The soul of a great democracy is in grave danger

The technical support woman on the other end of the line somewhere in the U.S. south or south-west sounded weary, and a little stressed.  I always try to exchange a little small talk with those call-centre/tech support folks; after all, I’m a real, live human being, and so are they. It often leads to something interesting. This time was no exception.

I took a risk and sympathized with her and her great nation about the present “political situation” it finds itself in, “what with Trump and all.”

I went a little farther than that even by suggesting the man and his careless mouth are playing “a dangerous game” with the future of his country and the world. “There’s a reason why we study history in school,” I said. “It’s happened before, somewhere else, and not that long ago.”

“Oh, I know,” she said. “I’ve got my password ready, and my son’s.”

That was in case Donald Trump actually gets elected President of the United States, which appears to be possible.

She also said she “didn’t like any of them,” meaning the various candidates seeking the nominations to run for President in next November’s U.S. election for the Democratic and Republican parties. Currently those two parties are holding separate state “primaries” or “caucuses” in advance of their conventions. Trump’s victories in the primaries before Saturday, March 5, appeared to show him with the clear momentum and closing in on soon having enough delegates to virtually lock up the nomination as the Republican candidate for the presidential election.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. Senator, President Barack Obama’s former Secretary of State, and wife of a former President, also appeared to be pulling away from the surprising Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party primary process. I say surprising because the 74-year-old Sanders is an Independent Senator from Vermont who openly espouses social democratic principles.

Like Trump, but with decency, he has benefited from the anti-establishment public mood now roaring through the political landscape in the U.S. like an angry brush fire. Trump is not stupid. He has played to that mood with the instincts of a predator. He has made outrageous and now-infamous on screen statements that would have destroyed any political career before it got started, in his case, last summer. But nothing he said seemed to hurt him. His supporters, or should I say, followers, call blatant racism “honesty.” They’re apparently mesmerized.

Meanwhile, lots of people in the U.S. don’t like Trump, including in the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln; but his name is on everyone’s lips. He knows that’s almost all that matters. I say almost because everything has its limits, including unscrupulous, populist demagoguery. He may yet go too far, get sent to the proverbial corner, and be utterly forgotten. That may be The Donald’s worst nightmare.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s starting to catch up to him, as the public criticism piles up, for good reason: the results of the March 5 primaries and caucuses, appeared to take some of the steam out of Trump’s momentum, and the man himself, as he took only two of four Republican primaries, with Ted Cruz getting the other two, and Marco Rubio in freefall. Meanwhile, Sanders took two of three of the Democratic caucuses, though Clinton captured the biggest one, Louisiana.

By law, Obama is not permitted to run for a third term. Too bad; history, if there is any, will be kinder to Obama than his many detractors in the U.S. have ever been. The man deserves respect for his thoughtful approach to governing, and to peace, rather than war. Does any rational person think Trump should have his finger on the button?

No wonder lots of Americans have been seriously looking at leaving the country, like the tech support lady I talked to last week. She has a couple of destinations in mind, though Canada is not one of them, she said.

But many have been looking here. At least they were, before this extraordinary presidential campaign took its latest twist. On-line news reports and social media were full of stories and comments about the frequency of Google searches like “How do I immigrate to Canada?” going through the roof after “Super Tuesday” primary results confirmed Trump as the Republican frontrunner for the party’s presidential  nominee. A long and interesting article in the Washington Post speculated Immigration Canada’s website was coincidentally and suddenly experiencing problems, according to a message posted on it, because it was being overwhelmed by on-line queries from the U.S.

The Post also mentioned Cape Breton had already become a possible destination of choice for American Trump-refugees since a website created by radio-host Rob Calabrese that he intended as more of a spoof to amuse himself and his friends quickly went viral. CNN sent a crew up to do a special report. Calabrese has said he’s been getting lots of “serious inquiries” from Americans interested in immigrating to Canada, and specifically, Cape Breton, of course.

So, here’s a thought: Tourism officials in this Grey-Bruce area of Ontario where I live might want to consider jumping on that bandwagon. What’s Cape Breton got that Grey-Bruce hasn’t got, besides a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean? As far as I’m concerned the Georgian Bay/Niagara Escarpment shoreline of the Bruce Peninsula, and of course, Hope Ness in particular, stands up well in comparison.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s really nothing funny about the incredible reality show now happening south of the border: the spectacle of a powerful country, once the hope of the world, a country founded on great, democratic principles at risk of losing its soul.

Lots of Americans are also going on line with comments about their determination to “stay and fight” the Trump phenom for as long as it takes to save their country from him.

Hopefully, the anti-Trump movement is starting to make its presence felt.

Originally published in The Sun Times March 5, 2016.

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