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How Trump's Election Will Make British Politics Worse

The British far-right have helped a creature of their own take the most powerful job in the world; how will Trump's triumph impact the UK's quickening slide into dystopia?

by Sam Kriss
Nov 9 2016, 10:40pm

Some totally measured tabloid front pages, and Donald Trump's floating head—cropped from a photo by Gage Skidmore

This post originally appeared on VICE UK.

In the last months of his campaign, Donald Trump started talking a lot about Brexit. "They will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT!" he tweeted in August, raising the unwelcome vision of some bitter Roger Hargreaves character brought monstrously to life.

His election victory, he promised, would be "beyond Brexit," "Brexit plus," "Brexit times five," "Brexit plus-plus-plus." He took to touring the country with Nigel Farage in tow, a greasy little sycophant to scurry along after the traveling circus of doom, and yip excitedly about how America would shortly be following Britain into the glorious new world that lies just off the edge of a cliff. Finally, after decades of benign indifference, Americans were starting to care about the tiny and miserable archipelago that once ruled the world.

We're all going in the same direction now: streams of madness dart effortlessly across the Atlantic; petty and stupid local resentments (trash isn't collected on time, gay people are holding hands at the mall) assume a hideous global universality. It's not inconceivable that the Brexit result might have swayed the American election in favor of Trump: Far-right talk-show hosts like Alex Jones harped on endlessly about the great victory of the British nationalists; it showed that populist spite wasn't just a hollow scream of protest, that it could be marshaled into electoral forces that could actually win, that the world could be remade in the image of your own misery.

So what now? A Donald Trump presidency will affect everything everywhere: trade, wars, culture, whether we live or die—but that won't happen until next year. His victory is right now, and those reactionary forces that crossed the Atlantic to make it happen might start heading home. The British far-right have helped a creature of their own take the most powerful job in the world; how will Trump's triumph there impact our own quickening slide into dystopia?

British people might have voted for Brexit, but they're not too keen on its American cousin: A poll in late October found that if the election were held here, Trump would get just 15 percent of the vote to Clinton's 64 percent, a margin too broad for even our most cack-handed ballot analysts to have fucked up. Theresa May's message of congratulations to the president-elect was a masterpiece of British reserve, a few generic sentiments—"Britain and the United States have an enduring and special relationship based on the values of freedom, democracy, and enterprise. We are, and will remain, strong and close partners on trade, security, and defense"—delivered through teeth gritted so hard you can hear them grinding behind her words.

But it doesn't matter: Trump's message of red-blooded American superiority isn't designed to appeal to Europeans, and in Theresa May, we already have a kind of mini-Trump of our own. He wants to build a wall on the United States' southern border; May, governing a country whose physical border was already provided by geography, still decided to spend nearly $2.5 million on a border wall in Calais to guard against a refugee camp that has now been torn down.

Home Secretary Theresa May is the person who has sent vans zooming around London with signs ordering migrants to "go home" in a charming retro homage to the National Front slogans of the 1970s. Her Trumpisms don't sound like Trump's because they're pitched to a different audience, but the xenophobia and the fanaticism is exactly the same. And people support her: She's seen as a firm hand on the wheel, a sensible pragmatist. Because that's what power does: It takes unacceptable ideas, and it makes them seem like common sense.

We should expect more outrages from some of that 15 percent of Britain that supported Trump. Just like in America, where it appears the Ku Klux Klan is already marching openly in celebration over the highways, the organized far-right will be emboldened to see one of their sympathizers taking charge. There will be more Nazi rallies, more violent attacks on minorities, more marches through decaying English towns, and with any luck the antifa will also be out there to meet them.

However, the real danger doesn't come from the 15 percent, but the 64 percent who find Trump obnoxious and threatening and who can't understand for a moment why anyone in their right minds would want to vote for him. After all, a decent chunk of those are already Brexiteers, and not liking Trump doesn't make you a good person—just look at his Republican rivals, or for that matter Hillary Clinton. Before long, what still seems like a monstrous impossibility today will start to feel very normal. The leaders of the world will put aside their personal differences and learn to focus on what they agree on: the merciless persecution of migrants, the callous extermination of difference, the bright stupidity of the national flag draped over everything.

Nice sensible British centrists will continue to hate Trump—for his rudeness, his sexism, his indiscriminate xenophobia—even as they slowly assimilate all of his ideas: There really are too many immigrants, and we really should just nuke ISIS. Newspapers will condemn his barmy outbursts against Mexicans, and then whip up the same hatred against British Muslims, safe in a context of global suffocating bigotry, but all the more comfortable for knowing that they're not quite as bad as he is.

You won't even know what you're saying until you've already opened your mouth: Everything's going badly, we need to start winning, we need to make Great Britain great again.

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