Canada if the US collapses

The most disturbing thing about the January 6th riot and Trump coup attempt has been the reaction of American politicians. Despite being witnesses and targets of the attack, politics as usual has persisted, including Trump’s dominance of the Republican party.

This suggests a substantial danger that Americans in power will choose the victory of their tribe over the other above the endurance and peace of the union.

In today’s Globe and Mail, Thomas Homer-Dixon writes:

By 2025, American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence. By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship.

During my international relations undergrad, profs often told us about how for most of Canadian history the biggest threat to Canada’s sovereignty has been invasion from the south. If mass political violence does erupt in the US — likely accompanied by a mass sense that the federal institutions of the supreme court, congress, and the presidency do not hold legitimate power over the whole US populace — it’s hard to believe that the US-Canada border would be respected in the uproar.

Of course it’s undiplomatic to talk in public about what will happen if your neighbour and strongest ally falls into civil war or ceases to be a democracy. Nonetheless, given the pathologies in American politics and society, it’s something Canadians must consider with growing seriousness and urgency.

42 thoughts on “Canada if the US collapses”

  1. There’s a Word for What Trumpism Is Becoming

    The relentless messaging by Trump and his supporters has inflicted a measurable wound on American democracy.

    By David Frum

    Two traits have historically marked off European-style fascism from more homegrown American traditions of illiberalism: contempt for legality and the cult of violence. Presidential-era Trumpism operated through at least the forms of law. Presidential-era Trumpism glorified military power, not mob attacks on government institutions. Postpresidentially, those past inhibitions are fast dissolving. The conversion of Ashli Babbitt into a martyr, a sort of American Horst Wessel, expresses the transformation. Through 2020, Trump had endorsed deadly force against lawbreakers: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted on May 29, 2020. Babbitt broke the law too, but not to steal a TV. She was killed as she tried to disrupt the constitutional order, to prevent the formalization of the results of a democratic election.

    If a big-enough movement agrees with Trump that Babbitt was “wonderful”—if they repeat that the crowd of would-be Nancy Pelosi kidnappers and Mike Pence lynchers was “great”—then we are leaving behind the American system of democratic political competition for a new landscape in which power is determined by the gun.

    That’s a landscape for which a lot of pro-Trump writers and thinkers seem to yearn.

  2. Russell, Peter H. “Canada’s Odyssey: A Country Based on Incomplete Conquests.” University of Toronto Press, 2019. p. 39-42

  3. Carter said he had hope that the deadly attack on the Capitol “would shock the nation into addressing the toxic polarization that threatens our democracy.”
    But politicians, he said, “have leveraged the distrust they have created to enact laws that empower partisan legislatures to intervene in election processes” and “seek to win by any means, and many Americans are being persuaded to think and act likewise, threatening to collapse the foundations of our security and democracy with breathtaking speed.”
    “I now fear that what we have fought so hard to achieve globally — the right to free, fair elections, unhindered by strongman politicians who seek nothing more than to grow their own power — has become dangerously fragile at home,” said Carter, who in his post-presidency started the Carter Center, a nonprofit that monitors free elections around the globe.

  4. The next US civil war is already here – we just refuse to see it

    Stephen Marche

    The right has recognized that the system is in collapse, and it has a plan: violence and solidarity with treasonous far-right factions

    The United States has burned before. The Vietnam war, civil rights protests, the assassination of JFK and MLK, Watergate – all were national catastrophes which remain in living memory. But the United States has never faced an institutional crisis quite like the one it is facing now. Trust in the institutions was much higher during the 1960s. The Civil Rights Act had the broad support of both parties. JFK’s murder was mourned collectively as a national tragedy. The Watergate scandal, in hindsight, was evidence of the system working. The press reported presidential crimes; Americans took the press seriously. The political parties felt they needed to respond to the reported corruption.

    You could not make one of those statements today with any confidence.

  5. Business Insider published a poll in October 2020 saying a majority of Americans believed the U.S. was already in the midst of a “cold” civil war. Then last fall, the University of Virginia Center for Politics released a poll finding that a majority of people who had voted to reelect former President Donald Trump in 2020 now wanted their state to secede from the Union.

    The UVA data also showed a stunning 41% of those who voted for Joe Biden in 2020 also said it might now be “time to split the country.”

  6. SMETHPORT, Pa. (AP) — Some Democrats here in rural Pennsylvania are afraid to tell you they’re Democrats.

    The party’s brand is so toxic in the small towns 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh that some liberals have removed bumper stickers and yard signs and refuse to acknowledge their party affiliation publicly. These Democrats are used to being outnumbered by the local Republican majority, but as their numbers continue to dwindle, the few that remain are feeling increasingly isolated and unwelcome in their own communities.

    “The hatred for Democrats is just unbelievable,” said Tim Holohan, an accountant based in rural McKean County who recently encouraged his daughter to get rid of a pro-Joe Biden bumper sticker. “I feel like we’re on the run.”

    The climate across rural Pennsylvania is symptomatic of a larger political problem threatening the Democratic Party ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Beyond losing votes in virtually every election since 2008, Democrats have been effectively ostracized from many parts of rural America, leaving party leaders with few options to reverse a cultural trend that is redefining the nation’s political landscape.


    Heather Cox Richardson
    Historian and professor at Boston College

    If Trump, or someone like him, wins election in 2024, I would expect to see the end of American democracy. If that sounds apocalyptic, it’s worth remembering that we have had just such a scenario in the United States before, in the American South between 1880 and 1965. In those decades, although there were always elections, state legislatures had rigged the electoral system so that white Democrats would always win. Essentially, the region was a one-party state that had abandoned the rule of law.… It was the realization that the United States had abandoned the rule of law that inspired lawmakers to protect democracy in the 1950s and the 1960s through a series of civil rights acts and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Now, by rolling those protections back, Republican-dominated legislatures are threatening to re-create that one-party system, but this time, the demographic skewing of our Electoral College means those states can install a president. The one-party system of the early twentieth century South will become national. I don’t think enough people realize how bad it will be.

  8. This is what Republican rule will inevitably resemble, and it will hardly end with a bizarro version of the January 6 Commission. If the GOP retakes the House of Representatives, the two years of legislative gridlock that follows will be the quaint part. Republicans are certain to use their investigative powers to launch myriad mind-bending inquiries, bogging down American politics until the 2024 election with whatever the right’s outrage du jour happens to be. Expect hearings about critical race theory and gender; about Anthony Fauci and the origins of Covid-19; about testicle tanning and whatever else Tucker Carlson is droning on about in the early months of 2023. They may also do their own version of calling for the invocation of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, which allows Cabinet officials to remove a president deemed unfit for office, by insisting on cognitive tests or other investigations into the president’s mental well-being.

    It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that in the two years, Republicans will strive to impeach President Joe Biden more times than Democrats did Trump, who was impeached (for quite legitimate reasons) twice during his presidency. In all likelihood this will kick off with a fun house–mirror version of the first Trump impeachment, with lengthy investigations into Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine. But it will hardly end there. In fact, odds are good that the desire to impeach Biden will become the Republican Party’s next big test of purity, with those unwilling to fully participate in the Grand Guignol marked as RINO outcasts.”

  9. All of this is fueling what I’ve called “the great divergence” now under way between red and blue states. This divergence itself creates enormous strain on the country’s cohesion, but more and more even that looks like only a way station. What’s becoming clearer over time is that the Trump-era GOP is hoping to use its electoral dominance of the red states, the small-state bias in the Electoral College and the Senate, and the GOP-appointed majority on the Supreme Court to impose its economic and social model on the entire nation—with or without majority public support. As measured on fronts including the January 6 insurrection, the procession of Republican 2020 election deniers running for offices that would provide them with control over the 2024 electoral machinery, and the systematic advance of a Republican agenda by the Supreme Court, the underlying political question of the 2020s remains whether majority rule—and democracy as we’ve known it—can survive this offensive.

  10. The hardening difference between red and blue, Podhorzer maintains, “empowers” the 10 purple states (if you include Arizona and Georgia) to “decide which of the two superpower nations’ values, Blue or Red, will prevail” in presidential and congressional elections. And that leaves the country perpetually teetering on a knife’s edge: The combined vote margin for either party across those purple states has been no greater than two percentage points in any of the past three presidential elections, he calculates.

    The increasing divergence—and antagonism—between the red nation and the blue nation is a defining characteristic of 21st-century America. That’s a reversal from the middle decades of the 20th century, when the basic trend was toward greater convergence.

  11. “People may tolerate years of poverty, unemployment and discrimination,” Walter writes. “They may accept shoddy schools, poor hospitals and neglected infrastructure. But there is one thing they will not tolerate: losing status in a place they believe is theirs. In the 21st century, the most dangerous factions are once-dominant groups facing decline.”

  12. US political violence is surging, but talk of a civil war is exaggerated – isn’t it? | US news | The Guardian

    Wintemute wanted answers and they stunned him. A survey for his California Firearm Violence Research Center released last month showed that half of Americans expect a civil war in the United States in the next few years. One in five thought political violence was justified in some circumstances. In addition, while almost everyone said it was important for the US to remain a democracy, about 40% said that having a strong leader was more important.

  13. Views of American Democracy and Society and Support for Political Violence: First Report from a Nationwide Population-Representative Survey

    The analytic sample included 8,620 respondents; 50.6% (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 49.4%, 51.7%) were female; mean (SD) age was 48.4 (18.0) years. Two-thirds of respondents (67.2%, 95% CI 66.1%, 68.4%) perceived “a serious threat to our democracy,” but more than 40% agreed that “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy” and that “in America, native-born white people are being replaced by immigrants.” Half (50.1%) agreed that “in the next few years, there will be civil war in the United States.” Among 6,768 respondents who considered violence to be at least sometimes justified to achieve 1 or more specific political objectives, 12.2% were willing to commit political violence themselves “to threaten or intimidate a person,” 10.4% “to injure a person,” and 7.1% “to kill a person.” Among all respondents, 18.5% thought it at least somewhat likely that within the next few years, in a situation where they believed political violence was justified, “I will be armed with a gun”; 4.0% thought it at least somewhat likely that “I will shoot someone with a gun.”

  14. There is also recognition by the FBI and DOJ that the indictment of a former president who is likely to run again is unprecedented. Not only this, but polarization and antipathy between the two political parties has reached a level unseen since before the Civil War. Indicting Trump is likely to set off violence. Worse, convicting him and sending him to prison could set off a chain of events that could expedite the dissolution of the United States, as internal pressure within red states mounts to formally cease the recognition of the authority and legitimacy of the federal government. Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland are both keenly aware of this possibility, which may dissuade them from an indictment, arrest, and prosecution.

  15. Americans are increasingly talking about civil war. In August, after the FBI raided Donald Trump’s Florida home, Twitter references to “civil war” jumped 3,000%. Trump supporters immediately went online, tweeting threats that a civil war would start if Trump was indicted. One account wrote: “Is it Civil-War-O’clock yet?”; another said, “get ready for an uprising”. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, said there would be “riots in the streets” if Trump was indicted. Trump himself predicted that “terrible things are going to happen” if the temperature wasn’t brought down in the country. Perhaps most troubling, Americans on both sides of the political divide increasingly state that violence is justified. In January 2022, 34% of Americans surveyed said that it was sometimes OK to use violence against the government. Seven months later, more than 40% said that they believed civil war was at least somewhat likely in the next 10 years. Two years ago, no one was talking about a second American civil war. Today it is common.

  16. More worrying is the prospect of widespread political violence within the United States. Such a prospect may have been “fanciful only a few years ago,” according to the report, “but it is very real today.” In an interview, University of Ottawa political scientist Thomas Juneau, one of the report’s directors, was clear that all-out civil war in the United States remains unlikely. Yet Juneau can foresee circumstances in the US that should keep Canadian officials awake at night: “Imagine a scenario where you have a contested election and both sides ask Canada to recognize them because they want international recognition.” The smart short-term move for Canada would be to “shut up and hope for the best.” But “whether it’s the good guys or the bad guys who end up winning, we have a neighbour who is not only extremely vulnerable domestically but also annoyed at us. That’s a huge problem,” Juneau warns, “one that could easily reach the scale of an existential problem for us.”

    American political violence may also involve complicated and unpredictable spillover events in Canada. Would a right-wing populist uprising in the US inspire copycat action in Canada? Would Canada accept political refugees from the United States? If so, how would we respond if a nascent authoritarian American regime demanded their extradition? What if Canadian citizens enlisted as combatants in an intra-American armed conflict—how would a volatile American government respond to perceived incidents of Canadian-sponsored terrorism?

  17. At the Cedar Rapids event that followed, Trump homed in on attacking “crooked” President Biden while continuing to harp on his unsubstantiated claim that the 2020 election was rigged and, even further, that Jesus and God would declare him a winner now. “I think if you had a real election and Jesus came down and God came down and said, ‘I’m gonna be the scorekeeper here,’ I think we’d win [in California], I think would win in Illinois, and I think it we’d win in New York.”

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