Regardless of any other definitions, I think that the essential difference between conservatives and progressives is that progressives believe that the future will be better than the present, and conservatives believe that the past was better than the present.
I used to be a progressive, but I’ve now become a conservative. I think that young people are natural progressives because they have their whole future in front of them, and they have no past. And I think old people are natural conservatives because they have their whole past behind them, and they have no future. And at some point in the course of any life the past starts to outweigh the future.
The future is also always an imaginary world, open to any number of possibilities. But the past is fixed and unalterable. One may dream of the future, but one can only remember the past.
And if I wasn’t one before, I think I became a conservative on 1 July 2007. For it was an ugly world that dawned that day, as I was exiled to the outdoors by the UK smoking ban. The day before had been a much better day. And all the years before it had been better years. It had been so much warmer and kinder back then than in this new and cold and heartless new world. For sure the past had been a better place. It had been a much, much better place. It had been a bright and free and happy and slightly anarchic world, where you could sit in a bar with a beer and cigarette and gaze out on the busy streets outside. The grim new world that replaced it was one with No Smoking signs and health warnings and climate scares and rules and regulations and bans and restrictions and laws that rained down incessantly from a black sky.
I think that Donald Trump is the same sort of conservative as I’ve become. For implicit in Making America Great Again is the idea that America was a better place some time in the past than it is today. Donald Trump wants to restore America to some former greatness.
I can understand why. I’m pretty much the same age as Donald Trump, and I grew up in the same world. I experienced many of the things that he experienced, and at the same time. America in the 1950s had just emerged as the undisputed leader of the Free World. It was an effervescent, optimistic place. The Vietnam war had not yet started. JFK had not yet been assassinated. The Watergate affair had not yet unfolded. Nor 9/11 and its aftermath. There was no global warming. And smoking didn’t cause lung cancer. As a boy living in Brazil, I drank Coca Cola, chewed gum, read DC comics, and had a number of American friends. And my father smoked American cigarettes, and my mother listened to Frank Sinatra. And my mother loved the Queen, and so did Donald Trump’s Scottish mother.
Britain wasn’t quite such an optimistic place in the 1950s. It was rather drab. Britain had just lost – or was in process of losing – its empire and its influence. It was probably the same everywhere else in Europe. Britain – and Europe – were just beginning to piece themselves back together, re-invent themselves. And when Britain began re-inventing itself in the 1960s, it was with the energetic new music coming out of America. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones and all the rest of them took American music, and gave it a new twist – before Britain began to subside into the black hole of the emerging European Union, in which the nations of Europe huddled.
Donald Trump’s energy is the energy of 1950s America. He was living in New York, and the energy was all around him. He grew up in an optimistic, energetic world. And now he’s bringing back the same optimism and energy, to revitalise America with a transfusion of 1950s vitality.
I regularly compare US Presidents to Roman Emperors. And Trump has set out to do for America what any number of Roman Emperors tried to do with Rome, and revitalise the empire, renew its spirit, even extend its borders. And some of them succeeded. But for much of the late imperial period, the best days of the empire were always in the past.
I watched Trump’s inauguration speech, and was struck by its American nationalism and also its religiosity. In some ways, the most remarkable moment came before the speech, as some bishop, standing in prayer at the lectern, made the sign of the cross upon his chest. When was the last time I’d seen anyone do that? Isn’t that sort of thing forbidden – much like smoking? Isn’t anything explicitly Christian forbidden in the innumerable rules of Political Correctness? Aren’t crosses insulting to Muslims, or something? Isn’t it a hate crime to wear a pendant cross around your neck? More ominously, Trump said:
“We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.”
I bet that didn’t go down too well in Riyadh. To me, it sounded pretty much like a call for a crusade. And when Trump meets Putin, they’ll be meeting not just as world leaders, but as Christian world leaders about to embark on a new war on Islam. Because since the fall of the Soviet Union, Eastern Orthodox Christianity has been flourishing in Russia, and Putin himself is just as much a church-goer as Trump.
I think I’m beginning to understand all the snowflakes who’ve been howling and wailing since Trump won the election. They were all progressives, and they were all riding along on the progressive train with Barack Obama, rolling towards the future. And there was only supposed to be a slightly delay while Hillary Clinton took over, and continued into the bright future of more smoking bans, more global warming alarmism, and more transsexual inclusivity. But instead Donald Trump hijacked the train, and put it into reverse. And now America is rolling away from the future, and back towards the past. Everything has been turned upside down, and is now going backwards. They’re just like we smokers were on 1 July 2007, spitting with rage at their exclusion. But I have no sympathy for them. After all, they had none for us.
The progressive era in America has just come to an end. And a new conservative era has begun.
I didn’t watch Trump’s speech on the BBC, or even on TV. I’m not allowed to, because I don’t pay a TV licence fee. Instead I watched it streamed live on Infowars. And that’s another sign of the times we’re now living in. The Mainstream Media are now in eclipse, overtaken by upstart internet outfits like Infowars and Breitbart. There’s even a new UK variant – Westmonster – run by some chum of Nigel Farage. Its headline today: