Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Instead of unleashing the dogs of war, imagine for a moment if the President of the United States had said something like, “I want our police to join hands with the peaceful protesters.”

Outraged at the asphyxiation of George Floyd, some police actually have done that, marching with protesters, taking a knee with them. Here’s betting that with a White House invitation, great numbers would have done so, joining peaceful marchers, deterring rioters and looters.

What a glorious display of unity, what a turning point moment it could have been. Given the nature of Donald Trump it wasn’t plausible, of course. He has gone the opposite route, the incendiary route, invoking in a spasm of overreaction an ancient 1807 statute, the Insurrection Act, which allows him to deploy his military on U.S. soil.

Story continues below advertisement

As power grabs go, it is not without parallel. Canadians might recall former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s invocation of the War Measures Act in 1970 in response to the kidnapping of a British diplomat in Quebec. Mr. Trudeau spoke of a so-called apprehended insurrection. He suspended civil liberties. Mass arrests and detentions without charges or trials followed. His approval ratings soared. Mr. Trump is no doubt hoping the same.

Comparisons end there, however. Mr. Trudeau went on to bring in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He bears no resemblance to the destabilizing demagogue in Washington.

Anyone thinking new nadirs were impossible with this President were disabused of the notion Monday with his teargassing of peaceful protesters near the White House to clear a path for himself to St. John’s Episcopal Church.

There, having spoken of demonstrators as committing “a crime against God,” the vulgarian President held aloft a Bible as if he had descended from the heavens to cure them of their sins. His white evangelicals must have loved it, although instead of holy water the cure was gaseous fumes that make it difficult to breathe.

Critics said Mr. Trump was acting like a tinpot dictator. With his self-aggrandizing authoritarianism, he kindled thoughts of another power-mad narcissist, Benito Mussolini, to whom four-star American General Barry McCaffrey compared him last fall.

The mass protests across the U.S. were triggered by excessive use of force by authorities. Mr. Trump’s way of dealing with it is to apply even more excessive force. He turned back requests to invoke the Defense Production Act to possibly save lives in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Now he was saying he would use the Insurrection Act to mobilize his military against his own people. Using the act requires approval by state governors. He ignores that.

The President who once called National Football League players “sons of bitches” for taking a knee during the national anthem scolded governors as weak in the face of protesters, saying if they didn’t get tougher they were going “to look like a bunch of jerks.”

Story continues below advertisement

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker reasoned that Mr. Trump was casting himself as Mr. Law and Order to cynically deflect from the COVID-19 and economic crises, which see his popularity sinking.

Mr. Trump’s political driving imperative is to create two Americas. It’s divide and conquer. It’s how he won in 2016. His support base is loaded up with white nationalists and supremacists. Though the great mass of protesters are peaceful, he is engaging in threat inflation in portraying the rioters, who are from many walks, as left-wing antifa terrorists.

He hopes that by spreading fear in the land and casting himself as the protector, he can do as former president Richard Nixon did a half century ago in combating widespread war and racial protests. Mr. Nixon appealed to a silent majority. Mr. Trump tweeted “SILENT MAJORITY” Tuesday morning. Whether there is one available for him is dubious. A Washington Post-ABC News poll this week finds that he trails Joe Biden by 10 points and that just 35 per cent of Americans say he is honest and trustworthy.

None of the multiple crises he faces – the killer virus, the economic collapse, civil unrest not seen in decades – was of his own making. But his rhetoric fans the flames.

Pandemics are non-partisan. The murder of George Floyd was non-partisan. In each case there was a wonderful opening for a non-partisan approach that would have won Mr. Trump support. Such has been the case in responding to COVID-19 with other conservative leaders, Ontario’s Doug Ford being one such example.

But Mr. Trump’s modus operandi, with rare exception, is unflinching confrontation, partisanship taken to vile extremes. As a consequence, the United States teeters.

Story continues below advertisement

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies