Donald Trump is bad for PR

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It hasn’t been that long ago that I was fielding questions from Brits wanting to know why on earth did I leave America for here. What used to be asked with a kind of tiresome regularity (and with the unconscious innocence of those who believed they were asking something brand new) has now become scarcer and scarcer, until it’s hardly ever asked at all.

It isn’t because I’m losing my accent and they no longer notice I’m American, either. My American drawl is as firmly and permanently ensconced as it was the day I arrived on this sceptred isle. No, the question isn’t asked because nobody wonders why any longer.

In short, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave isn’t what it used to be. At least, that’s how the view from over here looks.

The really bad PR for America began with Trump, but it didn’t end there, oh no. Trump just helped draw a firm line under everything that’s wrong with America these days, such as gun violence and the baffling gun culture that goes with it, the so-called “pro-life” hypocrisy that robs women of their bodily autonomy and civil rights, political chaos verging on civil war, hatred of one class of Americans toward another, Handmaid’s Tale-style oppression from the whacko evangelical rightwing and lack of universal health care. It’s a wonder any Brit still wants to visit the USA at all, let alone live there.

Don’t get me wrong, we also have our share of dunderheads here, too. Plenty of Brits admire Trump and see his big, stupid mouth as refreshing and “honest.” (How odd that rudeness is a quality that’s so often confused with honesty!) They’re just not nearly as common on the ground as they are in the United States.

And you can talk to them here, British Trump admirers, you can tell them you think they’re nuts for thinking that way and you can explain why and they’ll understand the explanation, mostly. Some will even acknowledge that what you’re saying makes sense.

But they still admire Trump, some of them. Of course, what’s really going on is they admire his open racism which is, when it all comes down to it, more of a feature than a bug to those few British Trump apologists.

And just like with many in America they fail to appreciate the irony that the man who began his odd little political life calling immigrants rapists and criminals turned out to be a court-confirmed rapist and a 34 felony count indicted criminal himself. Their minds won’t let them leap that far because they’re blinded by their principal agenda. The same agenda that made many of them vote for Brexit. Deep down there’s a well of xenophobic bigotry that embitters the souls of some human beings and, being human beings, Brits are no exception.

But they are rare, and the vast majority of Brits hate Trump and the Trumpism he left behind, even the bigots. Trump’s unpopularity is represented in the person of British journalist Piers Morgan, a man who used to be Donald Trump’s personal friend but today is one of his biggest public detractors.

When I first visited England in December of 2001, America was universally beloved and popular here, thanks particularly to the recent tragedy that happened two months previously. To be sure, the enormous fund of goodwill wrought by 9/11 was gradually depleted by another seven years of George W Bush. But the Obama years more than made up for it and Barack Obama was and remains hugely popular in the British Isles.

Then came Trump, and America’s most damaging, image-destroying monster carried the day. Not even his ultimate repudiation by two impeachments and a seven million vote repudiation in the 2020 election can erase the stain that Donald Trump left behind. And, of course, the strife and hatred that his rabble rousing continues to foment remains a profoundly ugly spectre to behold from across the Atlantic Ocean.

The view that Donald Trump is a cautionary tale and a force that destroyed a once well-admired land is seen with the same 20-20 clarity here as does the election of the same name that he most emphatically lost. The few Brits that were fooled by him are not enough to start a dangerous movement. They just remind us that error can be found everywhere, but the abundance of error that is still to be found in the United States remains hard to believe — let alone explain. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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