Donald Trump and English Patriotism:
An Unexpected Wrinkle
by Sean Gabb
(14th November 2016)
The election last week of Donald Trump took nearly everyone by surprise. For some of us, it was a moment of joy, for others a terrible shock. I was in the first category. The British Government was in the second. From Theresa May downward, the Ministers had spent a year heaping scorn on Mr Trump. The scale and nature of their insults will not be quickly forgotten. Their earliest punishment appears to be that they have been told to approach Mr Trump only through Nigel Farage. I have no doubt there will be other humiliations.
Part of me is delighted. I like Donald Trump. I like Nigel Farage. Even if she is better than David Cameron, I remain suspicious of and hostile to Mrs May. Let her and her ministers eat dirt for a few weeks, and then come to a more reasonable view of British interests. All this does, however, leave part of me uncomfortable. This article, I must warn you, will be more than usually solipsistic. On the other hand, I have always tried to be intellectually honest, and I feel obliged at least to describe my present difficulty.
During the twenty years or so till last Tuesday, I held a set of opinions that – I always grant – may have been wrong, but that were internally consistent. They went something like this:
The fundamental interests of every country are the same. These are to give as much freedom and security to their citizens as local circumstances will allow, while living at peace with all other countries. What disturbs this view of the world is that interest and ability do not always coincide. The United States has been able to dominate the world, and it has. Britain is no longer able to do this, but has been able to act above its inherent power through becoming a satellite of the United States. I found both these facts irritating before 1989. After then, America became the home of political correctness and neoconservatism. For me, therefore, America became The Great Satan. Any British Government committed to our fundamental interests should begin by breaking off relations with the United States. In the meantime, I was even willing to see membership of the European Union as a useful counterweight to American power.
I do not know what a Trump Presidency will be really like. But it is possible that the opinions I have just summarised are suddenly obsolete. It is possible that, within a few weeks, America will cease being The Great Satan, and become the seat of the God-Emperor-Daddy. I already find myself in the same position as leftists did towards France in 1789, or towards Russia in 1917. It may, then, be that you can strip out all the Powellite rhetoric, and I shall be revealed as nothing more than a dissident Anglospherist. My only difference with the people I have been denouncing for a generation is nothing more than that I want a different American Empire.
There is some truth in this. The government of my own country is now at the head of the neoconservative interest. I shall certainly be relieved if stiff orders come out of Washington, and Theresa May and Boris Johnson go scuttling off to Moscow to patch up their differences with Mr Putin. But, if the facts are changed, my principles are not.
No hard reset button was pressed last week in America. The country will not revert to what it was supposed to become in the 1780s. America will remain the most powerful country in the world, with interests on every continent. It may conceive and pursue these in a more rational manner. But its interests are unlikely to become perfectly aligned with those of my own country. For this reason, our interests depend, in the long term, on close relations with France and Germany, and an adequate relationship with Russia. If we can add to this friendly relations with America, that will be a bonus.
I turn to the matter of what Mr Trump is already doing to Mrs May. For a long time, the British Establishment has been a wholly-owned franchise of the military-industrial complex in America, taken in its widest sense. British Governments are neoconservative because that is what Washington wanted. They are politically correct for the same reason. If American pressure is not to be removed, but merely changed in a better direction, I shall be grateful for that. I shall be grateful in the short term. In the longer term, I still want full independence. I will put up with a more sensible master when his bailiffs are told to go easy on the whip. The final ambition remains no master at all.
I turn now to how I view the “Anglosphere.” There is no doubt that England and America are rather in the position of Siamese twins. We share a language. We share a culture. Speaking for myself, I have as many American friends as English. When I go abroad, and am among Americans, we always find ourselves part of a single group, almost forgetting differences of passport, and sharing jokes about the foreigners we are among. Always taking account of our different weight, what was done to the world after 1989 was a joint British-American enterprise. The intellectual resistance to this has been no less a joint British-American enterprise – again taking account of our different weights. Libertarians and conservatives in our two countries have not merely worked together over the past few decades – we have belonged to the same movement, and we have worked against the same enemy, though in two different locations. My American friends rejoiced when the British Establishment got a bloody nose last June. We now rejoice that Mr Trump is to be the next President. Our struggle has been, and is, the same. Our victories are their victories. Their victories are ours.
I am not sure if I have made myself as clear as I want to be. Perhaps I need to think more about the events of this year before I can become as self-assured again as I have been for the past third of a century. It remains, however, that I am delighted that the uncertainty I describe has become necessary. All those American leftists last week, their faces like burst balloons, were an early Christmas present. The strained faces of Theresa May and her ministers are of exactly the same kind.
I look forward to Mrs May’s first trip to Washington next year, and I shall have a good laugh when she prostrates herself in the appropriate manner before the God-Emperor-Daddy. It will be a victory for me and everyone else in the world who wants the best for England and America in particular, and for a suffering humanity in general.