What Can the Rest of Us Do?

Those of us outside the United States are in an awkward situation. We can’t do much about the present calamity because, no matter how much a Trump presidency would affect the rest of the world, the rest of us don’t get a vote.

Even voicing our opposition to the man can have consequences when that man is an aggressively thin-skinned narcissist. Outgoing NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who called Trump a fascist last spring, expects Justin Trudeau to stand up to him, but Mulcair’s demand, taken seriously, would be tantamount to national suicide. Oh yes, let’s by all means pick a fight we can’t win with the man who’s about to be the president of our largest trading partner, and who captured that position on a platform of nationalism and protectionism.

Is there anything we can do? There’s one thing I can think of: to do everything we can to mitigate the impact of a Trump administration on the rest of the world. First, to borrow a metaphor from the Internet, we need to treat him like damage and route around him.

For example, if the Trump administration intends to eliminate climate research by stripping NASA’s Earth Science Division of funding, then the ESA and other countries’ space agencies need to step up and fill that gap. If the U.S. withdraws from the Paris Agreement, then the rest of us have to reduce our environmental footprint just a little more. If Putin is counting on American dysfunction to give him a freer hand in the Baltic states, NATO may have to draw up plans that do not require U.S. participation. Global and international institutions, in other words, may have to prepare to get the job done in the absence of American support and in the face of American intransigence.

We also have to be prepared to relocate or replicate institutions that may be at risk from a Trump administration. Today, for example, the Internet Archive announced that it’s building a backup copy of its database in Canada, as a hedge against future U.S. restrictions. Other resources at risk may have to do the same: set up mirrors outside the U.S., or relocate entirely. In addition, any infrastructure, digital or otherwise, that routes through the U.S. may have to start planning to route around the country.

This goes for people, too. For many foreign nationals, the United States may no longer be a safe destination or place of residence (international students, for example, may start going elsewhere). To whatever extent there will be an exodus, or a shift in the destination of mobile workers, professionals and students, other countries will have to plan for it. And if things go completely black, Americans abroad may need help staying abroad on a more permanent basis, and we’ll have to start thinking about how to deal with Americans claiming refugee status.

Second, and more immediately and urgently, we have to prevent the contagion from spreading. There’s no far-right equivalent of Comintern — not formally, anyway — but it’s clear that there is a rising tide of nativist, nationalist, anti-globalist, anti-immigrant sentiment around the world that is being exploited and egged on by a bunch of feckless, insecure, macho authoritarians, all of whom seem awfully keen on Russia and Putin for some reason. They admire and talk to one another. They’ve won some successes — in central Europe, in the Philippines and in Turkey — and now the U.S. has fallen under their shadow.

For the moment, Canada, Scotland and Germany are among the very few islands in this storm, but that could change if we’re not careful. We need to defeat these movements in our own countries, roll them back, stop them before they take control, or de-elect them if they’re in power. This is an infection, and it’s pandemic: opposing these bastards is a matter of global public health.

In practice this means working like hell in each of our countries, doing what we can to ensure the defeat at the polls of our own private Trumps. In Canada, that means preventing someone like Kellie Leitch or Steven Blaney — or any other tribune of nativism — from acceding to the leadership of any major party. In Germany, that means defeating the AfD; in France, the Front national; in Austria, the FPÖ, whose presidential candidate Norbert Hofer is in a too-tight race with Alexander Van der Bellen — the revote takes place next Sunday (the vote is being rerun due to election irregularities). We need, each of us, in each of our countries, to draw a line in the sand and say: not here, not in my country. We need to make sure Trump is the last of his ilk to get elected. We already know who they are. We already know who we need to stop.