Opinion: Even Canadians fear US democracy could end soon
As Americans, our first instinct when a person from outside of the US says something critical of our nation is often to dismiss the comment (or mock their country; be honest!). In this case, though, neither Marche nor Homer-Dixon wrote their words to belittle America or to make Canadians feel better about their country.
In the case of Homer-Dixon, the warning is even more unnerving because the column is addressed not to Americans but to his fellow Canadians, to prepare them for what may be heading their way if America’s democracy does collapse. Homer-Dixon bluntly cautions his compatriots: “A terrible storm is coming from the south, and Canada is woefully unprepared.”
When Canadians start to counsel one another on the threat posed to American democracy, you know we’re in a dire position. This is not about scoring political points; rather, it emanates from a place of sincere concern for their own nation.
Homer-Dixon’s words carry real weight: As he says, for more than 40 years he’s studied the causes of war, revolution and social breakdown. “Today,” he wrote to his countrymen and women, “as I watch the unfolding crisis in the United States, I see a political and social landscape flashing with warning signals.”
To those who might view his premonitions as over the top, Homer-Dixon adds, “We mustn’t dismiss these possibilities just because they seem ludicrous or too horrible to imagine. In 2014, the suggestion that Donald Trump would become president would also have struck nearly everyone as absurd.” (Point taken with that one!)
But what truly resonates with me is Homer-Dixon’s assessment that the “underpinning” of our politics “is a vital set of beliefs and values,” and “if a substantial enough fraction of a population no longer holds those beliefs and values, then democracy can’t survive.”
For Homer-Dixon, all of this adds up to a crucial question for his country: How can Canadians prepare for the worst? For one, he says, “We need to start by fully recognizing the magnitude of the danger.” He continues, “If Mr. Trump is re-elected” and ushers in a right-wing authoritarian regime, “The risks to our country in their cumulative effect could easily be existential, far greater than any in our federation’s history.”
For example, he theorizes, “What happens … if high-profile political refugees fleeing persecution arrive in our country, and the U.S. regime demands them back. Do we comply?”
To prepare for that kind of possible scenario, he implores Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to “immediately convene” a committee with representatives from the various political parties in government who “should receive regular intelligence analyses and briefings by Canadian experts on political and social developments in the United States and their implications for democratic failure there.”
But there’s something deeply compelling about reading the words of Canadians who have no skin in the game of American politics to offer such blunt words and warnings about the red flags they are seeing.
As Marche details in his book, there are Americans who hold a “desperate faith in their country’s institutions that amounts nearly to delusion.” These Canadians are warning us to break free of those delusions and instead understand that “it” can happen here — with “it” being anything from fascism to a civil war that would collapse our democracy — and to get a grasp on this reality before it’s too late.