Even without Donald Trump, the US Presidential elections would be informing the global news agenda. Regularly described as the world’s greatest reality TV show, this year long spectacle to pick the leader of the free world has always had an eager international audience.
Given America’s position as the cultural, economic and military hyperpower, it’s not hard to understand why. Yet foreign reporting seldom captures this sense of American exceptionalism. Instead we are often presented with a heavily skewed, deeply problematic picture of a nation that remains widely misunderstood.
Far from being confined to the propaganda of Russian and Iranian state broadcasters, such mischaracterisations can be routinely found in the commercial, mainstream press of Western Europe – Britain’s included.
European portrayals of America are all too frequently grounded in a Janus-faced Old World elitism that simultaneously considers the United States as ‘backwards’ while also lacking any ‘proper history’.
Many ordinary Americans are depicted as pre-modern for clinging to guns and God, yet in the same breath their culture quickly dismissed as tacky, materialist, and consumer-driven. Or in other words: too modern.
While British conservatives aren’t afraid to indulge in a bit of periodic Yank-bashing, it is rife on the Left. German social democrats in the 19th century described anti-Semitism as the ‘socialism of fools’. Today, the phrase could equally be applied to anti-Americanism.
To many progressives, the United States is uniquely reactionary. Christianity and capitalism play outsized roles in political life, in a way simply unimaginable here in Europe. For the supposedly open-minded, there is little comprehension as to why there might not be appetite in America for a European-style secularised society and welfare state.
Donald Trump’s electoral success has allowed anti-American prejudices to be aired more freely. His victories in Iowa and beyond prove what has been suspected all along: ‘muricans really are that stupid and evil.
The fact Trump comes from a moneyed family, being the spoilt scion of a dead real estate mogul, only makes matters worse. For all of today’s progressives’ avowed atheism (except when it comes to Islam, then sensitivity suddenly trumps rationality), many have an almost ascetic aversion to wealth.
Yes, Trump’s views on Muslims and migration are horrible. Yes, he didn’t ‘earn’ his wealth, and some of his business ventures are ethically dubious. But don’t take one man as representative of a whole country, especially one that is as diverse as America.
In fact, don’t even take him as representative of the American right. Trump’s Caesarist approach to America’s problems defies a conservatism that has long prized the system of checks-and-balances contained in the US constitution. And as others have already pointed out, Trump’s protectionism doesn’t put him too far off Bernie Sanders and left-wing populists elsewhere.
Elements of the Left have managed to justify everything from rioting in London to terrorism in the Middle East, but cannot explain the anger that drives a lot of Trump’s support, as they’re blinkered by a xenophobia that only focuses on one side of the Atlantic.
Tom is a PR & Policy Manager for London-based consultancy firm. Follow him on Twitter: @t_e_roberts
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty