At a recent hustings event for the Labour leadership Jeremy Corbyn did something he does surprisingly often; he agreed with Donald Trump. When asked repeatedly whether he would provide military assistance to a NATO ally under attack by Russia, Corbyn refused to commit. Although Corbyn’s response was couched in the usual fluffy language of “diplomacy” and “peace”, the general message was strikingly similar to that of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump; a disdain for one of the most successful military alliances in history and an indifference towards Putin’s expansionist Russia.
At first glance, Corbyn and Trump don’t seem alike. While Corbyn’s public persona is that of an austere hippy, Trump projects himself as a brash strongman who is unafraid to show off his personal wealth. While Corbyn is often criticised for his insistence on appeasing (and sometimes tacitly supporting) terrorists, Trump has come under fire for among other things, suggesting that the families of terrorists should be killed as a matter of course. Although there are some obvious and extreme differences between the two men, there are many more similarities than they would care to admit.
The best place to start is their histories with the parties they are supposed to be leading. Despite being a Labour MP for 30 years, Corbyn is a serial rebel. For example, between 1997 and 2010 Corbyn rebelled against his own party a staggering 487 times. And while he is supposed to be providing opposition to the Conservatives, Corbyn has spent just as much time fighting members of his own party. Among his fervent supporters, it is the “Blairites” who seem to be the biggest enemy of all.
Trump meanwhile has been a member of the Democratic Party at various points in the past and like Corbyn has spent much of his time attacking members of his own patty. A whole raft of high-profile Republicans including George Bush (both of them) and Mitt Romney have refused to endorse Trump while many others, such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, have only reluctantly backed Trump. The simple fact is that both Corbyn and Trump are historically unpopular with both their own party’s voters and elected representatives.
Along with their hostility to NATO, both Corbyn and Trump are pointedly critical of their own country’s influence on the world stage. While Corbyn hasn’t had said a single nice word about any British military intervention ever (despite the progress being made against ISIS in Iraq), Trump is pushing an “America first” strategy that is eerily reminiscent of the American isolationism of the 1930s. Although they dress it up in different language, both men would no doubt like to see a world whereby the US and the UK turn inwards and refuse to engage with the world’s problems.
Although their approaches to Islamist terrorism are polar opposites of one another, there are still similarities. Both are wedded to extremes views on the subject. For Corbyn, it is that Islam has nothing to do with Islamism (something disputed by many Muslim reformers) with the subtle implication that in some sense indiscriminate murder is partly justified by “Western imperialism”. Trump meanwhile takes a similarly deranged view: that all Muslims hold terrorist sympathies.
On economics, the Islington socialist shares some surprising common ground with the New York billionaire. Both men are incredibly sceptical of globalisation and have called for protectionist measures. For both Trump and Corbyn, the answer to global economic competition is not empowering business through deregulation but emasculating them through old-fashioned statism.
Even their supporters are quite alike. Both Corbyn and Trump attract a plethora of crackpots from the fringes of the political spectrum. While Corbyn has his communists and Islamists, Trump has white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Although the majority of their supporters are not quite as extreme, a large number of them still share a cultist bunker mentality and a fanatical belief that their man is destined for victory despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Ideological purity is also a key component of Corbyn and Trump supporters. Principled opposition to Corbyn from the left and Trump from the right is treated with immense scorn. Labour opponents of Corbyn are reviled as “red Tories” while Republicans opposed to Trump are apparently not even conservatives at all.
The last 12 months have seen the Labour and Republican parties hijacked by two polarising figures with totally disparate views on some areas but surprisingly similar opinions on a number of others. Corbyn and Trump are indeed leading a new kind of politics but this new politics however is a profoundly ghastly one. It is indifferent towards racists at best and embraces them at worst. It is hostile towards the free market and distrustful of Anglo-American global influence. It has simple, inane answers to complex problems and wilfully engages with far-fetched conspiracies.
Above all else, both are frighteningly authoritarian and resemble dangerous personality cults. This is the horrifying reality of Jeremy Trumpism.
Ben is an I’m an international relations postgraduate from the University of Kent. Follow him on Twitter: @btharris93
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty