Question US politics amid UK proposed Trump ban
“United States President Banned from the United Kingdom” — if the presidential race continues as it has and British citizens have their way, Americans could see this headline within a year. After nearly 570,000 British citizens signed a petition calling to ban Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump from entering the U.K., Parliament scheduled to debate the issue on Jan. 18, according to a Jan. 5 Blaze article. The petition arose in response to Trump’s inflammatory comments, specifically his proposal in December 2015 to ban all Muslims from the U.S. While the debate may not result in any real legislative action, precedents for banning public figures for hate speech already exist in the U.K., according to a Jan. 6 Newsweek article.
Regardless, with or without a formal ban, the petition and debate send a clear and disturbing message: Britons deem one of America’s leading presidential candidates unworthy of even setting foot in their country.
At this point, the Trump debacle has gone from amusing to distressing. Why, out of two relatively similar countries, does one country seek to ban Trump while the other has spent the past seven months considering giving him the keys to the castle?
First, consider the charges against Trump: hate speech. While the UK and the U.S. share many similarities, the two countries have different approaches to freedom of speech: The former treats it as any other right with qualifiers and exceptions; the latter treats it as the right to rule all others. Where the UK has the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006 — legislation which forbids using speech to incite hatred based on race or religion — the U.S. has precedents like Snyder v. Phelps — a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2011 which supported public discourse to the extent of ruling that the Westboro Baptist Church has the right to picket military funerals.
These differences provide significant insight into each country’s respective responses to Donald Trump — but is that the only reason? Does the U.S. merely allow Trump’s rhetoric, or does Trump’s rhetoric find a more receptive audience in the U.S. than in the UK?
At first, the shock and entertainment value explained Trump’s popularity, but as time progressed, it became clear that other factors affected his surge in the polls, which reached a high of 41 percent on Dec. 14, 2015, according to Politico — although he has since dropped slightly in the polls. An August 2015 compilation of 30 letters to the Atlantic reveals that, if asked why they support Trump, voters will likely give an answer that falls into one of two categories: a belief that Trump’s strong leadership and “incorruptibility” will “Make America Great Again” or a desire to watch the world burn. Even so, these explanations don’t indicate why a man loathed so much by the British public surges in the polls here in America.
In reality, Trump’s popularity reveals systemic flaws in American society, specifically disturbing levels of ignorance, bigotry and desperation among American voters.
Although Trump quickly hides behind the First Amendment if criticized, he has a shocking disregard for the rest of the U.S. Constitution. If he would peruse Article 2 of the Constitution, which outlines the powers and restrictions of the Executive Branch, Trump would see that the president has neither the authority to require Muslims to register in a database nor the power to build a wall to secure the border — but Mr. Trump and his supporters either don’t know or don’t care. If Trump fails to even respect the Constitution now, how can Americans expect him to “preserve, protect and defend” it after he takes the oath?
The answer is simple: They don’t — or, at least, Trump’s supporters don’t. Their very support of Trump, despite his unconstitutional schemes, suggests that they either don’t care if the president preserves, protects and defends the Constitution or don’t know enough to notice any difference. The latter is especially likely, as the majority of them are less educated than other voters, according to a December 2015 New York Times article.
Beyond that, Trump’s popularity further shows that American voters harbor distressingly prejudiced beliefs, especially toward minorities and women. Up until now, “political correctness”— or more accurately, societal progression and basic human decency — have attempted to silence these views, but now they once again crawl out of the woodwork because an orange-faced man with a ferret on his head rails against the oppression of bigotry. His bombastic speeches shock and horrify some but strike a chord with the rest. As many of his supporters have commented, Trump manages to say the things they think but are too afraid to say — and therein lies the problem.
Trump’s claims that Mexicans are rapists or that thousands of Muslims in America celebrated Sept. 11 fuel nativist and Islamophobic sentiment, and at a time when Americans struggle to find work and fear the violence of the Islamic State, Trump has supplied them with not only apt scapegoats but also the reassurance that their prejudiced views are okay. According to a Dec. 2015 article in Slate, former Louisiana politician David Duke commented, “I think a lot of what he says resonates with me.” Duke moonlights as a “Grand Wizard” in the Ku Klux Klan.
When he’s not appealing to Klansmen, Trump appeals to misogynists. From strangers to political opponents to family members, Trump absolutely refuses to show any woman respect. He insults all women who question or criticize him, from Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly to Rosie O’Donnell, according to an Aug. 2015 USA Today article.
Even worse, his marriage to Ivana Trump reveals that Trump not only treats women with disrespect but also has a history of cruelty and violence toward them. According to a July 2015 article in the Daily Beast, Ivana Trump accused Donald Trump of violently raping her in 1989. Accounts of this attack appear both in Ivana and Donald Trump’s divorce deposition as well as in the 1993 book “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump,” but Ivana never pressed formal charges. The couple divorced in 1990 on the grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment” of Ivana, and after “Lost Tycoon” in 1993, no one mentioned the rape again until Trump announced his bid for the presidency. In July 2015, Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, attempted to downplay accounts of the attack and told the Daily Beast, “[Ivana] felt raped emotionally…” before adding that legally “you cannot rape your spouse.” Clearly Cohen is as habitually wrong and misogynistic as Trump.
Unfortunately, out of all of the criticisms of Trump, his rape of Ivana receives the least attention — likely because a gag order was a condition of the couple’s divorce.
If Americans support Trump because he says what they think but won’t say, then they are racist, sexist, xenophobic cowards with little to no knowledge of their own government. Agreeing with Donald Trump is not a point of pride.
That said, even if you’re okay with what that “Trump 2016” bumper sticker says about you, consider this: If Parliament ends up banning Trump, his very existence in the office of President of the United States could create unnecessary tensions in America’s relations with one of its greatest allies.
Although it was the first, the UK will not be the only country to publicly reject Trump’s diatribes. Just Friday, Dieter Janecek, a member of Germany’s Green Party, urged Germany to ban Trump on the grounds of “incitement of hatred,” according to a Jan. 8 CNBC article.
Britons and Germans alike have begun to spurn Trump’s invective; Americans must follow suit.