President Donald Trump was born on June 14th, 1946, and turns 73 today. The United States Second Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as its flag, replacing the Grand Union flag, on June 14th, 1777, making it 142 years old. It substituted stars for the old British flag at the top left, and has seen more stars added as more states were admitted to the Union over the years. The most recent additions were Alaska, then Hawaii, in 1959. The stripes, representing the original British colonies, remain at 13.
Many peoples have been saved from oppression under that flag. It provided forces that helped liberate Europe in two World Wars, and led the UN forces that brought freedom to South Korea. It led the coalition that freed Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's conquest. It was the backbone of NATO over the years in which it confronted Soviet aggression until victory in the Cold War and the liberation of the captive peoples of Eastern and Central Europe.
Donald Trump is symbolic of a movement that has gained strength in other countries. It is a disenchantment with conventional politics, and a rejection of political élites. People in many countries have come to the view that the political establishments no longer represent their attitudes and their values, and are neither interested in their problems, not capable of addressing them. Several undercurrents are behind this. Some of it might be the Financial Crisis of 2008-09, and the sluggish growth or real wage rises that followed. It has to be said, though, that the turning away from political élites was evident before the crisis. Part of it is because government has become increasingly bureaucratized and remote from the people it should be serving. This has been particularly apparent in EU countries.
Part of it has been the widening gulf between the priorities of the ruling class and those of ordinary citizens. In the UK we speak of "the Westminster bubble," a part of the country cut off from the outside, and with little knowledge of it or concern for it. Those in "the bubble," (which is much broader than Westminster since it includes academics and media people), share a set of attitudes with those who move in the same circles, and recoil with disdain at those who do not share them.
In the US they talk of "the Beltway," meaning the ring that encloses Washington DC, the company town whose business is government. It includes the urban élites of the "wet" states, the coasties of New York and Los Angeles who sneer at the rest of America as "the flyover states." I saw someone from one of those belittled states being interviewed at the time of the last Presidential election.
“I’m trying to keep my job and feed my family,” he said, “but all I ever hear from them is transgender this and transgender that. When are they going to do something about my problems?”
It is part of a wider feeling that those in the bubble and the Beltway are more concerned with virtue signalling and proving their political correctness than in solving the everyday problems of the people they are supposed to represent. They have become a new class, a self-perpetuating élite who tell everyone else how to live, rather than letting them choose how to. Their children’s fizzy drinks are taxed, and they are told how many grams of bacon to eat per week, but the problems are that rents and house prices are too high and it’s a struggle to get to work in the morning, or home safe at night.
In the UK this dissatisfaction expressed itself in the EU referendum of 2016, when Parliament delegated to the people the choice of remaining in the EU or leaving it. The people voted leave, and many of those in the bubble have been trying thwart that decision ever since, believing that the people who voted against their own mindset are wrong and stupid. The popular disgust at the political class expressed itself again in the 2019 Euro elections, when the new Brexit Party topped the polls.
It is a fault of the EU that most of those who go there turn native, and adopt its anti-democratic values. It is similarly a fault of the UK and the US that those whom people send to represent them go native and end up representing only themselves and their fellow élite. Trump and Brexit showed that breaking point had been reached. So, on June 14th we wish a happy birthday to the President of the United States, and to the flag that for so many years has prevented anyone other than our own people from oppressing us.