Monday 10 June 2019 11:13 am

America is changing, and the UK cannot afford to ignore it

I cannot begin to estimate how much ink has been wasted on President Trump’s state visit to the UK last week. This is not to dismiss the significance of commemorating the D-Day anniversary, and the immense shared sacrifice of British and American soldiers in liberating Europe.

But the rest of the state visit, focusing as it did on talks with a lame duck Prime Minister and speculation about various leadership hopefuls, was little but empty symbolism, where almost nothing of substance occurred.

However, British attention has been in entirely the wrong place. America – long the lodestar of the UK’s geopolitical thinking – is undergoing serious changes.

With Britain distracted by the ongoing Tory leadership contest, not nearly enough has been said about the likely staying power of the Trump revolution, and what this means for the UK’s strategic options in the world.

The long-awaited Mueller report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race was good news for the Trump administration.

In the end, despite deep-held fantasies on the part of the Democratic party and media that the election could be discounted as the result of criminal malfeasance, special counsel Robert Mueller found no trace of criminal conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign after an almost two-year search.

So the first and most heinous charge against the President amounts to absolutely nothing.

While attorney general William Barr’s summary of the report made it clear that Mueller found evidence on both sides of the obstruction of justice fence (the second serious charge), common sense supports his decision to exclude prosecution on this point, given that there was no underlying crime to obstruct.

So while some Democrats are still calling for impeachment, the party must search elsewhere, beyond illegality, to explain Donald Trump’s earth-shattering victory in 2016 and prepare for 2020.

On paper, Trump remains eminently beatable, never having enjoyed even one day of his presidency with anything like a 50 per cent approval rating. Worse, the 2018 midterms were highly discouraging for Trump supporters: his statewide approval ratings were sagging in critical Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – the very places he needs to win again in 2020.

All that is true. And yet. America is also a place with exceptionally strong growth rates; the US economy grew by a very healthy 2.9 per cent of GDP in 2018. This contrasts with Europe trapped in a low-growth cycle, and with China’s rise slowing as it grows old demographically before it gets rich. Relatively, America is a very good place to be just now in economic terms.


Even foreign policy does the Trump White House no harm. There have been no new wars during this administration; it is vital to remember that times of general peace and prosperity (think the Eisenhower and Clinton years) are usually rewarded by the electorate.

But beyond even this, for Democrats the ultimate political risk lies not with Trump, but in the mirror.

Blinded as they remain by their hatred for the President – not crediting either his successes or the reasons for his election in 2016 in the first place – they remain convinced that literally any candidate they choose (or indeed anyone with a pulse) can beat him in 2020.

Here, their continued Trump Derangement Syndrome will sow the seeds of their own destruction. For if they believe they can pick any candidate and win, there is little doubt that the Democratic caucus wants to move leftwards. Gone are the days of politically successful Democrats like Bill Clinton governing from the centre-left.

Instead, the Democrats over the past few months seem to be going full Trotsky, which can only assure Trump’s re-election in a country that remains resolutely on the centre-right.

The numbers-challenged Green New Deal pushed by rising socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which Democratic presidential candidates have rushed to endorse given her undoubted star power, would cost between $51-$93 trillion. You do not have to be on the right of the Republicans to see this as absolute lunacy.

Mainstream Democrats are also talking about reparations for slavery, formerly only a morning chat for college professors protected from the realities of the world by tenure.

In adopting such far-left positions, the Democrats are ensuring the election of the man they most hate. While (relatively) centre-left former vice president Joe Biden currently has a healthy lead in the early days of the Democratic primaries, he will be forced to range far to the ideological left if he is to win the nomination, or he will stumble and fall.

So for all these reasons, here is a new prediction: Trump will reclaim the presidency in 2020. For the UK, this ought to be the real lesson of the last few days: that this difficult, unnerving, brash President is here to stay, and if we can find a way to work with him, he could be the ally we need to make the special relationship again one of the primary pillars of the geopolitical world.

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