I love America.
It’s one of my favourite places in the world. I have lost count of the number of times I have visited, and I still love it just as much.
Admittedly I only really go to the East and West Coast, and hardly ever to the bits in the middle, but I am not unusual in that. Lots of Americans don’t go there either.
This isn’t a universally popular opinion among my middle class leftie friends, some of whom view the US as a wicked global imperialist power hell bent on taking over the world. I don’t share that view at all.
I did claim rashly that I wouldn’t visit the US while Trump was in office, but my principles weren’t as strong as the allure of driving a Dodge Charger around Illinois.
This Dodge Charger in fact:
Ladbrokes don’t think much of Trump’s chance in 2020, which means that this might be my only visit to America during Trump’s term in office.
The big shock is that Trump is much less visible in Chicago than he is in the UK. He was less talked about and less in the news that he is among my left wing friends in the UK. Trump’s great talent it seems is to use social media to make himself the centre of attention. Across Chicago people seemed just disinterested. It was refreshing not to have to the constant Trump noise buzzing around.
The only spontaneous conversation about Trump I had in the Chicago was with a cab driver. I asked if the Megan Markle story was still big in the US news:
“Oh yes” he said “Megan – that’s some story. She married a Prince”
He then added
“And Ivanka – that’s some story too. She married a frog. Shee-it that Trump’s ugly”
Apparently if he had caught a cat fish as ugly as Trump he would throw it back.
There wasn’t much sign of Trumps policies having an impact either. His 2 key commitments – to repeal Obamacare and build a wall – haven’t happened, and the economy isn’t much different to how it was when Obama left power.
This lack of impact is puzzling because so far he has controlled both Houses, and soon the Supreme Court too. This lack of impact is either because:
- He came to power hopelessly unprepared, and it took him a long time to work out what his agenda was beyond some slogans about walls
- Cities like Chicago with Democrat Mayors, and Democrat controlled state legislatures have been successful in resisting his policies – for example Sanctuary cities
- Trump’s administration is even more chaotic and ineffectual in real life than we have heard, and they have struggled to progress any of their key policies (build a wall, repeal Obamacare) despite controlling both Houses.
I bought Bob Woodward’s book on the Trump White House while I was over there, which seems to re-inforce the idea of a shambolic mess.
With regard to point 2 there does seem to be a lot of passive resistance quietly behind the scenes often by the old Democrat establishment, with some success. The problem is that this probably isn’t enough for some of the anti-Trump groups, and this passive resistance hasn’t produced an obvious candidate that the different factions can rally round. There are some talented and interesting politicians emerging from the younger generation of Democrats, but 2020 is probably too soon for them.
When we got to Detroit the indifference to Trump was just as noticeable. Detroit has a Democrat Mayor too, but unlike Illinois the state legislature is held by the Republicans,
Things changed markedly the day before we left. Luke Bryan was playing a gig in town. Bryan is a big thing in country and western music, which means that no-one in the UK knows who he is. Bryan’s fanbase were white, and from rural Michigan and surrounding areas. This was a constituency much more favourable towards Trump.
I saw the only actual incidence of racism that I had seen in a very long time, with white concert goers closing lift doors to avoid sharing with a black woman. I also saw my first MAGA hat. It’s hard to tell whether Trump has encouraged these behaviours, or whether Trump has brought attention to behaviours which were always there.
My overall impression is that the vast majority of Americans aren’t interested in the current culture wars, sometimes to the extent of being actively turned off by them. They are more interested in changes to healthcare provision, and the overall state of the economy.
That’s not to say that all Americans don’t like cultural warfare. It is still a significant motivator for a noisy group of Republican voters, and also for a smaller (but equally noisy) group of left wing political activists.
Despite the country fans with the MAGA hats I came away reassured about the future of the US from my admittedly brief holiday.
The USA is a lot bigger and tougher than Donald Trump. And it will take more than some tweeting to change it.