Attitudes about U.S. Leadership and Alliance Solidarity will Never be the Same. Really?

Trump - Chris McGrath, Getty.jpg

Another anti-Trump screed has this morning dropped at the Globe and Mail, this one penned by two heavyweights of the Canadian foreign-policy establishment—Derek Burney, a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., and Fen Osler Hampson, director of Global Security and Politics at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Eschewing diplomatic language in favour of hyperbole—e.g. cavalcade of recent horrors, a narcissistic leader, shambolic approach to global affairs, naive flirtations, blind loyalty, mercantilist lunges, the latest frenzy—Burney and Hampson decry the president's theatrics at Charlevoix, Brussels and Helsinki; they aver that he actually believes America's traditional allies are now enemies; and they suggest that America's "more customary foes," including Russia and North Korea, are taking full advantage of him at no cost. Canadians are identified as "erstwhile allies" of the U.S., leaving them "little choice other than to sharpen their defences, hunker down against the storm and seek to dilute their dependence." All are well-rehearsed criticisms of Trump's capricious presence on the international stage, and without question the authors have the authority to give them out-sized clout.

Here's where things get interesting.

Burney and Hampson acknowledge that "no one really knows where all this is headed." Then they offer this parting volley. "The seeds of discontent in the United States that Mr. Trump is fertilizing will continue to bear fruit after he leaves the White House. Attitudes about U.S. leadership and alliance solidarity will never be the same."

Really? Never?  Loyalty to the seventy-year-old Western alliance that defeated Nazism and Communism, gave us NATO, NORAD, the U.N. and the W.T.O., and bankrolled the unprecedented prosperity and security of the twenty-first century world will not survive the Trump presidency?

What is the evidence?

Burning Down the White House

White House burning - Freeman.jpg

“Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?”

President Donald Trump asked this of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a May 25 phone call, the details of which were revealed yesterday by CNN. And judging from the bulging comments sections of Canada's mainstream media outlets, Canadian news junkies have been mining out the Canadian Encyclopedia ever since.

If we're going to pretend that Donald Trump's wry allusion to the War of 1812 actually matters—i.e. in the context of his willingness to threaten a trade war to leverage favourable deals with America's NAFTA and EU partners—then we'd better be clear about why. And we needn't bother appealing to the Canadian commentariat for such clarity, since most of them remain preoccupied with Trump's bullying tactics, historical inaccuracies and falsehoods, as usual. (An exception comes from veteran Maclean's journalist John Geddes, who rightly notes that it has been the fate of almost all Canadian prime ministers to have to navigate the protectionist whims of the U.S. hegemon. "Trump is only amplifying and distorting, in his peculiar way, what is really an old, recurring challenge," writes Geddes, "and a constant in Canadian foreign and economic policy.")

So let's be clear.

President Trump's one-liner about Canadians burning down the White House stands as a near-perfect distillation of his core political convictions—that nations are genuinely sovereign, none more so than the United States; that they can compete as well as cooperate, irrespective of whether they are friends like Canada or rivals like China; that national self-sufficiency in strategic resources is not an outdated ideal; that allies who do not pull their weight can be rebuked; that established trade protocols from Bretton Woods to the WTO count for nothing if they disadvantage the United States; and, above all, that the job of the U.S. president in 2018 is to make America great again. As Ohio State political scientist Randall Schweller has remarked, "Trump no longer sees the necessity of keeping allies happy at the expense of the American people, so he’s trying to solve the free-rider problem. The bumper-sticker line to U.S. allies: No more Uncle Sugar.”

It's hard to know whether Justin Trudeau was as blind-sided by Trump's protectionist threats as he appeared to be. Until last week, for example, he gave every impression that as host of the upcoming Group of Seven summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, he would be able to dominate the agenda—happily inscribing upon yet another international forum his ideas about climate, feminism and other progressive causes, while ostensibly managing the outlier Trump as something of a bête noire. Now, suddenly, it is clear that Trudeau and his like-minded allies in the G7 will spend a good portion of their weekend playing hardball with the U.S. president on trade—even if it means issuing a vapid concluding communiqué or, worse, announcing a failed summit.

In truth, Trudeau should not (and indeed may not) be surprised by any of these developments—any more than Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, and even Stephen Harper were surprised when faced with similar stirrings of economic nationalism in Washington. Our current PM has been as adept as any world leader at rolling with the turbulence of the Trump maelstrom. Until last week when he came out swinging against the imposition of U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, he seemed comfortable in the role of Trump Whisperer, to cite Campbell Clark's useful phrase. This was true as well of French president Emmanuel Macron, who has also endured some testy phone calls with President Trump this week and is arriving early in Canada to caucus with Trudeau about the trade crisis.

Perhaps Justin Trudeau has known since November 2016 that a day of reckoning on trade with the U.S. was inevitable, given Trump's unyielding America-first ideology, his take-no-prisoners negotiating style, and his open derision of NAFTA. What is certain is that when Trump scolded PM Trudeau for burning down the White House, he was signalling, with his inimitable economy of style, that the day of reckoning had arrived.

Most Republicans Detest Women, Always Have

Trump women - NBC News.jpg

"Most Republicans, whether standard or Trump brand, detest women, always have," according to Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick.

That's information that has been too long concealed from political scientists and historians. For it surely does explain a great deal—including the now-standard progressive calumny that women in the United States don't have sense enough to know where their own political and economic interests lie. 

But it doesn't really explain why 46% of American women voted for Donald Trump in 2016, come to think of it.

Happy Mother's Day.

On One-Party Rule in the U.S.

Liberal Fascism.png

Last week a chilling essay by Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira made waves on the margins of the Twittersphere, where it was re-tweeted by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and subsequently blasted by British conservative James Delingpole. Yesterday the piece was cited by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post, which has brought it fully into the media mainstream.

The thesis of the Leyden/ Teixeira piece is that "in this current period of American politics, at this juncture in our history, there’s no way that a bipartisan path provides the way forward." U.S. politics is so polarized in the Trump era that it can be re-framed as something akin to a "civil war," the authors write. In energy and economic policy, in particular, we see "two different political cultures already at odds through different political ideologies, philosophies, and worldviews. They see the world through different lenses, consume different media, and literally live in different places. They start to misunderstand the other side, then start to misrepresent them, and eventually make them the enemy. The opportunity for compromise is then lost. This is where America is today."

Leyden and Teixeira might be right about where America is today. But what's the solution? "At some point," they write, "one side or the other must win—and win big. The side resisting change, usually the one most rooted in the past systems and incumbent interests, must be thoroughly defeated — not just for a political cycle or two, but for a generation or two." Here's the pièce de résistance. "Let’s just say what needs to be said: The Republican Party over the past 40 years has maneuvered itself into a position where they are the bad guys on the wrong side of history." The G.O.P. is "the party of climate change denial," and of "rule by and for billionaires." What is needed, Leyden and Teixeira conclude, is "Democratic one-party rule."

This is happy-face tyranny—of precisely the sort conservative bad boys like Jonah Goldberg and Dinesh D'Souza have been warning about for yearsIt is impossible to know what kind of traction the Leyden/ Teixeira thesis will have on the American left, or indeed whether such burn-down-the-Reichstag rhetoric, until now the currency of anti-Trump intellectuals like Professor Timothy Snyder, will turn out to be a timeless gift to the right. But it ought to give Americans of every political stripe pause—particularly young Americans, for whom one-party rule for "a generation or two" would mean a lifetime under the yoke.