Trudeau and Trump will sur­vive 2019 – barely

Simcoe Reformer - Times-Reformer - - OPINION - Andrew Co­hen is a jour­nal­ist, pro­fes­sor and au­thor. ANDREW CO­HEN

Jan­uary makes ev­ery colum­nist a prophet. We gaze war­ily at the year ahead and re­mind our­selves again that we are paid to write, not nec­es­sar­ily to be right — which is why ev­ery De­cem­ber makes a fool of us.

Here is one lone pre­dic­tion for 2019: Both Justin Trudeau and Don­ald Trump will sur­vive the year, barely, their lead­er­ship in­tact but their long-term sur­vival in doubt.

Trudeau’s Lib­er­als are likely to win re-elec­tion in Oc­to­ber. Cana­di­ans tend to re-elect their gov­ern­ments: Since 1993, Stephen Harper and Jean Chré­tien won three con­sec­u­tive elec­tions (although Paul Martin lost power in 2006 after just two years.)

But a more prob­a­ble sce­nario for Trudeau is what hap­pened in the elec­tion of 1972. Hav­ing won a thump­ing ma­jor­ity in 1968, Pierre Trudeau cam­paigned con­fi­dently on the slo­gan “The Land is Strong.” It wasn’t, at least in the view of Cana­di­ans, who pun­ished him with a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

Justin Trudeau has ac­com­plish­ments: He le­gal­ized cannabis, brought some tax re­lief to the mid­dle class, spent bil­lions on in­fra­struc­ture, opened a di­a­logue with Indige­nous Peo­ples, saved NAFTA. Un­em­ploy­ment is the low­est in a gen­er­a­tion.

But if we have learned any­thing from the rise of Trump and the threat of Brexit, any­thing can hap­pen in pol­i­tics to­day un­der the lead­er­ship of vir­tu­ally any­one.

In a cli­mate of dis­con­tent and volatil­ity, fu­elled by the hys­te­ria of so­cial me­dia, cam­paigns are more un­pre­dictable than ever. If the op­po­si­tion makes a disin­gen­u­ous but ef­fec­tive case against the car­bon tax or lib­eral im­mi­gra­tion, if it ig­nites a pop­ulist re­volt over in­come in­equity, any­thing is pos­si­ble.

After all, if On­tario could elect the buf­foon­ish Doug Ford, why can’t Canada elect the dull Andrew Scheer? A mi­nor­ity Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is likely this au­tumn, sup­ported by the New Democrats into next year.

Trudeau’s chances of po­lit­i­cal sur­vival in 2019 are only slightly greater than Trump’s.

A year from now, Trump will be on his way out, one way or an­other.

Will spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s find­ings wound him so deeply that he is forced quickly from of­fice? Or, will it sim­ply make Trump un­electable in 2020?

When the re­port is out, the Democrats in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives will face a piv­otal de­ci­sion. There is al­ready a strong case to im­peach Trump, which many lib­eral Democrats al­ready em­brace.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will play this one more shrewdly. Hav­ing launched in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion, she is in no rush to im­peach. She will have to de­cide, on the ba­sis of Mueller’s re­port, less whether than when to open im­peach­ment hear­ings.

She could take months to do this to keep Trump off-bal­ance and un­der siege. The Democrats could eas­ily drag this into 2020 pri­mary sea­son, sow­ing doubt and divi­sion among Repub­li­cans, en­cour­ag­ing chal­lengers to Trump (Mitt Rom­ney, John Ka­sich) for the GOP nom­i­na­tion.

The Democrats in the House know that while they can in­dict the pres­i­dent with a ma­jor­ity vote on im­peach­ment, only the Se­nate can con­vict. It would take 20 Repub­li­cans to join 47 Democrats to reach the nec­es­sary two-thirds ma­jor­ity. If the Repub­li­cans fear they are in real dan­ger of los­ing the Se­nate in 2020 — a switch of four seats would do it — as well as the pres­i­dency, they will push out Trump to save them­selves.

It may be, though, that fac­ing im­peach­ment and the rise of Repub­li­can chal­lengers in the pri­maries, Trump will de­cide to quit. He might re­sign in ex­change for im­mu­nity from crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion after he leaves of­fice.

But even if Trudeau and Trump sur­vive 2019, all bets are off for 2020.

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