What the Brits Don’t Get About Donald Trump

By Dwight Longenecker Published on June 5, 2019

As a young American I came down with a serious illness. It was called Anglophilia — the love of all things English.

I had been reading C.S.Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and all the great English authors. I had visited that green and pleasant land on student trips. I came home enchanted by red double-decker buses, classic phone boxes, the royals, Oxford, castles, cathedrals, cream teas and picture perfect villages in the countryside.

Like T.S. Eliot, I decided to leave my American homeland and head for the old country. It worked. I got accepted at Oxford and became the Anglican vicar of two ancient churches.

My twenty five years in England were exciting, interesting and maddening. The English are the most lovable, eccentric and understated of people. Quietly skeptical with an ironic sense of humor, they look on the brash Americans with a mixture of bemused admiration, envy and dismay.

A Pyramid Society

To understand the English you have to remember that, despite all their attempts at democracy, they live in a monarchy. Having a king or queen produces a class system. Somebody is definitely at the top of the heap. Although the English class system is not as rigidly defined as it once was, it is still the prevailing social structure.

Think of it like this: An English person’s worth in society is determined by how close he is to the royal family.

This attitude pervades everything in British culture. It saturates the politics, religion, education and manners. It determines the entertainment, sports and the media. The British society is riddled with the class system. For the Brits you’re moving up in the world if you are moving closer to the aristocrats. The aristocrats are close to the the royals who are next to the Queen herself.

Don’t Tread on Me!

In America the opposite is true. We are naturally suspicious of the establishment. We got rid of the monarch when we got rid of his taxes. “Don’t Tread on Me!” is one of our mottoes.

An English person’s worth in society is determined by how close he is to the royal family.

America is the land of the common man. Snobbery is not tolerated. Joe the plumber is the hero. Each politician knows if he wants to make headway, he has to portray himself as an ordinary shirt sleeves rolled up kind of guy. Even those who come from a wealthy, establishment family have to spin a story about how they’re just an “aw shucks” fellow or gal from a small town in the country.

George W. Bush was president when I lived in England, and the English upper classes always mocked him. I can remember when the former president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosovic was arrested, Bush 43 quipped, “That’s a relief. That’s one more difficult Eastern European name I don’t have to pronounce.”

The English sneered at “W” for his hayseed ways. What they didn’t understand is that Bush didn’t care two hoots what people in London thought. But he knew his comment would play well in Iowa and he knew who had the vote.

The Brits Can’t Assimilate Trump

In England they look up to the monarch and royal family. In America the common man is king.

That’s what most Brits don’t get about Donald Trump. Although he came from a wealthy New York family he has promoted himself as an ordinary guy — the classic American self-made man.

Trump was elected by those folks in the Midwest who like self-made men. The people wearing MAGA hats agree with Bush that it was a good thing he had one less difficult Eastern European name to pronounce. Trump was elected by the steelworkers and coal miners put out of work by elitist policies. He was elected by the ordinary men and women of middle America because, for all his faults and all extremes, he seemed like one of them.

The One Unpretentious Briton

The English, on the other hand, are a nation of snobs. A class system produces snobs because, while there is always someone to look up to, there is also always someone to look down on.

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The politicians, journalists, academics and aristocrats in England might be sneering at Donald Trump during his visit. No doubt they are laughing at him and wondering how on earth such a buffoon could have been elected. They’re busy looking down their noses at all Americans for having elected such a wild character.

However, I believe there is at least one English person who gets it. It’s a little old Englishwoman in her nineties who seems about as down to earth and ordinary as anybody’s granny. She doesn’t put on airs and graces. She’s just who she is — an ordinary person who has inherited an extraordinary job.

That little old lady gets it. She understands the appeal to the common man. She understands that is where her own power lies, and that little old lady of course…

…is Queen Elizabeth herself.

 

Read Dwight Longenecker’s blog, listen to his podcasts, browse his books and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com

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