The Democrats today are just like Remainers, moaning about their loss with no plan for moving forward
At the annual Spectator Awards Dinner last November, I went on stage to receive a prize – something l don’t mind admitting is pretty unusual. During my acceptance speech, I mentioned that I was about to go to Washington DC in expectation of Donald Trump’s victory in the forthcoming Presidential election. This comment was met with boos, jeers and condescending laughter from everybody in the room including the Prime Minister, Theresa May.
The view of those mocking my prediction was that Brexit had been a freak result and that Mr Trump could never win. While they jibed, however, my instincts told me something very different.
Two and a half months earlier, in August 2016, I had been invited by Mr Trump to address a rally in Jackson, Mississipi. He knew – as I did – that Brexit had made a significant impression across large swathes of America, in particular amongst the conservative base. He wanted to channel that energy and sense of purpose that breaking free can bring.
As the results came in state by state, the sheer levels of denial amongst the mainstream media had to be seen to be believed. Analysts kept saying things like: “It’s OK, it’ll be alright as long as Hillary wins the next six.” Ironically, they were joined by many Republicans, who believed they’d lost the election. Even the Trump team itself withheld from the now-President some of the exit poll results, fearing they would be denied in a photo-finish.
In the end, of course, it became clear that Trump had not only won the election but had secured a clear majority in the electoral college.
As promised, I flew to the US and was very fortunate to be the first foreign political figure to meet Mr Trump in his New York apartment. The enormity of his achievement was dawning on me. He was calm in his demeanour and at the same time buzzing with different ideas. Crucially, he reaffirmed his belief that Brexit had been the key to his victory. He knew it had changed the attitude of much of Middle America, giving people hope that the Establishment could be taken on and beaten.
A year on from this extraordinary result, it’s true to say that the Democratic Party has seen a slight bounce in the polls. But, in terms of what its main strategy is going to be, I would say it is in total disarray. Is that any surprise when the party’s most prominent figure, Hillary Clinton, has been touring Europe selling her self-pitying, self-justificatory book?
I’m not alone in thinking this. Just consider the recent comments of former Democrat President Jimmy Carter, who said that Obama had not achieved much in office and that Hillary was not attractive to the electorate. The Democrats are nowhere near the stage they need to be at to return to office. For one thing, no obvious new leader has emerged.
It’s well known that America itself has some deeply bitter internal divisions. Indeed, I have not seen such a dislike from the Left for a leader since the days of Margaret Thatcher in our country. Perhaps more worrying now as compared to the 1980s, though, is that critical thinking seems to have been banned from most universities. The vast majority of students seem to take the unquestioning view that the Democrats are good and Trump is something akin to a neo-Nazi.
Yet while attitudes towards immigration and radical Islam have split America, and Mr Trump’s approval ratings have fallen recently, I just do not see that the Democratic Party has got its act together. Even when confronted by a maverick, it has no answer. In some ways, I think they’re a little bit like the Remainers – constantly moaning about the status quo but without any coherent plan to change things.
My opposition to open door immigration and EU membership led to unparalleled personal abuse against me, and my support for Mr Trump last year doubled that sense of hate. Virtually no-one in British media or politics supported this New Yorker, believing him to be brash. But what I saw was a man who had real guts and was unafraid to stand up the Establishment.
A year on, I am proud to reflect on the fact that I’m the only person to have campaigned in both of the major upsets of 2016. As we all consider the recent electoral results in Austria and the Czech Republic, it’s clear that the revolution of 2016 is still rolling. Those alleged political sages who laughed loudest at the idea of a Trump presidency at that Spectator awards ceremony last year have, I trust, taken note of this.