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Even as Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball announces he’s quitting, it seems nothing gets people in this province more riled up than politics south of the border.
“There’s nothing like American politics. I’m obsessed with it,” Kenny Hanlon of St. John’s told The Telegram.
“I can’t help but to look and see what (United States President Donald) Trump is up to. My girlfriend makes fun of me because that’s all I watch (on TV).”
Hanlon’s not alone. It seems the mere mention of Trump in conversation or on social media can spur emotional responses and strong opinions. Many wonder how the outlandish, Twitter-loving, wall-building, near-impeached multimillionaire businessman is fit enough to run a reality show let alone the world’s most powerful nation.
“Everyone knows he’s a crazy lunatic,” Hanlon said.
“But we all watch because I think it’s the fact that he’s such a liar and gets away with so much. I mean, the man should be in jail. So many people went to jail because of him, but he walks away unscathed.”
Love him or hate him, people just can’t turn away.
“I think many of us are afraid the far-right sentiment will spread to us,” Bob Symonds of Conception Bay South said. “I think we hate him and want to see him fall.”
Symonds keeps up on Trump, but he’s certainly not a fan.
“I keep hoping he falls into a wood chipper,” he said jokingly.
Symonds’ distaste of Trump is so strong, he said he doubts he will ever go to the U.S. again.
“For 50 years, I’ve been hearing about the greatest constitution and the three equal branches of government, but this idiot pissed on all of that. Their country will never be the same.”
Donna Bonnell of St. John’s is still shocked Trump was elected president, given his reputation with women and after he made fun of a disabled journalist.
“How did any female in the United States vote him in?” she said. “Still puzzles me, but I’m not convinced it won’t happen again.
“I think the United States deserves better.”
Jamie Pretty of Blaketown has a different view of Trump. He believes the American president has done great things for his country.
“What he might say from time to time makes him look bad, but you know what? None of us are perfect,” he said.
“I’d vote for him if I could. … I don’t base my opinion on what I read or hear. I base it on action.”
Pretty credits Trump with having strengthened the U.S. economy, with the country having the lowest unemployment rate (to 3.6 per cent) it’s seen in decades.
“Numbers never lie,” Pretty said. “As far as I can see, he’s looking after the middle class, the backbone of any country.”
Scott Matthews, associate professor of political science at Memorial University, where he specializes in American politics, said while U.S. presidents generally are seen as global celebrities, Trump stands out.
“He really is a very unusual figure as a U.S. president in all the obvious ways. The way he comports himself is very remarkable,” Matthews said. “He’s violating all the expectations of how a president is supposed to behave and sound.”
Matthews said Trump represents something quite distinctive in American politics, with a resistance to elite politics that is perceived as anti-establishment and a reflection of a global concern regarding immigration.
Another significant point about Trump, he said, is the way he’s threatening to change American democracy in ways that are concerning. He noted how Trump recently used his presidential pardon power to grant clemency to 11 individuals, inserting himself into justice matters.
“This goes to the core of a very important democratic principle, which is the rule of law,” Matthews said. “Everyone is subject to the law on equal terms, and when the president intervenes in a way that seems to be rewarding or favouring people … that offends the principle of the rule of law very directly.
“That’s an example of the really extraordinary behaviour that’s unprecedented in modern democracy.”
Matthews pointed out that the American media’s obsession with Trump has played a big role in spurring emotional engagement. He added that seeing a president often behave so irrationally and stray from political norms concerns many people in this province.
“(Trump) really is doing some shocking things,” said Matthews, who added that he offends Canadians, who value democratic principles.
“We have good reason to be (concerned), given our economic relationship and our many shared cultural elements. Many Canadians are fearful of consequences of having someone like Trump in the White House and it’s not an unreasonable position to have. … He makes things uncertain for us.”
Matthews said while Canadian politics may not seem as entertaining or as sexy as American politics, there are issues in this country worth being interested in, such as the protests over the natural gas pipeline in British Columbia.
“It’s hard to look to away (from U.S. politics),” Matthews acknowledged, “but I think sometimes we should.”