‘Why I believe anti-Trump protests are silly’

Cry baby: The six-metre tall balloon will fly above London for two hours. © Andrew Aitchison
by Freddy Gray

Deputy editor of The Spectator and host of the US politics podcast Americano. He has reported extensively on Trump and the American right.

On Friday, the President of the United States will visit Britain for the first time since his inauguration. Thousands are expected to protest Trump’s presence — but will it achieve anything?

Last summer, the crowds in Glastonbury filmed themselves chanting “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”. This year, Corbynmania feels very 2017. Britain’s Instagram-addled middle classes are eager for a substitute form of mass entertainment dressed up as radicalism.

The answer, apparently, is to join the protests against Donald J. Trump. Britain’s “Stop Trump” campaign has been busy organising a “carnival of resistance”. Perhaps the most ludicrous proposal is to have a specially made Trump baby to float high and huge above him.

It won’t work. Worse, it will be counterproductive.

America and Britain are great allies; we can’t just not invite the president of the US for four or eight years

If Britain’s Stop Trumpers really believe they can send Trump a message, they are mistaken. Trump doesn’t really care. Even if his pride is successfully wounded, then what? Will he see the error of his divisive ways? Will his American supporters suddenly realise what a huge embarrassment their president is, and repent by hammering his party in the upcoming midterms?

The Stop Trumpers must know that the president’s political success is in large part due to the apoplexy he induces in those who think he is “unacceptable”. Lots of people like him precisely because the sort of people who go to trendy music festivals loathe him. So why play into his notoriously small hands?

It’ll be worth remembering that most Britons can distinguish between the office of the presidency and the man himself. We might not like him, but we see the need not to insult the commander-in-chief of our greatest ally.

Britain’s Stop Trumpers prefer to see themselves as part of a global coalition against right-wing populism. They are right to think that the many Americans who loathe Trump will appreciate their protests.

But the Stop Trumpers ignore the even larger numbers of Americans who will see only a bunch of self-righteous limeys dissing their president. To them, an anti-Trump carnival will prove their president’s big foreign policy point: America’s NATO allies don’t respect their country.

In the days leading up to the visit, Theresa May and Trump will be at the NATO summit in Brussels. The prime minister and other leaders will be trying to persuade Trump to remain committed to the Western alliance. A huge Trump protest in London could undo any progress on that front.

The truth is that none of this much matters to the Stop Trump movement. It’s just too boring to think sensibly about long-term consequences.

Anti-Trumpism is about feelings more than politics. Leo, the man behind the Trump baby blimp, says that he cried (not unlike a baby) the morning President Trump was elected. He’s now determined to take his — and Britain’s — revenge.

But most Brits will just be a bit embarrassed.

For all the anti-Trump grandstanding, his visit had to happen. America and Britain are great allies; we can’t just not invite the president of the United States for four or eight years because a lot of people don’t like him.

But it’s no use pointing out the silliness of Britain’s “resistance”. It’s futile arguing that Britain has honoured far more unsavoury leaders on state visits — Robert Mugabe, for instance, or Turkey’s President Erdogan just a few weeks ago.

Because Trump protesting isn’t really about Trump. Next year, the Glasto Festival will be back on and there’ll be plenty of Brexit-related issues to be glib about. In 2018, demonstrating how much you hate Trump will show how much you love humanity, and sod the national interest.

This is an extract from an article published in The Spectator. Find the full version in Become An Expert.

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Word Watch

Last year the music festival was held two weeks after a general election. The UK’s Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, enjoyed a surge of popularity which cost the Conservative Party its majority in Parliament.
Trump Baby
Protesters raised over £28,000 to fly the balloon in central London on Friday.
In November, US voters will return to the polls to vote to keep or replace all members of the House of Representatives, plus 35 members of the Senate. Both are currently controlled by Trump’s Republican party.
An old American nickname for British people, based on days when sailors in the Royal Navy added citrus juice to their daily rations in order to prevent scurvy.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance between 29 countries, including the US, Canada and much of Europe.
Robert Mugabe
The former leader of Zimbabwe, who was accused of various human rights abuses
President Erdogan
Turkey’s president — who has been accused of suppressing human rights and jailing journalists — visited the UK in May for three days.

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