The Trudeau government has been down in the polls since 2021 and would like nothing more than to fight another election where they can paint their enemy as bringing ‘Trumpian’ politics to Canada. If the Liberals have it their way, a vote for Pierre Poilievre will mean a vote for Donald Trump. Photo credit: AP/Alex Brandon
Donald Trump is back. For anyone who doubted his intention to run for the Republican Party presidential primary, it’s becoming increasingly clear that not only is Trump in the game, he could very well sweep the election.
Trump has made no secret that he wants back in the oval office, and even made an official announcement that he would be seeking the Republican nomination last November. But with most things involving the communications strategy of the former Commander in Chief, it is best taken with a large grain of salt.
It is baffling and incredulous that Trump is running again. Since losing his bid for re-election in 2020, Trump has been embroiled in one scandal after another. In no particular order, Trump claimed the 2020 election was stolen from him and attempted to overturn the results, was impeached twice for the incitement of insurrection following the January 6th U.S. capitol attacks, was indicted in New York on allegations of his role in paying hush money to a porn star, and just this week, was found guilty in a civil trial of sexually abusing magazine writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s.
Trump was banned from social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter (though recently reinstated), due to concerns of inciting violence amongst his followers. As Mark Zuckerburg put it at the time, “the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”
A short-list of the scandals that Trump has been embroiled in over the course of the last two-and-a-half years would be enough to send any Canadian politician into hiding for the remainder of their time on Earth.
What makes this story all the more unbelievable is the fact that not only is Trump running again, he is up in the polls. According to a recent survey by Washington Post-ABC News found that 44 per cent of adults would “definitely” or “probably” vote for Trump, compared to 38 per cent who would vote for Biden.
On Wednesday, CNN held an hour-long, exclusive town hall with Trump and voters in New Hampshire. Unsurprisingly, Trump used the prime-time slot to tee off on his greatest hits, including election fraud, his desire to pardon a swath of rioters involved in the January 6th attack, and providing unfiltered commentary on current issues like the Russia-Ukraine war and the debt ceiling.
From the left, CNN and moderator Kaitlan Collins were harshly criticized for giving Trump a platform while failing to keep him in check. On the right, Trump’s answers were met by a cheering crowd.
With all eyes on the 2024 Republican primaries, and with Americans as polarized as ever, what does a resurgent Trump mean for Canadian politics?
On its face, it spells problems for the Conservative Party. The Trudeau government has been down in the polls since 2021 and would like nothing more than to fight another election where they can paint their enemy as bringing ‘Trumpian’ politics to Canada. It’s what the Liberals did so well in 2019, and they will dust off the playbook to draw associations between their Conservative opponent, and the man slated to take back control of the Republican Party. If the Liberals have it their way, a vote for Pierre Poilievre will mean a vote for Donald Trump.
Indeed, Trump’s resurgence could play a role in the timing of the next federal election. In the event he wins the Republican nomination and looks poised to pose a real threat to Biden’s re-election prospects, the Liberal government may look to capitalize on this moment and call an election as Americans head to the polls next fall. This would mean that the antics of the Trump campaign are front and centre for both the Canadian public, and the media who are so keen to draw comparisons.
Despite many serious discretions that would destroy the reputation of any other public figure, Trump remains well-positioned to broadcast his message and thus further his campaign back into the Oval Office. His antics have been disavowed, only to land him a spot on the primetime network he has repeatedly dubbed as “fake news.”
Knowing what they know, and what we all know, the Trudeau government would be foolish to let this moment pass them by. Don’t expect them to.
Josie Sabatino is a Senior Consultant at Summa Strategies, focused on providing strategic insight and helping clients meet their objectives in an ever changing and complex political and regulatory environment. Prior to joining Summa, Josie spent nearly a decade in political communications and most recently served as the Director of Communications to the Hon. Erin O’Toole, former Leader of the Official Opposition.