Monday, 3 June 2019

Trump and the Tory Imaginary

If you go over to Conservative Home and click on any the thread dealing with Donald Trump's state visit to the UK, you will find the odd sycophant greeting "Mr President" and welcoming "FLOTUS" to the country. Please, pass me the sick bag. Out there in the country, matters are slightly different. While polling suggests a majority support his jolly to these fair shores, that doesn't mean he's popular. Far from it. Only 21% take a favourable view of the world's most powerful man, with two-thirds decidedly against him. Even when UKIP supporters were asked, prior to their implosion, Trump could only muster the backing of just over half. It's just as well he isn't facing election here.

Not that this has stopped him from sticking his oar in, endorsing Boris Johnson and calling him a "friend", and suggesting Nigel Farage be on the Brexit negotiating team. Interventions that, again, make sure these two malevolences get even more coverage. But is it helpful? While Tories, defined here as members and (semi-) regular voters, are quite prepared to support pretty shitty things, and sometimes do so with alacrity, majority support for Trump among them is hard to find. But why? Why does the US president, in many ways their ideological soul brother, disturb the Tory imaginary and make some of them uneasy?

Well, he's brash, crude, and thick as spuds. His inarticulate speeches, the stream-of-consciousness tweeting, the boasts of grabbing women "by the pussy" is distasteful for a ruling party that prefers its prejudice to be polite, or hidden behind "fairness", or the dull technocracy of balancing the budget. What Trump's antics threaten is the aura of rule, or the mystique of the masters. Our betters are our betters because they're supposed to be better, after all. When you see Trump rambling his way through the most infantile oratory, or calling mayors of world cities "losers", it's not the discourtesy that's so troubling, but the puncturing of ruling class myth. When someone as obviously lacking as Trump is a billionaire and has ascended the summit of US politics, it simultaneously demonstrates there is something rotten about our politics and economics, and how the whole thing is rigged. Who you are and who you know always counts for more than talent. Far from demonstrating anyone can be a billionaire or a president, Trump's very existence shows that is not and can never be the case.

Following on, he personifies everything that is bad about America in the Conservative imagination. From dear old Winston onward (bust now rightly restored to the Oval Office), the British ruling class have prioritised hugging close to the US almost above all other considerations. Notable exceptions were the Suez Crisis (where Eisenhower told the Brits in no uncertain terms who the boss now was), Harold Wilson's refusal to enlist the UK in the Vietnam quagmire, and Syrian intervention where Parliament voted down Dave and Obama's schemes. Trump is overweening, doesn't know his own strength, and is in every danger of blundering about the world unless he listens to wiser counsel. Which, of course, is what Blighty offers with its distinguished history of colonial warfare and holding down a global empire for a couple of centuries. Trump inspires anxiety because no matter how much he pays lip service to the special relationship, he's not really that interested. And this lack of interest threatens the UK's position in the international pecking order as favoured lapdog. With our departure from the EU supposedly imminent, transatlantic uncertainty is the last thing we need.

And yes, Brexit. For the right, we know it is a repository of swash-buckling fantasy set up to make Tory politicians look good as they scuttle about the earth in search of trade deals here, there, and everywhere. An independent trading nation free to do as it please was, is still, the promise of Brexit - small wonder Nigel Farage continues to run with it. But the very being of Trump punctures the dream. What use "freedom" if Trump gives every indication of striking a post-Brexit deal with the UK from a position of American strength and British weakness, nay desperation as the dislocation of a hard or no deal Brexit impresses itself? The UK will be swapping one set of burdens - straight bananas, European court rulings - for another set of disadvantages: compulsory chlorinated chicken, lower food standards, and the opening up of the NHS to US insurance business. It's almost as if Trump is subliminally suggesting to a section of Tory opinion that, perhaps, their Brexit nonsense is in the process of fatally weakening the UK and it is they who will reap the political whirlwind. Is it any surprise then that if Michael Gove becomes the next Tory leader and Prime Minister, he wants to delay Brexit to late 2020 where, with any luck, he'll be dealing with a different US president?

The figure of Trump is met with anxiety in right wing establishment circles because he is a threat. His very existence makes a mockery of the way the ruling class legitimates itself. His capricious character not only jeopardises Britain's position in the world, but also rubs its nose in its second power rank. And last of all, Brexit exposes the country to a Trumpian smash and grab, which he has openly and cheerfully talked about. And that opens the door to one Jeremy Corbyn. With the Tories imploding and facing the possibility of extinction, they are in no shape to meet and check a Labour Party powered by anti-Trump sentiment ... nor whatever might come after.

11 comments:

Dipper said...

prime nonsense. We salute the position not the person. He is here representing the American people and to commemorate thousands of young American men who fought and gave their lives to liberate Europe from Fascism. To protest against him on a state visit is to insult the American people and the descendants of the American military. Sickening.

Phil said...

Abject sycophancy. You can't pay for this stuff.

chris e said...

That Dipper's view is a minority one can be seen in that the protest has gathered rather more people than the motorcade route.

And the state visit is strictly separate from the D-day commemorations, the former was tacked on to the occasion of the latter.

Dipper said...

Trump is not our problem. He is America's choice. We should respect their decision even though we don't like him.

Just a reminder that China's record on rights is far worse than Americas, and that possibly as many as 3 million muslims are being held in 're-education camps'. So where was your inflatable of Xi-Jinping in a nappy when he visited? Where were all your demonstrations then?

dermot said...

Actually Phil, I think you CAN pay for it. :D

Dipper's probably doing quite nicely out of bu$ine$$ a$ u$ual.

Peter Hine said...

Oh, do me a favor, Biffer!
The Trump crime family isn't representing 'the American people.' He is representing the 1%, including billionaires and a rabid gang of racists, thugs, homophobes and Xenophobes

It's just a disappointment that he is not being kept in the Tower of London. And as to 'commemorate thousands of young American men who fought,' well I'm sure his bone spurs won't stop him walking anywhere like it did when he wealth dodged the Vietnam draft.

And now HE wants to take away your NHS!

Demonstrations against Trump and his motley crew of criminals are not an insult to US Americans but an inspiration to get rid of him.


Anonymous said...

No, I don't think Dipper is being paid. I know people who actually believe that stuff. Frankly, I prefer the people who believe that the world is ruled by reptilian space aliens (one might cite Trump's cabinet as proof of that).

TowerBridge said...


I find this post difficult to accept and too evidence free for my liking. We should be very cautious to ascribe a rationality to those who do not see our point of view that fits with how we think they are.

What I mean by that is that I think it's too easy to say people don't like Trump because he exemplifies a system that they are embarrassed about; that in fact he flies in the face of what ruling class should be (but in fact actually is). It's not that I think this point of view is necessarily wrong, it's just that there are many other factors at play, such as the role of the media in its disdain for him and the fact that maybe people in Britain do expect people to have some manners, and you know, many hold xenophobic view so assume that British is the only type of toff worthy of the position. Those are just two examples of an exhaustive list, but I hope you see my point, in that you can't rule these out.

Dipper said...

what so he wasn't actually elected?

I know Clinton won the popular vote, but according to the rules of the election, which were not a secret, he won the college and hence he is the elected president.

And he doesn't want to take the NHS. If he wanted to do anything it would be to dismantle the NHS and replace it with private healthcare, but not a single person in the UK is suggesting abolishing the principle of healthcare being free at the point of use. Not one.

I assume no-one on here as ever had a scan from a machine made by one of those private manufacturers, or taken tables from private pharma companies.

Amazing isn't it how the NHS, run on communist lines, is permanently short of money and having problems with retaining staff. Meanwhile all those private companies keep producing drugs and equipment. No running out of cash there.

And no takers on China's human rights record I see.

chris e said...

" a single person in the UK is suggesting abolishing the principle of healthcare being free at the point of use. Not one."

Even on the face of it this is bollocks, as Farage has suggested just that [as have the IEA]

"Amazing isn't it how the NHS, run on communist lines, is permanently short of money and having problems with retaining staff. Meanwhile all those private companies keep producing drugs and equipment. No running out of cash there."

Sure, it's perfectly possible to reduce the money going to the NHS to the point where its short of money, and a large number of those drugs and equipment get produced with state subsidies.

Anonymous said...

The problem with celebrating the unpopularity of Trump is that people might be motivated by self interest, in that they might think he wants to put America first but what about us! So it might be nationalistic. I mean even if he was unpopular here it hasn’t stopped the Tories winning electuon after election after election.

So while we dislike ‘their’ bastards ‘we’ are more than happy to elect ‘our’ own.

On Dippers point, I would say over half the American people would say Trump does not represent them, whether he is president or not, so Dipper insults half the American people and erm somehow that translates into the American military (who probably lean toward Republican), so not sure if we should insult the American people and in turn this will show respect to the graves of the American veterans and their descendants. Is supporting the descendants of the American military forever in perpetuity the same as blaming all Jews for the death of Christ?