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Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rallyin Coralville, Iowa on Dec. 13.Charlie Neibergall/The Associated Press

Next Nov. 5, Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States, could be elected its 47th president. If that happens, both America and Canada will be thrown into crisis.

And there is nothing Canadians can do, except watch.

On Thursday, Maine’s Secretary of State ruled that Mr. Trump cannot appear on the presidential ballot in that state because he tried to overthrow the government.

Shenna Bellows said she was mindful that no secretary of state had ever taken such a decision. But she was also mindful “that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.” Earlier this month, Colorado’s highest court issued a similar ruling.

Their decisions will likely be overturned by the Supreme Court. But it’s simply astonishing that in parts of the United States, judges and public servants are trying to keep the man who will almost certainly be the Republican presidential nominee off the ballot because they believe he is a traitor because of his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump leads Democratic President Joe Biden in the Real Clear Politics compendium of polls by two percentage points. The former president has a good chance of winning.

Much of the United States would simply carry on through a second Trump presidency. Wall Street would still buy and sell. The tech and creative hubs would continue to innovate. People would go to school and work and places of worship, watch and play sports, live their lives.

But Mr. Trump’s attacks on political institutions would threaten the survival of American democracy. He has vowed to use the Justice Department to wreak vengeance on his enemies. He intends, according to his allies, to bend the public service to his will and to deploy troops to suppress civil unrest. If he were to manage all that, how could anyone believe that the elections of 2028 would be free and fair?

A Trump victory would mean that Canada’s closest friend and ally would no longer be either.

Our largest trading partner would throw up crippling tariff walls, as Mr. Trump has vowed he will do if he wins.

NATO would be gravely weakened, even as President Vladimir Putin seeks to expand the borders of the Russian empire. The informal coalition of autocrats led by Russia, China and Iran would be in the ascendant; the free world, in decline.

If all this happens, which Canadian political leader would do the best job of limiting the damage? Justin Trudeau could make a strong case. His government’s ability to preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement despite Mr. Trump’s threat to scrap it during his first term is one of the Prime Minister’s finest achievements.

But Mr. Trudeau is among Mr. Trump’s least favourite world leaders. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre might present a friendlier face to a second Trump administration. Voters would have to decide.

They may also have to decide on Canada’s role within the Western alliance. There would be a good argument for Canada helping to broker the inclusion of Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand in some new security agreement with European members of NATO and possibly India. Even with little or no participation by the United States, such an alliance would be a formidable check on autocracies.

But that would require a serious realignment of Canadian foreign policy, along with a major increase in defence spending, at the expense of social programs. Would Canadians agree to the dismantling or downsizing of new and existing social programs to finance a bolstered military? Or would we simply carry on and hope for the best?

We would also have to ask ourselves whether what happened to the United States could happen here. Why are so many millions of young Americans in such despair over their future that they don’t even care if the United States remains a democracy? Why do so many older voters in rural and suburban America feel the same way? How did their governments fail them? Are our governments failing in the same way?

But first we must get through the primaries and the presidential election, as well as Mr. Trump’s criminal trials. Maybe he’ll be found guilty. Maybe Mr. Biden will prevail. It’s going to be one helluva year.

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