At a distance, British newspapers see the Republican front-runner Donald Trump as a repulsive metaphor for the whole U.S. presidential election. The billionaire's toughest critic? A popular and prominent conservative newspaper.
Can Donald Trump really become president of the United States? The mediator's opinion: Oh yes! It's a free country, after all. At any rate, it's been nearly 12 years since a multimillionaire with behavioral disorders was entered into the race and won it for the Republicans. Why shouldn't they nominate a demagogue billionaire who claims he's not part of the establishment?
Uncertain times produce bizarre events. In the last 40 years alone we've had a blue-eyed peanut farmer, a charismatic B-movie star and a trailer park kid who gave the (deceptive) impression they would all reform the system. But it was the old network that backed them with money and the other necessities to run an election campaign.
The beauty of a democracy lies not least in the fact that everybody is allowed to make mistakes. But how do the British media – newspapers in the latter-day motherland of liberty and equality – view the continual political campaigning in their former colony? What do those fine London magazines have to say about the fictional character Donald Trump since Super Tuesday when they were given a hint that their front-runner wasn't liked – was even despised some might say – by the far right as well as by many others and who might well face Hillary Clinton to fight it out for America's highest office?
The conservative Spectator magazine is horrified by Trump. A recent cover depicted him as the Statue of Liberty, his hair a wild caricature and his face a twisted mask, with his middle finger extended in an obscene gesture to the world. The caption simply says, “America turns nasty.” An article by Freddie Gray says that in Trump's America, greed is great and vulgarity beautiful. He goes on to say, “Donald Trump is going to be the Republican candidate for the presidential election on Nov. 8. Which means that, by January, a fulminating demagogue with more than a whiff of the mad dictator about him could be in charge of the most powerful nation on earth. This says something disturbing about the state of America. The most benevolent superpower in history is turning nasty.” That disturbs British observers. Trump will almost certainly face Clinton – a woman who hasn't really won a major election – and a perfect example of the evil elite so hated by American voters. The Spectator considers the Clintons to be just as spoiled as Trump. Whoever believes in a liberal democracy must be frightened when civilized behavior has no place in an election campaign. Trump offers only a sort of anti-morality. The term fascist fits him well.
The left-leaning conservative New Statesman took a more relaxed attitude regarding the rabid real estate shark. Peter Wilby declared, “We shouldn’t worry about Trump. The U.S. political system was designed to stop anybody doing anything much, particularly the president. Barack Obama could not control the sale of guns or close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and could only partly achieve his ambitions for comprehensive health care. Trump will find it just as difficult to expel illegal immigrants or build his wall on the Mexican border.” He went on to say, “Americans, I suspect, have come to a similar conclusion about their president: Whomever they elect, big business and the moneyed elite will take the important decisions.”
Not To Be Underestimated
The liberal Economist magazine even sees a glimmer of hope although the prospect of Trump vs. Clinton is gloomy, noting the Republican “has said ever more repellent things about immigrants, women and Muslims and declined to condemn white supremacists. But he changes his sales pitch as easily as his socks. In a speech after winning seven out of 11 states, he stopped snarling and tried to sound presidential. It would be unwise to underestimate his ability to feign gravitas and transform himself into an apparent centrist.”
But Clinton should try appealing to moderate Republicans to help stop “the blond Berlusconi.”* Then the Democrats could not only win the presidency decisively but also regain control of the Senate. The magic word: consensus. In any case, it will take a reformation in both major parties to overcome the stagnation in Washington.
* Editor's Note: Silvio Berlusconi is an Italian media tycoon who served as the prime minister of Italy for nine years. He was convicted of tax fraud in 2013.