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The United Kingdom’s Trump Trap

How Special a Relationship?

One sunny afternoon in Covent Garden this past summer, a street performer realized that an audience volunteer sounded American. “Please tell me you’re not a Trump supporter!” the busker pleaded. “Er, no, I’m not,” stammered the embarrassed young man—at which point, the London crowd cheered.

Most Europeans find Donald Trump alien and contemptible and a man unsuited for the U.S. presidency. Some will admit that he has at least introduced them to a large part of the American public they seldom encounter: the ordinary citizens who feel disrespected and exploited by globalist elites they see as rigging the system against them. Trump gives his supporters a rare sense that someone at the top understands their feelings of defeat and humiliation—and Europeans who simply dismiss him will continue to underestimate the power of the passions that fueled his rise.

THE REGION'S REACTION

In office, Trump appears to have abandoned much of his domestic populist agenda and pursued traditional Republican policy priorities: cutting taxes rather than building infrastructure, restricting rather than expanding health care, rolling back environmental and consumer protections. But on foreign policy, he continues to push a strongly nationalist line, even while consigning many of his radical campaign promises to the memory hole.

European views of Trump fall into three main camps. The first and largest sees him as a living fossil, the sort of “ugly American” common enough in earlier eras, focused less on responsible global leadership than on nativism, mercantilism, and gunboat diplomacy. This camp takes it for granted that Trump is destabilizing and an embarrassment and wonders only whether he will be checked and balanced enough by the U.S. Constitution. 

theunitedkingdomstrumptrap_goodhart_protest_rtsziut.jpg REUTERS

Protestors outside the Palace of Westminster in London, February 2017.

Protestors outside the Palace of Westminster in London, February 2017. Protestors outside the Palace of Westminster in London, February 2017.

A second, smaller camp is more pragmatic. Its members point out that the Trump administration’s

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