Across Britain these days, there is political friction on every hand. But one thing most people would agree on is a dislike of Donald J. Trump and his performance after two years as US President. People find him variously rude, unpredictable, egotistical, bigoted, un-statesmanlike and abusive. This is particularly true of the Westminster establishment, who are used to touting a ‘special relationship’ with the US. This is ironic. Trump actually represents the logical continuation of the mercantile imperialism that made Britain Great and continues to motivate hard-line English Btexiteers to this day.
Consider if he were time-warped back to various seminal stages of British history. He would take to them like a duck to water. In the Middle Ages, the brazen audacity with which 3m English sought to dominate 14m French under the Angevin Empire comes right out of his shell-company property empire playbook. The chance to break all the rules and plunder a lumbering Spanish empire in the 16th © meant he would have out-pirated Hawkins and Drake to be Queen Bess’ favourite.
Once real empire-building hot underway, there would have been no holding him. Never one to brook opposition, he would have been sabre-rattling for Camperdown to beat up the Dutch and seize New York and The Cape to open new markets; he would have, to have a world war with the French in 1756 to seize Canadian fur and the riches from French possessions in India; he would be front and centre developing ports like Bristol and Liverpool, kitting out ships with beads for Africa, exchanged for slaves for America, exchanged for tobacco and cotton back to Britain. Nice little earners all that a contemporary Donald would be quick to exploit.
But it would be in Britain’s Victorian heyday when he would really have come into his own. Not content with being simply an exploitative mill owner or railroad baron, he would have made a great Sir Bartle Frere starting the Zulu was o sacrificing Gordon at Khartoum to nab the Sudan. But his shining achievement may have been fomenting Opium Wars that brought down the ancient Chinese Empire and founded money machines that became Jardine-Matheson and HSBC..
After Britain’s Edwardian swansong, Trump would have felt less at home. There was little money to be made in ex-German colonies, declining shipyards and the unholy mess carving up the Middle East that Sykes–Picot made. The selflessness, diplomacy and patience required are simply not on The Donald’s radar. Which goes some way to explain the present mismatch between British expectations and Trump’s actions.
But that should not detract from the recognition that Donald J. Trump represents a very modern disciple of the shrewdly pillaging greed that drove Britain to greatness, right down to the smart suits, creative justifications and bombastic language by means of which lesser mortals wee cowed. We should be less precious: like it o not, he’s one of ours.