Voices: Trump looks like he might be back to his old, 2016 self – and we should all be worried
Fearless champion of democracy Nigel Farage spent almost four full decades fighting his breathtakingly successful campaign against the “anti-democratic” European Union. If he believes in anything at all, it’s surely democracy.
So quite why it is that repeated attempts to overturn a free and fair US election and ultimately the orchestration of a fascist coup that left a police officer dead after the January 6 Capitol riots have done absolutely nothing to dampen his breathless love and longing for Donald Trump really is a mystery.
In the build-up to the Trump/Farage interview on GB News, recorded at Trump’s Turnberry golf course, including entire video segments that were absolutely nothing more than a real estate advert, Farage described yet again, how the two were “firm friends”. Some of Trump’s early admirers, like, say GB News rival Piers Morgan, are less besotted now than they used to be, when it turned out their friend was a straight-up, full-fat fascist, even though he very obviously always was, right from the start.
But not Nigel. His light is undimmed. It’s hard to calibrate with any degree of precision the sycophancy of this kind of sycophantic meta-interview. They’re everywhere now. Politician interviews politician, propaganda dressed up as scrutiny. Most of the GB News schedule now appears to be presented by either Nigel Farage or sitting Tory MPs.
The absurdity of Talk TV’s Nadine Dorries on Boris Johnson interview set a watermark that can never be surpassed. And Farage is far too smart to be quite that stupid.
If you were prepared to overlook the breathless buildup that served as an introduction to every question, there was quite a lot there. Christiane Amanpour might well have asked Trump, “Why do you want to run for president again?”
The Farage formulation, on the other hand, goes: “You have the best portfolio, great golf courses, great wife, great family, an incredible life. Why do you want to give it all up again?”
As if the world is crying out for Donald Trump to be kind enough to bless the public realm with his infinite talents for a second time.
But for anyone assuming Trump’s White House days are over, it was frankly not easy viewing. Go back and watch the videos of Trump 2016 and you will see a smart, relatively articulate, energetic campaigner. Trump in 2020, on the other hand, was exhausted, delirious and delusional. If there is to be a Trump/Biden rerun, then one of those not-exactly-youthful men will come into it having spent four years in the White House, the other at Mar-a-Lago.
Staring back at Farage was a well-rested, not especially angry-seeming man, who bore far more resemblance to his 2016 self than his 2020.
Donald Trump is not going to tie himself in knots on questions about trans rights, as left-wing politicians seem unable to prevent themselves from doing. He’ll just say things like: “We will not allow men to compete in women’s sports. It’s not right. It’s not fair on women. You see it in swimming, in weightlifting, breaking all the records. It’s not fair.”
And, though it may stick in the craw, that’s about as complicated as most people think the issue is, and everybody just gets one vote.
On foreign affairs, Mr Trump just looked his mate in the eye and said, “If I were still in charge, Putin would never have gone into Ukraine. We wouldn’t have been talking about Taiwan. I had that all sorted out.”
And a lot of people are going to hear that and think, “well, maybe he’s right”. I mean, it’s not right. It absolutely isn’t right. But if you’re reading this you probably already know that, and if you didn’t already know that, then you’re probably not reading this, so it makes no difference anyway.
He told Farage that he took unending grief for calling Covid the “China virus” and what do you know, now the FBI agrees with him. That the most likely explanation is that Covid-19 really did escape from that lab in Wuhan. And though one hates to say it, the man’s got a point hasn’t he?
He thinks it’s a great insult that Biden isn’t coming to the coronation. “Your coronation is a big deal. A president doesn’t come to a coronation of your new King or Queen? What message does that send?”
And, well, he’s right, isn’t he? Comparisons have been made, historical precedent has been argued over, but this is the first coronation in the age of transatlantic air travel, certainly the first since Air Force One, and he doesn’t want to come. “He’s in Delaware sleeping,” he said.
He did become slightly unhinged at this point. “A very smart group of communists and Marxists are running the country, while he’s in Delaware sleeping,” he claimed. These are wild claims that are not going to persuade the median American voter that Trump might not be mad and should be given another go, but it all paled into insignificance when the next line came out.
“We had the greatest economy in the history of the world and I’ll be able to do it again and very quickly. The stock market will go up, interest rates will come down. I turned it around once, twice actually, if you include turning it around after Covid, and I’ll do it again,” he said.
Farage nodded along with gleeful enthusiasm. These claims don’t bear much scrutiny but they probably won’t be subject to very much. And maybe, just maybe, Trump has benefited from not being able to share his every unhinged thought with the world, every hour of the day. The number of people’s public image that has been improved by social media is few indeed. Trump’s Twitter ban could be the best thing that ever happened to him.
Of course, his political career should have been finished on 6 January 2021. The fact that it isn’t is a stain on America that it will never entirely come clean. That the Republican party is seemingly still in the pocket of a man who’s done the things Trump has done should be sufficient cause for them to be seen as exactly what they are.
But that won’t weigh more than a feather in the balance either. All over the world, incumbent governments are struggling with economic misery, caused by Covid and the war in Ukraine, and they are losing elections they might otherwise have won, for reasons entirely beyond their control. The chances of Donald Trump doing it again might be small, but on this evidence, he is arguably less of a ridiculous prospect than he was in 2016. And most people can still just about remember what happened then.