America is divided straight down the middle and it has been since 1783: North vs South; Democrat vs Republican; Black vs White. Many leftist Britons, and non-leftist Britons – as many as 77% – have unfavourable views of Trump, and so see this divide and choose the one we feel more at home in. The Democrats have never been a labour party in the same way many European left-wing Parties are, meaning it appeals to those who dislike socialism and those who favour it. Moreover, Democratic ‘values’ are influenced by such a broad range of ideology that it has members with similar views to the right of the Conservatives, and the centre of the Labour Party.
Jacob Rees-Mogg could find a brother in Dan Lipinski, a Democratic congressman, who is pro-life, anti-same-sex marriage and did not endorse Obama for re-election. Yet, one of the newest, Democratic members of the House of Representatives, the now Instagram famous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is a self-proclaimed democratic socialist who wants to see socialism in America “like we see in the U.K.” – not sure I would call a largely neo-liberal governing Party the champions of democratic socialism but, I guess, when you’re American, free healthcare is radical enough.
Therefore, Brits take up camp in the Democrats and see them as a Party that represents what many in this country want; a more economically liberal version of the Lib Dems – I know the ideologues reading this will disagree, but only 30% of Brits were ‘strong supporters’ of a Party in 2015, and, due to the current political disarray, I bet that number has gone up. Once you choose your side, and you make yourself comfortable, acknowledging the existence of the opposition becomes a chore. “They’re stupid, ignorant, racist!” are the usual claims about the Republican Party, ones I have made myself, but even though they may be ignorant – although, of course, not all are – they still have a vote.
And that vote is integral to American politics, it is this vote that elected Donald Trump and the vote that represents at least 26% of the population, but in 2016, it represented 45.6%. Now, for those who despise Trump and his radical narcissism as much as I do, it’s very easy to dismiss that 45.6% and pretend they don’t exist, or that they just got caught up in his rhetoric, or that they’re all rich white people who would actually benefit from Trump’s Presidency… But, in politics, dismissing those you disagree with helps nobody, in fact it probably benefitted Trump’s campaign as so many of the American people were disillusioned with their constant dismissal by the Establishment.
So, what is it? What part of Donald Trump and his ginger comb-over is it that appealed to so many citizens of the Land of the Free?
Well, we have to acknowledge the culture of America, a culture that, if it wasn’t wrapped in the English language, would feel just as foreign to us as that of Japan. Born out of revolution, in a fight to maintain the principles and identity of the American people, the USA has a nationalism so imbedded that, in comparison to the UK, makes Brits look like we would enjoy watching Buckingham burn (actually, I would quite enjoy that.)
One cannot become President without being patriotic but Trump cultivated his whole campaign on saving America and, as we all know, making it ‘great again’ (not that I can remember a time when it ever was great). Moreover, despite the foundations of America being built on immigration, this nationalism means that modern views towards border security are a key policy for much of the electorate. I must remind you that it was America who effectively cut themselves off from the world in the 1920s, under the guise of isolationism, as they believed they would be better off alone. Thus, you can see that the prospect of a towering wall cutting off any contact from your Southern neighbours could be appealing to Americans. The divides in the US are, as mentioned, entrenched and Trump focused all of his debt-ridden money towards these, creating a fearful atmosphere where immigrants not only had the purpose of taking American jobs but also taking American culture (I must add that the culture Trump targeted was white, American culture, one where nationalism is so established because the foundations of the US were made for white people. The ‘Land of the Free’ is often mocked due to its intense irony when noting America’s history of slavery, but for the white person, you could not find a country where you could be any more free.)
So, Trump created a campaign and policies that targeted the most pressing matters for the white American. But, even if he hadn’t, even if his policy had been the exact match to Hillary Clinton’s, just with a few more catchy mottos – “Make America LGBT-friendly for the first time!” – there is all likelihood that he still would have grabbed the hearts of Texas, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and 26 other States.
America has been run, effectively since the dawn of its existence, by Presidents who represented the political Establishment, the elite, the people who exist only as particles on a TV screen, not as flesh and blood. Even Ronald Reagan, often hailed as an example of a President not born into politics, was a Governor for 8 years and an active union leader. Now, the Establishment, in these terms, does not always have to be criticised as it created the convention that the President should be educated and experienced in the politics of America – just like one would expect that your surgeon has at least held a scalpel a few times. But being experienced is not all a President should be. Perhaps the key purpose of the Presidency has been forgotten; to be representative of the American people.
Let’s get back to these divides because to be representative of the American people, you must choose which people you want to represent. Trump chose his targets; the disenfranchised, the ignored, the white majority who will soon lose that status as ethnic minorities increase in population across America. But Hillary Clinton was much less precise, she aimed for the female vote, but race was a more integral factor to the 2016 election than gender. She tried to gain the leftist vote but Bernie Sanders’ loss meant many hard-left voters were disinterested in Clinton’s campaign. And independents, those sat on the ideological fence, could barely hear Clinton over Trump’s yells of “You’re wrong!” in every debate. But, most importantly, no matter who Clinton tried to appeal to, she was the face of the Establishment, a lady whose career had been spent in the White House, and the people wanted more.
No matter what you say about Trump, no matter how much you despise every policy he tries to pass, every tweet he posts and every word he speaks, Trump has gained the loyalty and support of a group of Americans that Clinton could never have won. He represents the antithesis of every previous American President and thus is the epitome of what a large group of Americans want in their President. Once he has left opponents will, as always, try to forget his Presidency and dismiss it as disillusion, but if we do not learn from Trump that people are no longer satisfied with the political elites holding all the power, we may have someone even worse sat in the Oval Office.
Written by Frankie Arren