Friday, 22 July 2016

Boris and the Donald, or you can fool some of the people all the time

“I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States,” Donald Trump informed the Republican National Convention.

It wasn’t perhaps all that surprising that he accepted the nomination. To a seasoned observer of the US political scene like me, there had been tell-tale signs over the last few months suggesting that if he were offered it, he probably would accept. Still, I could have been wrong; I have been before.

What was more surprising was that he accepted humbly. Perhaps I haven’t been following Trump’s career closely enough, but I’d completely missed the humility factor in his personality. Still, he seemed to find it for his acceptance, and who am I to doubt his sincerity?

The humble Donald Trump
Even more striking was what Trump had to say about some of the major problems facing the US:

“We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.”

That’s just wonderful, and not just because the aspiration is so lofty. It’s so in keeping with the political spirit of our times.

We recently had a spot of bother in Britain about the European Union. A riveting referendum campaign led to a decision to withdraw from the EU. As I understand it, the aim is to take back control of our lives from the faceless bureaucrats in Brussels, so that it can be exercised instead by our fine and selfless politicians in Westminster, in whom we have such confidence and who have always shown themselves entirely dedicated to serving our best interests.

Among the excellent people leading the enlightened Leave campaign was Boris Johnson, who was rewarded for his outstanding efforts by being made Foreign Secretary. He was closely associated with a number of deeply attractive promises to be fulfilled by withdrawal from the European Union. Most notably, these included an extra £350m a week for the NHS, even though our contributions to the EU were under half that amount, and possibly as low as one third.

It didn’t matter that the promise was perhaps a tad overstated. Not, one might say, entirely plausible. Or likely to be kept. It served to give the impression that marvellous things would happen if we got out of the EU, and that helped ensure a victory for the Leave campaign.

Since then, the people who made those promises, including Boris, have pointed out that, well, no, they weren’t to be taken literally, that there might not in fact be quite that amount of money available for the NHS, and that a somewhat lower amount would actually be forthcoming. Or possibly no amount at all.

Still, the promise served its purpose. It delivered the result. That’s a lesson the Donald seems to have learned from Boris unless, perhaps, it was actually he who taught it to our distinguished Foreign Secretary.

A wall along the Mexican border? 2000 miles long? An impressive undertaking. Not sure it could be completed in, say, the first 100 days of a Trump presidency.

But again, that’s not the point. The aim isn’t to build the wall in 100 days or a 1000 days of a presidency. It’s to secure that presidency, and only that.

The same is true of the pledge to end gangs, violence and drugs. This is about on the same level as a beauty pageant winner’s heartfelt desire to secure world peace. It’s even there for the same reason: it will appeal to certain people.

Not everyone will be taken in. But you don’t need everyone. As Lincoln pointed out, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Boris fooled just enough of the British people just long enough to win his Brexit battle. It’s just possible the US electorate isn’t quite that easy to fool and a majority may avoid the Donald trap. But who knows?

Far be it from me to underestimate how many still believe in the Tooth Fairy.

Totally irrelevant picture entirely unrelated to anything above

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