25 August 2016
A white secessionist flown in from Britain might not seem the obvious choice for Donald Trump to reignite his African-American voter outreach programme, but at least Nigel Farage stuck to a message the people of Jackson, Mississippi have heard before.
“If you want change in this country, you’d better get out campaigning,” Farage told them. “You’d better get your walking boots on.”
They know what that means down there. It’s 50 years since a young man called James Howard Meredith set off alone for Jackson from Memphis, Tennessee 220 miles away. He was intending to stop in every town along the way, telling African Americans about the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Telling them to register to vote, to stand up for their interests.
Unlike Farage, Meredith never made it. On the second day of his march, he got shot three times by a white supremacist (something that, until recently, you might have thought could never happen in British politics).
Martin Luther King and a load of other Civil Rights leaders had to turn up and finish the job. As they marched they talked another 15,000 black, “anti-establishment” folk into getting their walking boots on too, and they still made it in plenty of time for Dr King to make it back to Memphis two years later so that he could also be shot by a white supremacist.
So they know a little bit about what it’s like to be on the wrong side of the establishment down there. How hard they’ll choose to a listen to a middle-aged Englishman telling them how he and his army “said no to the banks and no to the politicians,” when he’s only had two jobs in his life, first a banker and then a politician, we’ll find out on 8 November. That’s the day, by the way, as if there were still a nanometre of mercury left to spare at the top of the bullshit-o-meter, that Mr Trump last night declared would be “Independence Day, just like Britain had its Independence Day on June 23rd”.
They’d clapped like mad for “the man who led Brexit”, as Donald Trump rightly labelled Nigel Farage as he called him to the stage. “This is a great honour for me,” he told the crowd. He meant it.
It’s fascism, this. And it’s fully naked. Talk like you’re taking on the powerful, then round on the vulnerable. And all this laid on by a little public schoolboy who used to march round the countryside singing Hitler Youth songs and a daddy-made billionaire, backed with the full force of Rupert Murdoch’s TV channel, flying round the world in a private jet with his name down the side, telling his followers to “stand up to the media”.
“If the little people, the real people, the ordinary decent people, are prepared to stand up for what they believe in, we can overcome the big banks, we can overcome the multinationals,” Farage bellowed, the Donald gurning proudly on as only he can. We can overcome the refugees. We can overcome the immigrants. We can overcome the chinkies and the people who don’t speak English on the train. We can overcome the Romanians who’d better not be moving in next door.
Who knows, maybe the sight of Nigel Farage, ushered on stage by Donald Trump, introduced as “the man who led Brexit, the man who led this fight and won” will be sufficient for that thin blue line of supposedly enlightened Brexiters finally to come down off the fumes of their own delusional vainglory and take some responsibility for what they’ve done. (Don’t count on it.)
Perhaps this will be enough for them to come to accept that Nigel Farage was the man who led Brexit. That Britain’s place in the world isn’t the “positive, outward looking, open to trade” place that exists only in Daniel Hannan’s imagination, but its place now is right there on stage, next to the 21st-century demagogue who, just around the Gulf of Mexico from Jackson, Mississippi, wants to build a 2,000-mile-long wall, that’s certainly not to keep out the establishment.
And of course, it’s all much worse than that. Trump, in all likelihood, is a loser. His own brand of The Art Of The Lie politics will meet with disaster three months from now. Farage’s victory defines our age. We are the fascists, now.
Farage is a winner. That can’t be doubted. And an inspirational figure too. “Remember,” he told them at the end, rousing to the last, “Remember. Anything is possible if enough decent people stand up against the establishment!”
They were on their feet, the specially selected ladies and gentlemen of Jackson. But Farage’s challenge is a challenge to us all. The fascists have got their marching boots on. So we’d better had too.
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