British and American political life have long been intertwined, with the ‘special relationship’ dominating the global political sphere like few other international relationships ever have. The 1980s were dominated by the Reagan-Thatcher love affair; whilst the Churchill-Roosevelt relationship saw the former bare all after a bath; proving to the American president that ‘Britain has nothing to hide from the United States’.
However, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 saw a shift in the mood. The once held deep respect by the British people towards the leader of the free world was replaced by widespread protests, petitions and Trump baby blimps being flown through Westminster at the approval of London’s mayor.
Much of this is with good reason, the undeniably sexist and racist remarks made by Trump on the 2016 campaign trail, only heightened since taking office, have left more than just a bad taste in the mouths of the British people.
This continued lack of major support for Donald Trump in Britain is because many Brits have the President wrong according to Ryan Fournier, co-chairman of Students for Trump.
‘In the UK, I believe there is a vast misunderstanding of who the President is and what he represents, presented by the American partisan media, and unintentionally promulgated by the British Mainstream Media. The UK press and the American press are fundamentally different, due to the notion that the American press is hyper-partisan. Many Americans have become accustomed to this view, so they can see through the overt bias. Whereas many in the UK fundamentally trust some, if not all, outlets. The partisan leanings are not obvious, nor extreme.’
For Ryan, it is not the President’s policies that is the main draw, but what he represents; stating that:
‘What initially drew me towards the President was not necessarily his policy proposal, rather the fact that he was not a typical politician. For years, he successfully ran a business, employed hundreds of people, and made countless lives better… the thought of bringing that expertise to the office is obviously appealing. Once in office, these initial thoughts were proven to be true because the economic progress spurned on by this President is not one that can be overlooked.’
It is perhaps this, that many Trump supporters feel is most important about the man in a country tired of the polished mainstream politicians, who have offered so little to vast swathes of the American population. Many were crying out for a non-politician to shake up the game.
One of the major criticisms of Trump in the United Kingdom is his often hateful speech – referring to asylum seekers and migrants as ‘animals’ and ‘dogs’ on many occasions – but for many American’s it is not about that.
‘First, the United States Supreme Court has unanimously reaffirmed that there is no “hate speech” exception to free speech in Matal v. Tam. Justice Samuel Alito when delivering his opinion on the case said, “The idea that government may restrict speech expressing ideas that offend… strikes at the heart of the first Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate’.” There is a difference between speech that is subjectively deemed “hateful”, and speech that objectively incites violence (which there are already laws in place to deal with). We must call out and stand against bigotry every point we see it, but the government should only take action against speech that meets the legal criteria for direct incitement.’
Much of the hostility towards Trump and those who support him – often for varied reasons – is not just felt in Britain, but on the college campuses of the United States;
‘Many young supporters of the President are cautious when sharing their support of the President. It isn’t a confidence issue, it’s more of a fear of unjust retaliation. Here recently in the US, a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin were threatened with doxxing immediately upon arrival on campus. They were told if they joined young conservative groups like Turning Point USA, that they would have private, personal information released, which is patently unacceptable. No one, whether on the Left or Right, should ever be threatened for their views. Yet on college campuses, unfortunately, it’s become commonplace.’
On the United Kingdom’s new prime minister Boris Johnson, or as the American president referred to him, ‘Britain Trump’, Ryan said;
‘I believe that Prime Minister Johnson will do a phenomenal job leading Britain and leading Britain out of the European Union. For far too long, England has been at the end of the stick in terms of their “union” with Europe. The promises Boris makes are promises he will succeed on – just like our President Trump has. Adding more police to the force and stopping crime are two of his biggest campaign promises, next to confirming Brexit, and I believe that he will achieve them. President Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are similar in many ways – mainly in wanting to make their country great again. The relationship between the two will strengthen as time goes on and so will our countries’ relationships.
With the election looming in 2020, and the contest hotting up on the Democratic side, the heat is being increasingly ratcheted up on Donald Trump. The recent climate change town hall hosted by CNN saw almost all of the 10 candidates promise to overturn Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accords and heavily attacked Trump’s policies towards the climate – most notably his view that climate change is a hoax. On Trump’s chances on 2020 Ryan said:
‘Of the Democratic field, I believe the best strategy is to not under-estimate anyone. The fastest way to lose an election is to get overly confident, and give your base the impression they can just stay at home. Trump supporters need to get out and vote, and make sure to encourage all their fellow Trump Supporters to get out and vote as well.’
But most importantly for Ryan, in 2020, ‘we will re-elect President Trump for 4 more years of American progress. He has proven to the American people that when he makes a promise, he will keep it.’
Although it is unlikely that perceptions are going to change in the United Kingdom about America’s 45th president, it is important to understand the broader appeal that Trump has amongst many voters, particularly young American’s, who are often seen as a universally Democrat demographic.
Whilst his rhetoric remains problematic for many, the appeal to many Americans is what he represents; a non-politician, businessman who will shake up the establishment and pave the way for a new order in American politics.