The below article was originally written for the site Quadrapheme in February 2016 under the title 'Donald Trump for President, Rubio for Best Friend' in response to an article supporting Rubio's candidacy for the Republican nomination at the time. It may sound of limited relevance now, but it makes an expanded case for why the typically mild-mannered British conservative ought to support a more nationalistic and brash conservatism. It was also written at a time when supporting Trump in the UK was a rarely expressed position, and when the idea that he'd make it to the presidency was treated as incredibly unlikely.
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There's a supercilious smugness regarding American politics, and particularly the Republican variety, endemic to popular British opinion. Being as you have to actively go out of your way to find any real balanced notion of what's going on across the pond, most people are quite happy to just adopt the bien pensant opinions running through Have I Got News for You et al ('Stupid Americans don't even have an NHS!'; 'George Bush shouldn't be trusted with scissors, never mind leading the free world!'; stop me if you've heard these before).
British conservatives (small c, natch) seem most keen on conserving the attitude which has persisted among the polite since Victorian times of keeping quiet and not making a fuss, happier to quietly wait their turn in line in A&E among the drunken louts and hooligans while holding their severed arm under their remaining arm, than to disturb a busy-looking nurse by pointing out the urgency of their situation. They're just the same politically; they may quietly shuffle down to the polling booth when they can and regretfully put their cross by UKIP as the best available option, but getting them to unambiguously express support openly is like trying to get them to put the milk in their tea before taking the bag out – it just isn't done.
The British left, meanwhile, have no such qualms. You can see this time and again whenever the Tories or UKIP have a conference and they manage to summon rabid hordes of demonstrators to spit on and intimidate delegates, behaviour curiously absent from the nasty right whenever the Labour Party or Greens are in town. The justification, of course, is that they're acting in a righteous cause. The evil Tory cuts are the same as gassing the disabled with pure CO2 (though oddly, it's those mysterious kinds of cuts where the government are actually spending more than ever), and if you have to explain to someone that UKIP are a bunch of racists then that someone is already beyond the pale.
What British conservatives often lack is the confidence and arrogance to assert their point of view so unapologetically, keen on explaining and qualifying because they do understand opposing viewpoints, whereas finding a leftist who could explain the logic and reasoning of the right without resorting to ad hominem is like finding a piece of straw in a haystack. Factor in that conservatives would lend their support in a reserved way, being that no candidate would entirely reflect their considered viewpoint (unlike, say, Corbyn cultists who treat his every word as though Moses has just carried it down on a stone tablet from Mt Sinai) and with most of the media (most significantly the BBC) and so many political loudmouths on the other side, why would they volunteer the information that they think Mitt Romney would have been better than Obama?
This brings us to the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, and in particular to Donald Trump. Donald Trump is loud, brash and unapologetic, even for an American. He's not only the temperamental antithesis of your typical British conservative, but he's a bit much even for many mainstream American conservative commentators who, aside from any policy considerations, think that not only can he not win a national election, but his persistence in the race is making the GOP look bad. Republican voters stubbornly refuse to receive this wisdom though; he came a close second in Iowa, won New Hampshire and tops most polls.
Criticism of Trump by conservatives often follows two particular lines: the first is that he's not sincere as he's previously held other views than those he currently espouses, and the second is that he's not actually conservative anyway, so there (or, in yank English, 'how d'ya like them apples?' or some such).
The first criticism, regarding Trump's sincerity, is the most telling. This dismisses him out of hand without reference to his actual policies, meaning they don't have to associate with his controversial stances one way or the other. Building a massive wall along the Mexico border, deporting every illegal immigrant in the country and halting Muslim immigration (this last being a much more mild and nuanced policy in its elaboration and reasoning, which has rarely been covered in the media, than has been represented) might sound good or it might make him the new Hitler as the left would have you believe, but by saying he probably doesn't mean it we can sidestep the controversy entirely.
Of course, most politicians and, indeed, most people change their views over time. And doubting Trump's sincerity in putting his views forward raises the question of why he'd so loudly pretend to have these policies. It can't be that they were guaranteed vote winners, because they weren't. It's testament to how well Trump's shifted the paradigm that border security and Muslim immigration are now at the forefront of the discussion, because they weren't before, and who's to say they would make him popular, rather than the political pariah the left wishes he now was? Indeed, we know why he's recognised the issue of who's allowed into the country as being of maximum importance, and then took it and ran with it: he read Ann Coulter's book (unsubtlely titled though it is – sorry British conservatives) Adios, America: The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole. You may agree or disagree with Ann that immigration is an existential threat both to the political right and the United States as a whole, but if Trump didn't sincerely agree, why would he make it the central issue of his campaign when there was no guarantee that it would resonate with voters?
Furthermore, as Trump himself correctly points out, he is the only candidate who is self-funded. He's got no lobbyists to keep happy, and has turned down all campaign contributions offered to him. Considering that, you'd think he's less open to allegations of insincerity than other candidates who could be accused of being in the pockets of big donors. And finally, should we not vote for policies we believe in just in case the candidate might let us down, and instead support someone we agree with less? It's a ludicrous argument, which can just as well be applied to anyone who's ever stood in an election who's known to have previously held a different view. And that's a lot of people.
Now we come to the biggie, the argument that Trump's not a real conservative. 'Conservative' in the USA is a loosely-applied term (albeit not as insultingly bastardised as in the UK where it's attached to a party which is nothing of the sort), which sometimes means adherence to the strict wording of the Constitution (which would leave the federal government little to do), but more often seems to mean adhering to a fixed set of positions. Anti-gun control, against government meddling in healthcare, pro-life, low taxes and the rest. All of these can be conservative and usually are, but conservatism is ultimately a mindset and not just a set of views. Conservatism means having a respect for what's established and what works, seeking to preserve what's good while cautiously seeking to reform what's bad. It's more than shouting the loudest about repealing Obamacare. Jeb Bush, who was generally acknowledged as the nominee presumptive before the race got going, had a plane flying a banner saying 'Trump 4 higher taxes, Jeb 4 prez' fly over a stadium where Trump was speaking. Astonishingly, this didn't lead to an immediate plunge in poll numbers for Trump while Jeb was all but coronated as the 45th President.
Conservatism, ultimately, is about even more than the sweet spot on the Laffer Curve, and Trump is appealing to those who wish to conserve the most fundamental thing of all: the nation state. A nation is more than just a country, it's a people united by a common culture, and you can't preserve that while having a loose border and allowing millions of illegal immigrants a free pass, or indeed an unstemmed flow of people who practice the religion which since its inception has been the constant enemy of Christendom.
This brings us to young Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush's protégé and arguably Trump's biggest challenge from the moderate side of the GOP candidates. Presentationally, he's the opposite of Trump. He's young, softly-spoken and, while Trump will hold no punches in attacking other candidates, Rubio in the first Republican debate got a huge applause from the audience for saying 'God has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates; the Democrats can't even find one.' He's staunchly pro-life and socially conservative, while being mild enough in his delivery that even a British conservative could speak out in favour of him without having to then make their excuses and go outside for fresh air. What's more, he's relatively young and could be a great image for American conservatives as the future, in contrast to communist codger Bernie Sanders or scandal-collecting has-been Hillary Clinton.
Sounds good then doesn't he, the boy Rubio. Except, he was one of the bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight who sought immigration reform which would have led, effectively, to amnesty and citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States. This attempt did not make it through Congress and the immigration reform (reform essentially meaning liberalisation) cause has been taken up by President Obama via executive order. Rubio has since said he's for securing the border, though he hasn't mentioned the strongest means of doing so (building a wall) and he hasn't renounced amnesty for those already in the country.
Now, you may think that the strongest objection to legalising illegals is the principle that someone whose first act in a country was to illegally enter it shouldn't be rewarded for such wrongdoing, but more pragmatically for conservatives, this demographic (mainly Latinos) overwhelmingly vote Democrat – and there's so many of them that it could well make it impossible for a Republican to win the presidency ever again. This means that you can forget about every other conservative cause in the US too. As time passes the Supreme Court will become irreversibly liberal leaving no hope for the repeal of Roe v Wade (abortion) or Obergefell v Hodges (gay marriage). Gun control will continue unabated, as will government spending and expansion. Taxes will rise and so will government debt. It would be game over for conservatism in the United States, and eventually for the United States itself.
Why did Rubio support such a move? Well, he may have sympathy with the plight of immigrants (even illegal ones) due to being from an immigrant family himself, something he's not shy of speaking about. Jeb Bush too, who Rubio is effectively the younger, more marketable version of, has even called illegal immigration 'an act of love' and tried to claim that Latinos are morally conservative Republican voters-in-waiting. Morally conservative or not, it doesn't manifest itself in voting patterns, and as Democrats are always eager to let in more immigrants and do everything they can even for illegals at the expense of the native population (if you've never heard of the jaw-dropping existence of 'sanctuary cities' or the sheer number of murders and rapes committed by illegal immigrants, it's worth looking up lest you think this is just a nasty conservative picking on poor immigrants), you shouldn't rely on immigrant communities deciding to bite the hand that's been feeding it. Jeb also has a personal reason which the cynical may believe influenced his position on the issue: he has a Mexican wife. Her influence on him shows in his having converted from his father's Anglicanism to her Roman Catholicism; it's not far-fetched to think she could have influenced his position on immigration too, though when Trump pointed this out he was inevitably condemned by most of the mainstream media.
One final consideration when it comes to contrasting Trump and Rubio is the relative financial exploits of both. Trump is, of course, a multi-billionaire business success story. It is true that he inherited from his father Fred part of the business which Donald had already been running for years, and some have sought to play down his business ability as though anyone could turn $200 million into $4 billion or more. Rubio, on the other hand, has a long history of debt and poor financial decisions, ultimately rescued by the money from a book deal once he became a Republican frontrunner. Knowing that, which would you prefer to be the most powerful person on Earth?
Marco Rubio seems like a nice and sincere guy, the kind you'd have for a polite acquaintance; an ideal next door neighbour. There is no denying that Donald Trump is loud, brash and arrogant – but he's also right. With the crises in the world, as some of us here in Britain desperately try to reclaim our sovereignty from the European Union while Angela Merkel perhaps irreversibly hands her country over to hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants as the cost is borne by the women of Cologne, Donald Trump stands for sovereignty, the nation state, and doing what's right for the people of your own country. If Donald Trump can make America great again, perhaps we restrained British conservatives who don't like to make a fuss can hope to follow suit – or apply for green cards.
Supporting Donald Trump may not be fashionable in polite society, but he's the president the world needs.
The original title refers to the story of film executive Jack Warner who, upon being told that Ronald Reagan was running for Governor of California, is said to have replied 'No, no; Jimmy Stewart for governor, Ronald Reagan for best friend'.