Magazine article The Spectator

Leading Article: America's Retreat

Magazine article The Spectator

Leading Article: America's Retreat

Article excerpt

Donald Trump predicted that his election would be 'Brexit times ten' -- which, as far as the stockmarket reaction was concerned, had some merit. The dollar plunged, and the Dow Jones along with it. Once again, the pollsters have been confounded. Once again, political analysts have been left asking whether they know their country at all. And once again we can see the same group of voters at the forefront: the older, poorer ones who are concerned about demographic change and angry about being ignored for too long. In Britain, and now in America, they are the new revolutionary class.

This is where the analogies with Brexit end. Vote Leave, the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, was led by people who were liberal, globally minded and optimistic. There certainly was anger at a failed status quo among many of those who voted for Brexit, but the prospectus put in front of people was about a global Britain rather than a Little England. It was an argument about encouraging more trade, lowering tariffs, restoring sovereignty, reducing net immigration -- all ideas which voters proved very capable of understanding.

Donald Trump has no similar agenda. He offers emotion, but not much beyond that. He dislikes trade, and global capitalism in general. His immigration policy has amounted to a bizarre threat to ban Muslims from entering the country and build a wall between the United States and Mexico. At any other time, these policies would have disqualified him from the office -- but this year Americans were not looking for solutions. Trumpism was about stopping Hillary Clinton from becoming president and sticking two fingers up to the machine. And beyond that, it is not about very much.

It's not that Americans look up to Trump. Two thirds of them say that he lacks the temperament and character to be president, but they elected him anyway. He is there to dismantle rather than oil the Washington machine: an unpleasant man sent to upset, rather than engage, people in the seat of American government. In Britain, the vote for Brexit represented politicians giving the public a chance to fix the system, if that is what they felt needed to be done. It was followed by Theresa May becoming Prime Minister and enjoying levels of popularity that neither Mr Trump nor Mrs Clinton could dream of. We have a system that works: hence Brexit. America's politics is broken: hence Trump.

His election is not a triumph for American conservatism. Instead, the Republican party has fallen to a hostile takeover from a man who has a mercantilist view about commerce and talks about starting trade wars with China. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.