Brendan O’Neill

The real reason some Brits don’t like Trump

The real reason some Brits don't like Trump
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Why do certain Brits hate Donald Trump so much? Duh, it’s obvious why we hate him, they’ll say. It’s because he’s a migrant-bashing, country-bombing, far-right-enabling nightmare of a president who threatens to plunge the world into a 1930s-style politics of hate. It’s the duty of every decent Brit to hate this dangerous orange oaf, they insist, as they prep their placards and dust down their pussy hats for tomorrow’s anti-Trump ‘carnival’ in central London. 

Okay. But President Obama mistreated migrants, too. Footage of Border Patrol agents firing tear-gas canisters at migrants at the Mexico-America border last November made headlines around the world and was incessantly tweeted by Trump-phobes as proof of his fascistic tendencies.

Yet between 2012 and 2016, when cool, suave Obama was running the show, Border Patrol agents used tear gas an average of 1.3 times every month. Where was the fury back then?

Obama deported loads of migrants. Including Haitians trying to escape their earthquake-devastated country. A New York Times article summed up the Obama administration’s message to these Haitian chancers: ‘Turn around or go elsewhere.’ 

In early 2017, Trump’s so-called ‘Muslim ban’, where he issued an executive order restricting the right of people in seven Muslim-majority countries to travel to the US, caused an international storm. ‘See, he is the new Hitler!’, protesters declared, waving placards showing him sporting an Adolf-style moustache.

Yet it was Obama who first targeted those countries, in 2015, with a bill that made it a great deal harder for people from Iraq, Syria and Iran in particular to visit the US. A bill that the American Civil Liberties Union described as an act of ‘blanket discrimination based on nationality and national origin without a rational basis’. So is Obama an Islamophobe, too? Is he literally Hitler?

As for bombing countries — Trump can’t touch Obama. The Obama administration bombed seven countries: Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. In 2016 alone it dropped 26,171 bombs. That’s 72 bombs a day. Three every hour. Get this: every 20 minutes for an entire year the Obama administration dropped a bomb on a Muslim-majority country. So was Obama also a threat to world peace whom every decent Brit had a duty to rage and splutter against?

Clearly not. Because very few Brits did rage and splutter against Obama. Instead, they cheered him and gushed over him. I bet that some of the nice, caring, clearly time-rich people who will take to Trafalgar Square tomorrow morning to holler their opposition to the hateful, murderous Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief will have donned one of those Obama ‘HOPE’ badges back in the day.

This is ‘whataboutery’, protesters insist. And I guess it is. I guess I am asking what about Obama; and what about the migrants he deported; and what about the people he bombed; and what about the authoritarian anti-terror laws he introduced; and what about his backing for extremist regimes that make Trump’s mate Steve Bannon look like Mother Teresa in comparison (the Saudi regime, for example, or the Sisi tyranny in Egypt). What about all of that? Does it matter?

This brings us back to the question of what it is about Trump that so riles the predominantly middle-class folks who will march against him tomorrow morning while the rest of the country is, you know, at work. Why is Trump hated infinitely more than Obama, despite the fact that they did pretty similar things?

It seems clear to me that it is Trump’s uncouthness and vulgarity that these people truly despise. It’s his lack of cool, his roughness, his — dare I say it — white-trash tendencies. Tomorrow’s demo won’t be a genuinely political protest — it will be an outpouring of oh-so-British snobbery against a man who is seen as the personification of the coarseness and crassness of dumb America.

This is why Trump-bashers obsess over his ‘pussy’ comments. They seriously talk about those ugly unguarded comments he made more than they do about his bombing of Syria last year. This is why they are so outraged by his Twitterfeed and its unrefined language. This is why they have a field day every time Trump garbles his sentences or mispronounces a word or when it is revealed that he watches TV at night while eating a cheeseburger — because what they really loathe about Trump is how low-class he is, how uncultured he is, how boorish he is.

Trump-bashing isn’t a political stance — it’s a snooty mocking of white-trash America. To Brits who fancy themselves as cultured and sophisticated, Trump has become the ultimate white-trash symbol: an ill-speaking, junk-food-eating, language-coarsening dimwit of a man who has no right to meet out wonderful, pristine monarch or to walk a red carpet. Obama’s wars and authoritarianism were forgivable because he was so handsome and charming. Trump’s wars and authoritarianism, in contrast, are held up as threats to morality and decency because the kind of people who are most keen on Trump — rough and ugly Americans — are themselves seen as a threat to morality and decency.

What we will see in London tomorrow is a massive display of one of the Western world’s ugliest prejudices — middle-class British disdain for gaudy Americana and tacky Yanks.