Why Britain isn’t a mirror to America’s future
For better or worse, we have close connections with our cousins across the pond. We share an interesting past, full of colourful colonial history and rebellion, intermittent camaraderie and occasional war declaring on foreign dictators. We have been enemies and friends in equal measure, conjoined by our language and mutual self-belief in our respective awesomeness.
Yes, there is something so familiar about our two nations that the Britain has often been unfairly designated as the 51st state. And yet, like the modern dysfunctional family, it’s hard to admit that we have anything more than blood in common. At least as far as Britain goes, we’re unnerved by the likeness, even a tad ashamed and embarrassed that our younger sibling has gone off to become more successful, and only comes home to gleefully ram our faces into it.
The fallout isn’t usually something to be bothered about: our film and music awards are regarded as a little more than a precursor to theirs and we occasionally sell each other the worse of our cultural figures, reassured that there’s a reason Piers Morgan can triumph overseas for the exact same reasons he’s ridiculed amongst his own. But the prophetic mirroring effect of our cultures has recently taken a more sinister turn.
News of the Brexit shocked the world, but it also held extra significance for Americans. The shadow of Donald Trump was cast somewhere behind Nigel Farage, seated in the idea of a renewed Great Britain rid of the immigrant horde. The parallels are readily apparent. They’re each tie-wearing, common-speaking, bacon-butty eating ‘real men’ speaking to the pitch of the worker, able to strike a fire under apathy and turn quiet discontent into a storm-like rumbling for change.
The UKIP following composed only a percentage of the leave campaign, but that didn’t stop Farage from going over there and touting his success at a recent Trump rally. Political commentators have similarly been eager to note the overseas echo, turning the Brexit from a foreign curiosity to a damning portent for November’s US election; the rebel vote is not only rising, but winning out against recited arguments for logic and rationality.
Still, for a true mirror-effect we’d have to have the same reflection. Without necessarily condoning the sort of anti-immigrant spiel tossed about the Leave campaign, it didn’t quite match up to the American’s. The notion of wall building to keep out Mexicans is exactly the sort of overly dramatized, headline grabbing nonsense that we expect from the celebrity culture (which Trump has heavily relied upon to build his national and international profile).
We have a relationship, but we’re not twins. Even Boris has yet to tap into the true goofy absurdity that Trump exudes, with his now-famous hand gestures and gesticulated vitriolic. We’re undeniably similar in our culture; we share literature, TV, film and music. But our politics doesn’t beat to the same drum – often one of extremity – and we should all be offended by the like-to-like comparison. Tangentially the same, sure, but without the hyper intake of sugar.