On July 13th President Donald Trump arrives in the UK for a working visit. Throughout it he will meet the Prime Minister at Chequers and The Queen at Windsor Castle. It will not be a state visit, though one is planned for later in the year. Only three presidents have been bestowed the honour of a state visit to Great Britain including Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, and whether the one being planned actually occurs is yet to be seen. The visit has been arranged so that President Trump won’t have to visit London and therefore stay clear of any protests that will inevitably take place.
As the final details are being looked over and the divisions of this most controversial President grows wider, what does the visceral anger emanating from both sides of American politics say about the country, and will other countries follow this arguably dangerous lead? As an outsider looking in, what exactly happened to the country whose example of democracy is the greatest in the world? Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America on January 20, 2017 and like most things surrounding Trump it created controversy. Before we look at the rhetoric now encompassing the US we must first go beyond his inauguration and look at the run-up to the election.
To say it was an election like never before would be the understatement of the century. The Trump versus Clinton era was eighteen of the craziest, surprising and shocking months in political history. Never had rhetoric been used in the way both candidates ran their campaigns, though arguably one was harsher than the other.
Donald Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip direct approach was refreshing to some Americans, to others it was horrifying. Hearing a potential President gloating he wanted to grab women by their genitalia was almost too shocking to be true, but it was. From the other side, anger erupted at Hillary Clinton labelling Trump voters ‘deplorables.’ Though much less menacing than threatening women, it still created a negative reaction from a sector of the American populace, a populace that Clinton didn’t even bother to connect with. This hostile language would continue throughout the election of 2016 spiking at the three debates, until the day when Americans took to the polls arrived.
Every political pundit and commentator, even those who favoured Trump believed that inevitably he would lose. Clinton would be America’s newest President, the first women to be elected the title. She would break that glass ceiling, after all, the media claimed the country was ‘with her.’
On the morning of November 9th, 2016, the world awoke to a new US President. One candidate had been victorious and would lead the most powerful country in the world for the next four years. Those at the Clinton campaign’s victory rally were looking upwards at the glass ceiling above them. Their candidate for the first female president in American history had failed, she hadn’t smashed the glass ceiling it was still intact without even a scratch.
Across the city of New York, the Trump rally had erupted into jubilant cries. Their guy had won. All the scandals, the vitriol language and accusations of racism and bigotry hadn’t stopped his shot to claim the Oval Office in The White House. Donald Trump would become the 45th President of the United States of America.
Seventy-two days after the shocking election result, Trump was inaugurated and many hoped that the coarse language and tone stemming from the new President would fade. The campaign trail had ended and so should the brutal tone. Many lived in hope, though it didn’t last long.
Instantly there were attacks on the press and other country leaders. Obama took some hits as did many other senators both Republican and Democrat. American Politics was changing, diplomacy was out the window. Hard truth (or lies depending on which side of the political spectrum you fall) was the only way of communication. To those who disagreed with him, this new type of leadership was definitively unamerican. To his supporters, Trump offered a new and energising way of doing the age-old job of politics. If one thing can be ascertained by this President, it is this. There is no grey area when it comes to Trump. It is black or white, good or bad, American or unamerican. He is divisive by nature and many believe that is the way he likes it. It is to some aspect the reasoning of his unexpected success.
Many of Trumps policies follow this theme. From the tax bill to the travel ban there is support and opposition throughout. This is obviously to be expected, after all disagreement is the foundation of democracy. However, unbeknown to most on all sides, a ship had sailed that today has anchored with anger and hatred in the heart of American society and it seems everyone is willing to jump onboard.
The bubbling of anarchy is simmering beneath the surface of the star-spangled banner and to many it appears Americans wish not to stop it from imploding.
It would be untrue and wrong to not state that the claxon that begun this new language of politics wasn’t started by Trump, it was. There are many subjects of which he has commented on that has spurned the hateful backlash that he was faced or given out. His lack of condemnation of white supremacists in Charlottesville rightfully angered many across the country. The travel ban policy, originally dubbed the ‘Muslim Ban’ faced similar heat, as did the recent separation of immigrant children from their parents at the Mexican border. America has, to some, lost its humanity.
But what is more concerning than the anchor of hatred latched onto Lady Liberty by Trump, is the Democrats are now wrapping their own around the famed monument too. From senators to celebrities backing left wing politics they have seemed to have forgotten the words of former First Lady, Michelle Obama who expertly and wisely stated: “When they go low, we go high.” Instead Democrats have followed Trump into the gutter using the same primitive language.
In the last month alone Senator Maxine Waters caused outrage on all sides by declaring to a crowd of supporters that, “if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Her comments were in response to Sarah Sanders, the White House Spokeswoman being asked to leave a restaurant due to her association with the Trump Administration. Critics condemned the Senator’s comments stating that she was inciting harassment and was condoning violence against those with a differing of opinion.
Similarly, Peter Fonda delved deeper into the chasm of anger by tweeting an obscene description of ripping Donald Trump’s 12-year-old son, Barron from his mother’s arms and ‘put him in a cage with paedophiles.’ The backlash was instant and ferocious with many demanding his new movie be pulled from release. Subsequently, Sony Pictures refused and instead the movie has bombed at the Box Office.
As the Democrats lower the rhetoric set by Trump, the Republican Party drag it further down into the stinking, putrid black hole of nonsensical division. Trumps campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was seen mocking a 10-year-old illegal immigrant girl separated from her mother by saying ‘womp, womp.’ The revelation that the girl suffered with a disability further demonstrates how low the political arena has sunk. Lewandowski, like Waters faced scorn from all sides and yet has still refused to apologise for his disgraceful comments.
What is truly disheartening about the state of American politics today is that the examples above are but a drop in a stormy ocean of anarchic vehemence. The expectation of politics has been lowered to an unprecedented level and like many believe, it is hard to see whether the tone will reach the heights of civility again.
What is also a concern, is the example America sets to the rest of the World. The US has always been a beacon of democracy, a guiding light in times of conflict and lawlessness. Yet none within the system of politics in this democratic country wish to heal or work together to discard their own conflicts. Put simply they seem to be unable to agree-to-disagree. That realisation should concern all involved, including countries who look to the shores of America as a model to replicate.
In the UK we are facing Brexit, our own divisive future and whilst passions are high on both sides and arguments ensue, we have not yet lowered to the depths of pro-Trump, anti-Trump. Though we cannot deny that at one tragic point we came close. With the death of Jo Cox, a 'Remain' supporting Labour MP in the run up to the referendum, it reminded all on either side that whilst a differing of opinion is healthy for a diverse society, when handled incorrectly it can quickly and brutally spiral out of control.
American Politics so far seem to not understand this. There is no evidence to show that the realm of democratic public representation will change tactics, and it isn’t as if America hasn’t had their own Jo Cox moment. The shootings of Senators Steve Scalise and Gabrielle Giffords showed the ramifications of below-the-belt American politics. It is sad that even after these awful acts of unnecessary violence, they have still left the hateful rhetoric unabated.
The truth is the UK has never been as politically passionate as the US. Unlike our closest ally across-the-pond their conception was formed from their democratic right of free speech and protest.
In the UK we too have these rights, but our history exists before democracy was awarded to all. We Brits don’t regard politics as part of our DNA whereas Americans do, it is within the fabric of their existence. With this iron clad link between politics and the image of America, when one drops below the spectrum of decency, so do all. With the questionable language of President Trump and similar responses from the opposing side, it leaves American’s asking a simple question. Who on Earth do we vote for?
When you take away the party politics, remove the Democrat and Republican labels and look at the way both sides have recently acted, is there really much difference? From an outsider looking in, no. To the eyes of the world America seems to be descending into a state of fighting hatred with hatred. They have taken Mrs Obama’s words and changed them: “When they go low, we go lower.” It is truly saddening. Where once the United States of America was labelled the American Dream. Now, to the watching world, surely that dream is giving way to a nightmare.