But the basic tenets of Trump’s platform are nativism and protectionism. He would — literally and figuratively — build walls around the United States.
He would build a wall along the border with Mexico — and (he says) make the Mexicans pay for it — while rounding up and deporting 11 million undocumented residents of the U.S. He would ban Muslim immigrants to America. He would tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, and kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal among 12 countries, including Canada and Mexico. Trump is not alone in his opposition to the TPP. Both remaining Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, also oppose it.
At the outset of Trump’s presidential campaign last summer, he was regarded as nothing better than a blowhard, denigrating his opponents and degrading public discourse. Yet where there were 17 candidates at the beginning of the race for the Republican nomination, Trump is now the last one standing. It has to be said that, for all his disgraceful and disgusting outbursts, he has won the GOP nomination fair and square.
The Republican establishment had been hoping for a competitive convention, with Trump falling short of the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. But after his sweep of Tuesday’s Indiana primary, his last two opponents, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, threw in the towel. There is no longer an Anyone But Trump candidate; he is now the presumptive nominee.
Now that Trump has completed his hostile takeover, there’s no shortage of disgruntled Republican stakeholders — Paul Ryan, for one. He’s the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the most powerful Republican figure in the U.S. Congress. He also happens to be chairman of the July convention in Cleveland. On CNN Thursday, he said he’s “just not ready” to endorse Trump “at this point. I’m not there right now.” Trump retorted that he wasn’t ready to support Ryan, either. “Perhaps in the future we can work together,” Trump added.
Two Republican presidents, both named George Bush, also have declined to close ranks behind Trump. They won’t even be attending the convention, and neither will W’s brother Jeb. You’ll find them at the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee, also won’t be at the convention. The 2008 Republican nominee, John McCain, doesn’t want his picture taken with Trump, who once mocked his heroic service as a prisoner of war. After five terms and 30 years in the Senate, McCain is locked in a dead heat for his Arizona seat with a Democratic challenger.
Looks like they won’t need a VIP section at the convention.
Since Trump locked up the nomination, America’s allies have expressed concerns not just about his protectionist impulses on trade, but about his views on foreign and defence policy as well. In several interviews, he has mused about arming Japan and South Korea with nuclear weapons as a deterrent against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, to say nothing of China. As if Japan, of all the countries in the world, would seek or accept nuclear weapons. (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Donald — look them up.)
Not to worry, say most members of the American political class — Trump has no chance of defeating Clinton in the general election. Well … that’s what they were saying about Trump’s chances of securing the nomination when he launched his campaign last June.
Derek Burney, a former Canadian ambassador to Washington, doesn’t buy this reassuring consensus. “I do not subscribe to the view that Trump will be blown out of the water,” says Burney, now an adviser to NortonRoseFulbright in the international law firm’s Ottawa office. “That’s what they said last June.”
While Clinton usually leads Trump by double-digits in run-off polls, the latest composite poll by RealClearPolitics.com has her ahead only 47-41 per cent in the popular vote — though she has a clear and commanding lead in the Electoral College. With 270 college votes needed to win out of 538, most polls have her well over 300 electoral votes.
Both Trump and Clinton have high unfavourables. He scares people; her problem is one of trust. For all his bombast and bluster, Trump is at least authentic, while Clinton is not. She’s simply not a very good candidate, though she might well make an excellent president.
To make matters more complicated for her, Sanders is still out there, outflanking her on the left, especially among women and younger voters. He beat her in Indiana the other day by six points, and going into next week’s West Virginia primary, he leads her in the RCP composite poll there 51-33 per cent. Her comments about coal mining have not played well in a state where the economy is built on coal.
Sanders has hardly any chance of overcoming her lead of 2,205 to 1,401 delegates; she needs only 2,383 to clinch the nomination. But he has every reason to stay in until the California primary in June, wage a platform fight and make a speech at the convention.
Meanwhile, Trump already has started turning his demeaning diatribes on Clinton. Lyin’ Ted has been replaced by Crooked Hillary. He’s served notice that he’ll go after Bill Clinton as a serial womanizer (the best response — it takes one to know one — doesn’t really work for her). Trump is certain to accuse her of being in the pocket of the Wall Street banks which have supported her campaign and paid her handsome $225,000 speaking fees, while Trump has self-financed his campaign. Anything can happen between now and November.
So what would a Trump presidency mean for Canada?
“I think NAFTA has been a disaster,” Trump said at the outset of his campaign. “I think our current deals are a disaster.”
But rescinding NAFTA would require an act of Congress, and that’s not in the cards.
Burney, present at the creation of both NAFTA and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, thinks Trump would undermine free trade with Mexico by slapping import taxes on goods at the border. His favourite example is Ford closing a plant in Michigan and building one in Mexico.
Trump has said he would impose a 35 per cent tariff on Ford cars and trucks coming into the U.S. from Mexico. He has similar plans for Carrier air conditioners and Oreo cookies made in Mexico.
As for the TPP, there is no prospect that it will pass Congress in the waning months of the Obama presidency, and little chance of it being supported next year by either Trump or Clinton.
It stands to reason, then, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should not spend any time or political capital on bringing TPP implementing legislation to Parliament. Burney suggests Ottawa should pursue bilateral trade deals with the other TPP signatories. “In other words,” he says, “they should come at it from the bottom-up, rather than the top-down.”
As it happens, Trudeau will be hosting a Three Amigos summit next month with Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. At their end of these trilateral sessions, they normally do a joint news conference.
They can be sure that all the questions this time will be about Donald Trump.
Author: L. Ian MacDonald