As a £27,000-paying Student of Politics, you would hope I really loved the subject. But I don’t. I don’t want to whine about the reasons I resent this Government, this Prime Minister, this opposition, this voting system, Katie Hopkins. It’s too easy, and unprogressive. I would much rather pick out some positivity and discuss ways of moving forward. But I can’t.
Whether you voted Leave or Remain, you cannot deny it to be slightly concerning how unclear the definition of Brexit is (other than the word itself, as Theresa intelligently points out), and you cannot deny that since June 23rd there has been a 41% rise in racist hate crimes. You also cannot deny that this is not a coincidence.
Whether you voted for UKIP in the previous General Election or not, you cannot deny it to be slightly concerning that the leader jumped ship so soon after landed where he’d always wanted, the newly elected leader stood down after just 18 days, and another potential leader got knocked out by their college, and has now resigned.
Whether you would vote Donald over Hilary or not, you cannot deny that what he’s said about women, Muslims and disabled people isn’t cool, he hasn’t worked his way up from the bottom, Mexico is not sending rapists to the US, and this wall isn’t going to be built – not by the Mexicans or anyone else.
Brexit, UKIP (or Farage at least), and the Donald have all been hot topics this year and most of last. All three can be summarised as achieving hostile divisiveness, above anything else. All three are products that reap off fear and disguise the real issues that are leading people to feel so powerless. And all three lack any pragmatic direction. It is in many ways difficult to argue against what they stand for, but only because it so unclear what they stand for. Taking Back Control and Make America Great Again both require some small print in order to legitimise being winning slogans.
And as my frustration grows, my hope of a solution shrinks. Every time Katie Hopkins speaks I wish I could be there to argue her ridiculousness. But the truth is, it wouldn’t matter. Because Katie, like Nigel and Donald, are so focused on avoiding the real issues that it becomes impossible to have a meaningful conversation with them. No matter what the outcomes of the US election is, Trump has already decided that it’s been rigged…and people are going to believe it.
Ironically, it would be Michael Gove who earlier this year summed up my frustrations perfectly when he declared that people have “had enough of experts”. Because why would you listen to an expert? When it comes to a question about finance, why would you listen to a financial expert? When it comes to a question about health, why would you listen to a health expert? When it comes to a question about politics, why would you listen to a political expert? Well, because why should you be told what to do? Take Back Control. Make America Great Again. F**k the experts. When an expert questions you, tell them the days of listening to experts are dead. Their knowledge means nothing. You’ve got this. The Donald has this.
I am going to be in America for the next month to see for myself how things are and whether or not I’ll end up feeling as frustrated as I’ve been by politics in Britain.
48 hours in I must say that the place does not feel as toxic as the campaign and the presidential debates suggest. On my way into Manhattan I spoke with a happy Ukrainian construction worker who told me that regardless of who the next president is, America will still be a great country. He spoke of how the freedom and opportunities it provides will not diminish to the levels he grew up with in Ukraine. The positivity with which he spoke of America matches well with the frequency of flags I am seeing, on the sides of buses, trains, and outside people’s houses. Since Brexit I have been frustrated by deluded patriotism, but so far I would find it difficult here to criticise America for theirs. It is difficult when everybody is being so outrageously welcoming and friendly to a foreigner.
It certainly is not all rosy though. I’ve always felt America is probably one of the safer places in the world to travel too. However given the damaging and divisive rhetoric of Trumps campaign, I cannot help but feel a sense of hostility. Every person I see I am wondering if they are a Trump supporter, knowing that a sizeable amount somehow probably is. Given how many people Trump has disrespected (basically everybody other than white American born-and-raised males), that is still frightening to think – and the thought of him becoming president cannot be frightening enough.
…But it seems frightening is now just a routine description of politics.