Sunday 22 July 2018

The Donald isn't floundering, he's in tune with Americans - but he needs to get on with job

President Donald Trump.
President Donald Trump.

Tim Stanley

Don't give up on Trump just yet. That's not a moral judgment: he's had a bad few weeks because he is doing badly at his job, but he's still the real deal. Trump is far closer to America as it actually is than the America his critics want it to be.

Consider the row over historical monuments. Folks in Charlottesville, Virginia, wanted to pull down a statue of Confederate war hero Robert E Lee. A protest by white supremacists turned violent; an anti-fascist was killed. Any other president since the 1960s would have condemned the racists and called for national healing. Trump said both sides were as bad as each other and asked why the statue had to come down anyway - triggering a cycle of events that has become utterly predictable:

1. Trump says something outrageous. 2. The media says he's been exposed as a Nazi and his presidency will probably end next week. 3. A poll shows most Americans agree with Trump.

According to the pollster Marist, 62pc of voters back keeping the statues. At the same time as protesters and mayors are toppling dozens of Robert E Lees, 65pc of Latinos and 44pc of African-Americans think they should stay where they are.

This speaks to a serious problem in our democracy: the enormous gulf between the cultural values of, on one side, most journalists, educators, business leaders and politicians and, on the other side of the canyon, ordinary people. Just look at my own country. If all you knew of Brexit was what you saw on TV, you'd imagine it's going horribly wrong and everyone hates it. It's been called impossible, irresponsible, suicidal and Dunkirk without the happy ending. Last Sunday at church, my priest referred to it as a "trauma".

Then I see a poll that says two-thirds of Britons would rather walk away from the EU without a deal than with a bad one. It was conducted by the LSE, which, as far as most of its academics are probably concerned, stands for Let's Stay in Europe.

This is why Brexit was a surprise and Trump was a shock: they shattered an old order. Memories of that order are absurdly rosy. When people say "things have never been this bad", remind them that Nixon resigned from office and Bill Clinton was impeached. That Gore and Bush fought each other in the courts for the White House. Or that a right-wing extremist blew up the FBI building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.

The old order did, however, soften its edges with nice rhetoric. Barack Obama saw himself as the teacher-in-chief, nudging Americans along his "arc of progress" towards a fairer world.

But what Obama said and what life was actually like were very different things. Remember the terror attacks? The school shootings? The black kids getting gunned down by trigger-happy cops? The riots?

Yes, Trump exploited all of that. But he didn't start it. He was elected to stop it. Everything Trump is condemned for saying as president, he said on the campaign trail - and people still voted for him. Why? Because Obama might have been a good man but he was an ineffectual president. Trump beat the Democrats not on a pledge to be a moral example or to end racism, but to run the country better.

Of course, there's a distinction between being frank and being a loudmouth, and Trump's personality now functions like a constitutional check on his own agenda. It's stopping him getting things done; energy is wasted on unwinnable battles.

There is an America beyond the university campus or the TV studio that appreciates a statesman who doesn't recite a script that became tired and unconvincing years ago.

If only this president - elected without any pretence to sugary idealism - was able to get on with what he was elected to do. Create jobs, Mr President. Create jobs and kill terrorists. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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