Major turning points in history are usually only visible in retrospect, with the benefit of hindsight and the passage of time.
But the Jan. 6 committee hearings taking place in Washington this week are a rare and notable exception — one to which Canadians should be paying particularly close attention. If they fail to capture the attention of the United States and put some nails in Donald Trump’s political coffin once and for all, we could be collateral damage from the fallout.
It’s tempting to think the hearings, which are being held in prime time and covered by all the major TV networks (except, of course, Fox News), will finally break the hold Trump has exerted over the Republican Party and its various media proxies. The new evidence that’s already been presented, which includes previously unseen bodycam footage, makes it clear that what happened was terrorism through and through.
By all rights, and with any luck, this will be the moment where Trumpism and its core elements — deceit, fear, nationalism and violence — are driven back into the shadows of American public life.
But as Michael Fanone, a former Washington, D.C., metropolitan police officer who was injured during the attack, noted in a recent Axios piece, “I think most of the people in this country are indifferent toward what happened on Jan. 6, and everyone else is pretty well encamped in their side of the political aisle."
The fact that Fox News and the rest of the Trumpworld media ecosystem refuse to cover the hearings practically guarantees that encampment remains intact.
Anyone with even a passing interest in democracy and freedom should find the Republican Party’s collective shoulder shrug here alarming. As security analyst (and “never Trump” Republican) Kristofer Goldsmith told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace last year: “Every failed coup is just practice.”
The fact that people in former president Trump’s orbit failed to pull it off in 2021 won’t preclude them from trying again — that is, if they even need to. As it stands, the Republican Party seems poised to take back the House of Representatives in the fall midterms, and it’s easy to imagine Trump winning back the presidency in 2024.
Even if he doesn’t — maybe especially if he doesn’t — it’s increasingly clear America is flirting with a cultural civil war that’s becoming more violent with each passing day. When judges are being murdered, gun sales continue to skyrocket and large swathes of the law enforcement community have become disconnected from facts and reality, you have a combustible mix just looking for a spark.
That’s why it’s time for Canadians to prepare for the worst. Ironically, we might want to take a page out of Trump’s own book and start building our own wall along the 49th parallel. Not a literal wall, mind you, since that wouldn’t do much to slow American military forces if they ever decided to cross. But a metaphorical wall to protect Canada from any economic and cultural aggression coming from the south is both long overdue and desperately needed.
Opinion: Canada needs to build protections from economic and cultural aggression coming from the United States. @maxfawcett writes for @natobserver. #cdnpoli #January6thCommitteeHearings #StormingTheCapitol
We got a sneak preview of what that aggression might look like earlier this year when millions of dollars flowed across the border from Trump-supporting Republicans backing the anti-government convoy that occupied Ottawa. (Trump himself also threw his weight behind the protesters.) Tucker Carlson used his massive media platform to compare Canada under Justin Trudeau to a “Stalinist dictatorship,” while Candace Owens suggested America should invade Canada in order to help the truckers.
It’s not hard to see how this sort of rhetoric could have ended much more badly than it did — or what it portends for the future.
As a recent report from a group of former Canadian Security Intelligence Service directors and national security advisers noted, “This may not have represented foreign interference in the conventional sense, since it was not the result of actions of a foreign government. But it did represent, arguably, a greater threat to Canadian democracy than the actions of any state other than the United States.”
That’s why we should be investing heavily in our democratic institutions, both through electoral reform and a more robust and deliberate campaign against misinformation and those who spread it. We must diversify our trade relationships as much as we can and shorten our supply chains in areas critical to our health and safety. We should enhance our cultural independence and expand the capacity of Canadian journalists to tell Canadian stories. And yes, we should spend more on our own military defence, if only so we aren’t forced to rely so obviously on the United States.
None of this would threaten the geopolitical friendship with our southern neighbour that has underwritten much of Canada’s prosperity over the last half-century. America may yet turn away from the darkness that nearly consumed it on Jan. 6 and come back towards the light.
But we can’t afford to assume that will happen or wait around to find out if it does. We need to prepare. We need to build that metaphorical wall between ourselves and our increasingly volatile neighbour. And we need to do it before it’s too late.