File | Donald Trump reconquering the White House (3 articles)

Each president of the United States wishes to leave his mark on history with a law, a decision, a measure, a pact adopted under his administration. As he tries to win back the White House, what legacy has Donald Trump left in the wake of his first term? Overview by themes.

The nation


Donald Trump supporters on their way to the Capitol on January 6, 2021

Unlike all his predecessors in the White House, Donald Trump has never strived to unify the nation. This is what Jason Opal, professor in the department of history and classical studies at McGill University, holds.

“Mr. Trump might be remembered as the person who ended the constitutional order,” says the researcher, an American by birth. Or even like a populist who has appropriated the Republican Party. »

Why seek to unify the nation? Because, contrary to the received idea that a nationalist people are patriotic, “American nationalism is complex and fragile,” continues Mr. Opal.

“The United States is a nation that is very diverse and uncomfortable with the idea of ​​community,” he said. Unifying the nation is therefore a challenge for all presidents. Even (Richard) Nixon, even (George) Bush Jr. tried to talk about bipartisanship, fellow citizenship, etc. »

Dominique Leydet, professor of philosophy at UQAM, goes in the same direction. “Donald Trump says things in public that would have killed anyone’s career 10 years ago. He has no respect for the institutions of which he should in principle be the first guarantor,” says this researcher who is interested in political philosophy.

The constitutional order to which Mr. Opal refers obviously refers to the events of January 6, 2021 at the Capitol and the attempts made by the former president’s entourage to modify the result of the vote, particularly in Georgia. This is what Valérie Beaudoin, associate researcher at the Raoul-Dandurand Chair in strategic and diplomatic studies, remembers. “Donald Trump’s legacy is colored by the attempt to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election,” she said.

Even if they appeared after the end of his mandate, Trump’s legal troubles will also have weight in his record, adds Mme Beaudoin. “He will go down in the history books as the first ex-president criminally accused,” she said. Not in one, but in four trials! »

Canada–United States relations


Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau during the G7 summit in La Malbaie on June 8, 2018

In Ottawa, the Trudeau government openly says it is preparing for a return of Donald Trump to the White House. And for good reason ! Canada – like Mexico – was forced to renegotiate the free trade agreement (NAFTA) under the first Trump administration.

“The new version of NAFTA negotiated under Trump is very different from the previous version because it provides for an automatic renegotiation mechanism,” indicates Louis Bélanger, full professor of political science at Laval University. The new agreement has a lifespan of only 16 years if it is not renewed. And it can be renewed every six years. » In other words, new negotiations could open during a second Trump term.

But Mr. Bélanger points out that for years, the United States has been less keen on free trade and that Canada has also had to deal with Democratic administrations.

“In the area of ​​trade, contrary to what one might think, there is a certain form of continuity between Trump’s trade policy and that of (Barack) Obama, and certainly that of (Joe) Biden subsequently , he said. This may come as a surprise, but it is something that Canada has had to face quite harshly. »

The difference is in the way. In Donald Trump’s first term, it was time for threats of coercion and sanctions. The president raised his voice.

“Trump is abrasive, but Democrats are also protectionist towards Canada. And the method is different, says Victor Bardou-Bourgeois, from the Raoul-Dandurand Chair. Trump defends protectionism with tariffs, while Joe Biden does so by subsidizing certain American industries and products. »

International relations


Donald Trump at the NATO summit on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England

Speaking of protectionism, the Trump administration of 2017-2021 made it its credo not only with Canada, but also with all of its partners.

“In foreign policy, Donald Trump has brought back old ideas popular a few decades ago or even further back, isolationism and economic protectionism,” continues Mr. Bardou-Bourgeois.

The latter takes us back to the founding of the country and the foreign policy principles enunciated under the presidency of James Monroe (1817-1825), better known as the Monroe Doctrine, namely that the United States does not interfere in this that is happening in Europe and that Europeans do not stick their noses into “the Americas”, the area of ​​influence of the United States.

This isolationism was undermined with the United States’ entry into the war during the First World War, but even more so in the context of the Second World War and the Cold War.

“With the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, isolationism began to gain ground within the Republican Party,” notes Victor Bardou-Bourgeois.

Mr. Trump’s isolationism is also reflected in his harsh migration policies.

And on a personal level?


Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally in Rome, Georgia, March 9

Does Donald Trump value his legacy? Absolutely, says Bill Minutaglio, former professor at the University of Texas and author of a biography of George W. Bush. But it is a legacy focused on his way of doing things.

“Mr. Trump is very keen on his legacy,” said this expert. For a good part of his life, he wanted to invent his legacy. He cares, but he cares just as much about the Trump name, a trademark he puts on his properties like Trump Tower. Anything that takes him away from the opportunity to put his name forward, like lawsuits, hurts him. »


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