I’ve never really considered America a foreign country. So ingrained is that place in our popular culture that, growing up, you could never really think of it as a place apart. And maybe it’s not. After all, when the colonists unilaterally declared independence in 1776 they had a great deal of sympathy in the House of Commons. The American War of Independence was in fact a British civil war, fought far away, among people for whom the warning ‘the British are coming’ would have described everyone they knew. The result of that conflict was a political system that wasn’t a blank canvass. The non-conformists we discarded started anew and the radical thinking to be found on our Celtic fringe at a certain part in our history was transplanted to those shores and carried into statehood.
Like many Britons, I yearn for the American Dream. Far away from our rainsoaked, tiny islands is a place of wide open spaces, of white picket fences, of Friday night football and church on Sundays. A land where patriotism is a virtue not a vice, where faith stands against the state rather than as part of it. Where traditions are modern and family life is sacred. It’s familiar, yet exotic.
If this America is only an idea then it’s certainly an idea that many Americans share. And one that certainly played a role in the election of Donald Trump.
I spoke to a friend in the immediate aftermath. A recent addition to the land of the free, so therefore not having a vote, she was backing Trump. Her rationale was simple – insurance premiums are through the roof and small businesses are overwhelmed with red tape. In the rural community where she lives, that is a big deal.
It was the day-to-day struggles of people like my friend that converted me, rather late, to the cause of Trump. Despite the perception many British people have, these guys aren’t backwoodsmen, rednecks, racists or simpletons. A broad swathe of American society routinely votes Republican. Some of them are well off but the vast majority are the people who George Osborne might have described as ‘hard-working families’.
These are the people who have done everything right and used to be adequately rewarded. They had considerable reason to believe that they could go as far as they wanted to in life, even if their goals were relatively humble. And to that end they were largely left alone. In the last eight years a lot of that changed. These people deserved a Republican in the White House to put it right.
This economic factor was vastly downplayed in the electoral debate. Yet for Trump’s supporters it was all important.
So important in fact, much to the surprise of every lefty whinger and talking head in the course of the past 48 hours, that women backed Trump in roughly the same numbers as they did Romney in 2012. With white women, he won big. Some of his comments, apparent evidence of his misogyny and possible criminality, were meant to hand the Presidency to Clinton.
But in the end it made no difference. Why? I’ve asked several actual females – rather than the hypothetical gender-obsessed ones the media and pollsters seem to converse with. Some were horrified by it, but these were the type of people who would generally be left-leaning anyway. Others, conservatives, didn’t seem so bothered. It just wasn’t offensive to them. As one put it, “I’d rather a President that jokes about grabbing pussy, than is a pussy”.
It was much the same with Hispanics, where Trump’s vote held up on Romney’s in 2012, even increasing slightly. Despite the wall, despite the drug dealers and rapists comments, almost one in three Hispanics who went to their polling place voted for him. Perhaps, as with the EU referendum, recent immigrants are the most impacted by uncontrolled immigration. Perhaps they agreed with him. Perhaps Hispanics are just ordinary Americans – who like straight talking as much as everyone else. Maybe they’re just aspirational.
It’s common sense that if you mistake insults like ‘racist’ for political arguments and attempt to dehumanise your opponents then they’ll lie to pollsters. And because the polls will tell you what you’re doing is working, you’ll keep on doing it and will eventually lose.
But maybe it’s something deeper. Maybe it’s how the liberal media perceives the world. Economics were downplayed because they don’t understand, or just don’t want to acknowledge, how socialism chokes people. That women would turnout for Clinton was a given because gender is all women care about. Hispanics would abandon the Republicans because Hispanics had been insulted. Out of touch just about covers it. One first-generation Hispanic immigrant told the BBC last night, “everything I want out of America I saw in Donald Trump”. In liberal media la la land that statement is beyond comprehension. Yet an American, any American, was faced with one choice – do I vote to make one woman President because it’ll be nice or do I vote for the life that my family and I feel we deserve? For most of us, that’s an easy decision.
If those Britons who struggle to see past the trivia that has dominated this campaign can take one positive from this result it’s that the idealised America we picture is the one that Trump’s voters, of all backgrounds, turned out for.