Trump and Johnson: Tweedledumbies Wrecking the West

Date: Mar 11, 2020 | News, Opinion Pieces


Professor Adekeye Adebajo, Director of the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation, recently published an article that appeared in the Business Day.

Trump and Johnson: Tweedledumbies Wrecking the West.

English writer, Lewis Carroll, created two of the most memorable fictional characters that Alice encountered in Wonderland: Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The two rotund men in identical outfits are so similar that they are almost indistinguishable. These buffoonish characters provide an apt description of current American president, Donald Trump, and British prime minister, Boris Johnson. While Trump is seeking re-election this year after three divisive years in office, Johnson won a landslide 80-seat victory in British parliamentary polls in December.

Both are nativists who have made xenophobic and vulgar comments. Trump sought to condone the actions of anti-Semitic neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in 2017. The US president has simply thrown away the dog whistle, and openly employs a giant blow-horn to mobilise the mob. Trump recently referred to African and Caribbean countries as “shit holes.” Boris Johnson, failed to apologise for calling black Britons “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, and referring to Muslim women in burqas as “letterboxes.” He had earlier complained that Caribbean people in Britain were “multiplying like flies”. Both leaders have fuelled anti-immigrant sentiment, and stoked divisive culture wars.

Both are crude populists who have been able to attract insecure working class voters in Michigan and Manchester with appeals to their basest instincts. Both have, however, promoted tax cuts for the rich, while pretending to be ruling in favour of the middle and working classes. Both have also been accused of monarchical delusions. Republican and Conservative legislators, however, feel that they owe their loyalty to these leaders who are more respected as vote-getters than genuinely loved by their parties.

Both are congenital liars. The noses of the Pinocchio president and premier have grown longer in office. Trump has falsely claimed to have reduced the costs of prescription drugs, and to have defeated the Islamic State. As a journalist for The Times, Johnson invented quotes that eventually led to his sacking. He led the 2016 “Brexit” campaign that grossly exaggerated how much money Britain would get back from leaving the European Union (EU).

Both are gamblers and risk-takers. Trump’s reckless killing of Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, in a drone strike in neighbouring Iraq in January, nearly led to a catastrophic war that could have set the entire Middle East ablaze. In his blundering dealings with Brussels, Boris Johnson often has the air of a deranged poker player.

Both men are also anti-multilateralists. While Trump has questioned the utility of NATO and the United Nations, Johnson led a populist campaign that took Britain out of the EU in January. Both men are philanderers who are on their third marriages, and have been ensnared in sex scandals.

Johnson has, however, recently defied Trump by choosing Chinese telecommunications company, Huawei, to build Britain’s 5G network. But London still needs Washington more than America needs Britain. Following Brexit, a free trade deal with the US still remains a highly sought-after prize.

Another Trump four-year presidential term would almost certainly irreparably fracture the Western alliance, resulting in the possible demise of NATO, to the benefit of China and Russia. Peace efforts in the Middle East will also be hard to resurrect as the US president would continue to act as a dishonest broker, condoning Israeli expansionism and illegal settlements. Under Johnson, Britain will continue the most spectacular decline experienced by a contemporary Great Power. With its exit from the EU market which takes half of its exports, London will continue to cut off its nose to spite its face. “Great Britain” is on a downward spiral to becoming “Little England”, and could eventually lose both Scotland and Northern Ireland from the Union, declining into global irrelevance.

That both of these deeply flawed leaders represent “leaders of the Free World,” speaks volumes about the current state of Western “civilisation.”

prof adekeye adebajo
Professor Adekeye Adebajo, Director of the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation

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