In the light of the current controversy over the Britain First tweets, two JPIT members test out the arguments for and against inviting Donald Trump for a state visit…
President Trump did not retweet Britain First by accident. Even if he did not know the nature of the organization he is sympathetic to their views. We saw this with Charlottesville, his choice of advisors, the wall with Mexico, and his ‘ban’ on Muslims. Trump is either xenophobic, or very happy to use racist, xenophobic rhetoric to further his own political cause.
Not inviting Trump for a state visit is the only way I envisage him possibly changing his mind. It is clear that Trump enjoys pomp and splendour. It just might be the case that, by withholding the hospitality of our Queen, Trump will be forced to rethink his attitudes.
Even if Trump is a lost cause, the Republican Party in the Congress and the Senate is not. We have already seen major revolts against Trump amongst Republicans. In refusing Trump, we would be showing solidarity with what is an increasingly effective, and meaningful resistance.
How about Trump supporters? Will they not be confirmed in their belief that Trump is an anti-establishment hero? Some certainly will and any criticism will confirm that belief. For others, denying Trump a state visit will add to the uneasy feeling that there is something wrong with the world view Trump espouses.
More important are the Trump sympathizers, on either side of the Atlantic, who think that that on occasion he speaks sense. A state visit will mean they see the President of the United States of America received with all the pomp and splendour of the British state, rather than realizing that his views are unacceptably extremist. The cancellation of a state visit is a rejection of Trump’s far right position, and one that carries the authority of the British State.
Finally, and most importantly, it is an expression of solidarity and support for all those whom Trump stigmatises and demonises. It shows support for the powerless not the powerful.
I’m not defending what Trump did. As President of the United States, you have a certain degree of responsibility before reckless retweeting. And then apologizing, rather than lashing out, when called to account is certainly more appropriate behaviour.
But should his promised state visit to the UK be cancelled as a result? I can see the reasons why, and taking a strong stance against him would certainly make many of us feel much better. But international diplomacy isn’t about making ourselves feel righteous.
Firstly America is still America. North Korea, climate change, the indeed whole of the middle east must surely mean we have a responsibility to retain some degree of dialogue with the (still) most powerful nation on earth. They may be hovering at the door of the tent; shouldn’t we work to keep them inside?
Secondly Trump was elected by an electorate with a profound sense that they were not understood by the liberal elite. US media will not carry the nuanced messages about the offence caused by Trump’s tweets. They will, however, carry news of a “snub” administered by a fading colonial power to the greatest nation on earth. A revocation of a state invite will surely strengthen the victim narrative of Trump’s power base.
Thirdly what if we did invite President Trump, and with grace and hospitality showed him there are no “no-go” areas in Birmingham, that Scotland consists of more than golf courses, and introduced him to the Muslim Mayor of London, whilst retaining our democratic right to protest our socks off while he is here…is that not the best way to speak the truth in love?