John Ibbitson suggests a range of outcomes and scenarios that Prime Minister Trudeau would need to consider should Donald Trump prematurely proclaim victory or contest the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election next month.

Getting Started

Introduction to the article (perhaps by having everyone read it)

This lesson is designed for secondary level students, to be applicable to both online and classroom learning situations. Whether in one-on-one settings, in small groups or cohorts, or via a learning partner online, this lesson involves reading, discussion, and a written report.

Subject Area(s) covered

Social studies, American studies, current events, media literacy

New Terms to explain

Doomsday scenario, overarching, authoritarian, incendiary

Materials Needed

Access to the article and the Internet

Study and Discussion Activity

Key things students can learn from this lesson

  1. Reasons for the tensions among U.S. voters as they go to the polls next month;
  2. Several potential problematic outcomes of the U.S. election on or shortly after the election and possible ways for Canada to respond;
  3. How and why Donald Trump is predicting the election will be “rigged.”
  4. Practise critiquing an opinion columnist.

Action (here’s how we’ll do it)

Read the article by Mr. Ibbitson.

Working in pairs, or as a group, answer the questions following each of the excerpts from the article you have just read. Use the Internet as needed for more information. Consider this link for current polling information:

Start by watching video highlights (approx. 5 minutes) of the first Trump-Biden debate: (or your choice of links). Note the discussion around mail-in ballots and the election outcome in the second half.

 “Election observers expect enthusiastic Trump supporters, who are less concerned by COVID-19 and highly motivated to vote, will cast their ballots in person, with Democrats more inclined to mail in their ballots. For that reason, the Trump team may seek court injunctions to freeze the counting of the ballots, claiming officials followed improper procedures.”

  • Does Mr. Ibbitson offer evidence for his opinions? If not, this is acceptable practice in an opinion piece, since we assume he could point to evidence if asked. That said, what is your opinion? Do you think Trump supporters are more likely to vote in person than Biden supporters? Why or why not? Can you provide evidence for your claim, if required?

“The Doomsday Scenario, let’s call it, emerged this week after Mr. Trump’s incendiary debate performance, in which he refused to promise he would accept the result of the Nov. 3 election because ‘it’s a rigged election,’ tainted by what he claimed, without foundation, are corrupted mail-in ballots. ‘This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen,’ he accused.”

  • What is implied by Doomsday Scenario? How does this phrase affect the way you read the article, if at all?
  • Why is it significant that Mr. Trump would not promise to accept the results of the election? Has this ever happened before?
  • Check out the current presidential polls at the CBC link, above. Given the numbers, why might it be in Mr. Trump’s interests to cast doubt on the outcome of the election?

“…then Trump tells Trudeau: If you don’t recognize me, I will whack you, I will penalize you, I will close the border to whatever trade still goes on, or something like that.”

  • Given Mr. Trump’s dealings with Canada over the past three years (tariffs, USMCA, etc), how credible are these possibilities?

“Russian President Vladimir Putin…might pick up the phone Nov. 4 to congratulate Mr. Trump… Other authoritarian leaders – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte – could join him.”

  • Note the ellipses (…) above, added by the author of this lesson. These indicate words or passages have been deleted from this quotation, which, if used correctly, should not substantially change the meaning of the original text. Do you think these ellipses are misleading, or used properly?
  • Given what you know about Mr. Trump’s first three years in office, why might authoritarian dictators be the first to accept results in Mr. Trump’s favour?

“Mr. Trudeau would not want to act without first consulting…Britain, Australia and New Zealand, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, members of NATO, and Pacific allies Japan and South Korea. The goal would be to establish a common approach to recognizing the winner.”

  • What do the countries named have in common? How are they different from those in the previous excerpt? Why might a common approach be important?

“More likely is that, on Nov. 3, or a few days or at worst a few weeks after it, either Mr. Biden will be the clear winner and begin the process of restoring America’s place in the world, or Mr. Trump will be the clear winner, and we will drag ourselves through four more years.”

  • Given what you know, do you believe this outcome is more likely? What is implied about Mr. Trump’s tenure by the phrase, “restoring America’s place in the world?” Do you believe this is a likely outcome? Why or why not?

Consolidation of Learning

  • When they’ve finished their assignment, students will discuss it with their teacher before submitting it for evaluation.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria

Students can:

  • Describe tensions around the possible outcomes of the looming U.S. presidential election;
  • Suggest a rationale for Mr. Trump’s attempts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election;
  • Explain in simple terms why Canada’s response to a contested election is complex, as well as some of Mr. Trudeau’s options;

Confirming Activities

  • Students follow the U.S. election, noting issues related to electoral fraud or contested outcomes.

Helpful Internet Searches

Activities to do together

  • Watch the next Presidential debate, if it takes place.
  • Watch the election on November 3rd.