabre-rattling.
Mr. Trump’s distaste for free trade agreements, especially NAFTA, is shared by many Americans – and Canadians – who see it as the prime cause of profit-hungry corporations having transferred millions of jobs to Mexico.
In the White House, a President Trump would penalize such actions either with Congressional assent, or if he couldn’t get it, through executive orders. A promised 35 per cent duty on goods shipped back to the States by offshore plants of U.S. corporations would raise the cost of everything at Walmart, a prospect unlikely to please his most adoring followers. But it could stop the drain of jobs and encourage manufacturing ramp-ups in the United States. Canada would benefit by such a shift in the global manufacturing balance.
Donald Trump is well positioned to fulfill his claim that only he can put an end to the kind of corrupt financial practices that led to the 2008 economic crisis. His assertion is akin to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s argument for appointing Joseph P. Kennedy, who had profited handsomely from financial manipulation, as head of the tough new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934.
A President Trump would replace Obamacare with something that sounds very much like the same thing. He once advocated Canadian style health care but now says he favors private insurance, adding “I want everyone to have coverage.”
On gun control, Trump asserts he supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms but he favors “the ban on assault weapons and a longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” Compared to the stance of the NRA, this is a radical approach, and could actually lead to more effective gun control.
The most positive result of a Trump victory in November, however, would be to soothe the rage that has burned across America. Angry voters will be mollified, at least for a time, with the election of a man committed to breaking cleanly with the past. By delivering small bits of red meat to his followers, they will be inclined to overlook his inability to achieve more sweeping change. In the end, when he is forced to retreat – as he will – on all but his most pragmatic policies, the time will be ripe for a return to reasonableness in American politics.