Aside from the occasional battle about independence and tea, the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States of America has always been one of firm friendship. We consider the British to be our closest allies, and they’ve demonstrated that the feeling is mutual more than once. We’re tied to them by history, by language, by culture, and more often than not, by politics. Even during times when left-leaning parties have been in control in the UK and right-leaning parties have been in control in the USA (and vice versa), common ground has been found, and the so-called ‘special relationship’ has continued unhindered.
If we planted our tongues firmly in our cheeks, we could say that the evidence of political harmony between the United States of America and the United Kingdom has never been more compelling than it is right now. The USA led the way by electing a right-leaning comedic figure with a penchant for political and personal scandals in the form of Donald Trump, and the UK followed suit by electing a near-clone of him in Boris Johnson.
'Elected' is a strong word, though. Until last week, Johnson had never been elected as the leader of the United Kingdom at all. He'd inherited the job from Theresa May, after playing a significant role in hounding her out of office because of her inability to guide the country out of the European Union. Before that, Johnson had been fired from his job as a journalist for lying and fired from a previous political office for lying about an affair. He'd had a short tenure as Foreign Secretary, but he'd resigned from that position because he was unhappy about May's Brexit strategy. Like Trump, he was almost untested in high office, and some thought the public would see through his bluster and reject him
Tthe political music coming from our friends in the United Kingdom doesn’t sound good to those of us of a progressive persuasion on this side of the North Atlantic Ocean.
They were wrong. They weren't wrong on a small scale, either. Johnson has been re-elected as Prime Minister and handed the opposing Labour Party their biggest defeat since before the Second World War. Before the election, Johnson didn't command a majority in Parliament, and couldn't pass legislation. Now - and for the next five years - he can almost do whatever he wants. His majority is more than eighty, and his newly-elected MPs are unlikely to rebel against him. Johnson has free reign, Brexit will happen on his terms, and the progressive parties and voters within the country have been left on the sidelines.
To put things mildly, the political music coming from our friends in the United Kingdom doesn’t sound good to those of us of a progressive persuasion on this side of the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s not that Johnson’s party wasn’t expected to win - almost everybody thought his party would end up with the most seats. It’s just that going into the election, it was generally assumed that things would be much closer. Johnson might win the most seats, but not enough to create a majority over the combined ranks of the other parties. There was even talk that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, might ultimately become Prime Minister as the leader of an alliance or coalition of other parties. Those hopes were in vain, and Corbyn’s time as leader of the opposition is now rapidly drawing to a close.
What, then, does this mean for the US Presidential election, if anything at all? Sadly, we suspect that there is a lesson to be taken from it, and it’s not a positive one. At present, there is an almost dangerous assumption that Donald Trump will lose the next election if he’s even allowed to stand in it at all. We’ve allowed ourselves to think that because he’s been so tainted by the Russian scandal, the Ukrainian scandal, the closure of his university, the refusal to release his tax returns, and just about a thousand other things he’s said and done during his time in office, that Americans simply wouldn’t vote for him again.
Compare his behavior with that of Boris Johnson. Johnson may not quite be as tarnished a figure as Trump, but he’s certainly had his moments. He once described black people as ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles.' He's had so many extramarital affairs that he's consistently refused to divulge how many children he's fathered. He once said called homosexuals 'tank topped bum boys,' and compared Muslim women wearing burqas to letterboxes. To avoid scrutiny from journalists on the campaign trail, he refused to be interviewed by Andrew Neil (the UK's hardest-hitting political interviewer) and then hid in a refrigerator unit when another journalist caught him off guard with a question. During a normal election campaign, a combination of any two of these incidents would have been enough to end a candidate's ambitions. In this hugely divisive campaign, they did no harm at all. Not only did people vote for Johnson, but they also gave him the largest political mandate any British leader has enjoyed in decades.
Anyone who thinks the threat of a second term for Trump has been diminished by his actions while in office isn't reading the writing on the wall. If he isn't impeached and he's allowed to stand, the election is anything but a foregone conclusion. In fact, it's every bit as unpredictable as betting on an online slots game. It may be every bit as entertaining, too. Part of the reason people play casino slots is that they enjoy the thrills and spills that come along with the game as much as they enjoy winning. When they log off their chosen online slots website in profit, they're happy, but they didn't necessarily expect to do so - they just paid to enjoy the ride. With Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, a worrying number of voters simply seem to enjoy the ride, and they're happy to pay for it.
Progressives know that the Trump presidency has been both a dud and a disaster for America. Trump supporters believe the opposite, and nothing that's been said about him will change their minds on that. Some of them might be even more likely o vote for him because they believe he's been unfairly attacked. It is possible to remove Trump from office in 2020, but we shouldn't expect to do so, and we should be ready to fight for it with everything we've got. If we don't, then as our progressive British friends have just found out, we face another crushing defeat.