Nearly a year ago, I blogged on Trump and Fury, suggesting that in an odd way, we should welcome the public outing of their views as it would give us a platform from which to consider them and robustly rebut them when appropriate. Whilst Tyson Fury has more or less disappeared from the public view, Donald Trump has been elected as president of the USA.
Well, I wasn’t expecting that.
Rather predictably, and like lemmings joyfully rushing towards the precipice, the liberal world has piled in to excoriate Trump and every aspect of his character, lifestyle, presidency, and even his hair, denouncing him as a bigot. While it’s fairly justifiable, there’s a problem with this. Trump, as his dismissal of attorney general Sally Yates shows, is pretty intolerant of people who disagree with him (dictionary definition of bigotry right there): the issue is that in so enthusiastically maligning him, we may be guilty of the same intolerance too. Fellow bigots, we welcome you! Meet Donald, he’s been here a while.
There’s an interesting moot point here… to what extent is one able to be intolerant of the US pres, or is he just enforced on us, toupe and all? One for the anoraks out there: knock yourselves out.
What I’m most interested in is how people have responded in the UK. And there are a few things at play here: the exercise of statesmanship and influence, overriding pragmatism and proportionality.
There has been a huge amount of criticism of the UK Prime Minister for visiting The Donald so early, and extending the offer of a state visit, as though she is tarnished simply by association with the notorious THE. 1.5m people have signed a petition suggesting Trump should be denied a state visit as he would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen for a variety of reasons. I’m sure a similar amount of people would like the UK to back away from the US until Trump recants his vile statements, publicly scourges himself, and undertakes a walk of atonement, Game of Thrones style, down Times Square.
Well, they’re all highly principled and fairly stupid bigots. Perhaps more morally principled in the way the west would understand it, but bigoted nonetheless for their intolerance of Trump and his backers.
Just to make it abundantly clear… I’m not a fan of Trump. I wouldn’t have voted for him, and think he’s said a lot of stupid stuff simply to get into power. Now he’s in power, the game has changed.
So, the exercise of quiet influence and statesmanship. Theresa May has quietly raised her concerns whilst talking trade and securing Trump’s commitment to NATO. Boris has had to choke back his comment about not fancying wandering around New York due to the real risk of meeting Donald Trump. Why? Because they’re a major world power who we need to make sure are committed to NATO, and who we’d rather like to sign a trade deal with.
That’s pretty much where it should end. Genuinely, when we all simmer down, would we prefer to have let Trump run around unrestrained, or engaged with him? No, quiet pragmatism needs to be applied in favour of virtue-signalling moral outrage.
Trump will be gone in a handful of years. Whichever nutter, crook or otherwise sits in the White House has to be met, managed and liaised with in a fairly professional manner. In this particular instance, unlike Clinton, they’re offering us a trade deal. If May walked away from a potential trade deal with the US in favour of sitting on the sidelines lobbing moral rocks, she’d be rightly crucified for passing up the opportunity to strengthen the prosperity of the country and increase the welfare and opportunities of the poorest.
Those protesting against Trump here, by and large, can afford to do so. They’re not entitled to vote in America, and I must confess to being slightly bemused as to why they’re bothering. Fundamentally the US decided to elect Trump, not us, and now we’ve got to make the best of it for our country and the world.
I also think we’re getting too hung up on Trump. And this is the proportionality point. I haven’t noticed anyone protesting against Viktor Orban, the slightly dictatorial and equally racist Hungarian prime minister. He’s just as bad as The Donald, but for some reason, people don’t seem as keen to get out and protest about him. How about let’s not trade with them? Or maybe Turkey. Or China. Or the Arab states who’ve banned anyone with an Israeli stamp on their passport. Or any other country guilty of something that we don’t like. We don’t need those US-designed Chinese-made iPhones, right?
While these are all issues that are deserving of focus, the global howl of liberal rage being directed at Trump, while justifiable, does not feel particularly proportionate especially when considering it was enacted with a democratic mandate through the US election. It’s not as though Trump sneakily disguised what he was planning.
So what am I advocating? Simply that in between the polar opposite lines of ‘Trump is incredible’ and ‘Trump is the antichrist’ we try and find a path which acknowledges that we don’t like the guy much, and while we may not like some of his policies, we need to be realistic about what we might achieve through our own intolerance and rejection of him, whilst holding our noses and accepting we need to deal with him.
Still… I guess there’s something about Trump that really just gets up people’s noses. Can’t think what it is.