My title is a bit of a stretch, as I did not travel all the way round the world, nor close to it, and the trip took 19 days, not 80. Still, it was my world, extending roughly from the American Mountain West across Western Europe, and I traveled by ship and train and motor coach and taxi as well as the 21st-century equivalent of the hot-air balloon, the commercial jetliner. Beside all that, the last three weeks of November 2016 were an interesting time to be out and about in the world, which bears hardly any resemblance at all to the impression the Western media and Western politicians give of the place and its human inhabitants.
My wife and I were airborne by regional jet to Denver International Airport scarcely four hours after the late Mrs. H. Clinton conceded the presidential race to Donald Trump, and we arrived a little past dusk in midtown Manhattan, where the majority of the residents (87 percent of whom had voted for the Democratic candidate for president) appeared either dumbstruck with shock, horror, and disbelief, or goaded to vocal frenzy and wild gesticulation in the streets. A notable exception was our cabbie who, on the ride across town from the Warwick Hotel at Sixth Avenue and 54th Street to a dinner party at First Avenue and 56th Street, was compelled by howling protestors and the restraining police to circumvent Trump Tower on Fifth between 56th and 57th through traffic that was binding as an ice field. He was a very dark-skinned immigrant from somewhere in the Caribbean; I don’t think he said where, but my educated guess would be Santo Domingo. “The election is over,” the driver remarked to us, through the sliding window. “What do they think they’re doing here? All these people, the media, the lies. The people who don’t want to work. He’s a good man—they’ve been so unfair to him. It’s a real shame.”
Throughout a fine fish dinner given us by R.R. Reno, the editor of First Things, and his wife, the mood suggested the quiet but grateful satisfaction that comes from a prayer unexpectedly granted, and thus not to be confused with the thing (whatever it is) that liberals call apathy. Thanksgiving Day was still two weeks off, yet in a very real way that dinner was our true thanksgiving this year, celebrated less than 24 hours after the removal, however temporary, of a great impending evil. The celebration persisted the following evening in the bar at the Warwick, where my guests included Gerald Russello, who edits the University Bookman and who’d come in from basking in the patent misery of his fellow Gothamites, and a writer with contacts at the Wall Street Journal, who reported to the entire satisfaction of our little party that this great patriotic institution presently was in deep mourning. (I thought of Queen Victoria in her misery after the death of Prince Albert.) Later, a fat Texas real-estate developer left the bar to thrust his wrist under my nose and insist that I identify the maker of his expensive watch. When I guessed Patek Philippe, he confirmed triumphantly that the instrument had cost him $50,000 and returned to the bar, where, pumping his arms up and down, he began yelling “Trump! Trump! Trump!” repetitiously. A large party at the table beside us joined in enthusiastically, and so did voices from elsewhere in the room. I sat back and waited for the boos to follow, but none did.
Two days later in Brooklyn, we boarded Queen Mary 2 eastbound for Southampton. The ship sailed at five, and we went down to the dining saloon at eight-thirty, where, having misread the table assignment placed in the cabin, I was surprised to discover two couples at a table for six instead of a small one set for two. As we’d had bad luck with tablemates on previous voyages, I made a mental note to have a word with the maître d’ after dinner. I never did, though, because, following the initial hesitancy natural to such situations, it became plain to all six of us that this was a crossing party made in Heaven. They were an English couple from Taunton, near Bristol, in their 50’s, and an American one from close by Tallahassee in their 60’s, both well to do, the husbands being successful businessmen. Our new English friends were not particularly knowledgeable regarding Trump, but they admired him and wished him well, and they’d both voted Leave the previous June. The Americans had cheered Brexit from afar, and were hard for Donald Trump. “We’re pissed off,” the Tallahassee man explained simply, and we all drank to that. Most of the passenger list this passage was British, few Americans were aboard, yet the Britons we met around the ship were well disposed to the results of November 8, and so, with a single exception, were the Americans. (The exception approached me unexpectedly and from behind on the foredeck late one afternoon during a Force 8 gale. I suspected him at once of being an habitué of the Commodore Club, a lounge the width of the ship directly behind the bridge screen and a couple of decks below the bridge itself where the Friends of Dorothy meet each night, and indeed a few words from me about the worthiness of Donald Trump had the intended exorcising result. He let me know before he left that he’d voted for “Hillary.”)
We docked at 6:30 a.m. in Southampton after seven nights at sea, within sight of the quay Titanic had sailed from 114 years before and where one of Cunard’s other Queens (the Elizabeth or the Victoria; I couldn’t discern the name across the stern through my binoculars) was berthed, the early sun brightening her distinctive orange-red funnel. As the old boat trains between the Southampton Docks and Waterloo Station were discontinued years ago, we took the motor coach up to Victoria Station in London and a taxi from there to our hotel in Grosvenor Square. We found London far more cheerful than New York had been, despite what disgruntled Remainers were calling Brexump, Trumpex, or some such thing—I forget what, exactly. As the taxi passed Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s former residence and now a museum, the cabbie apologized for having to detour round the inevitable demonstrations at Hyde Park Corner. “Always something with these people,” he remarked.
“In New York, they were about Donald Trump,” I told him.
Without hesitating, the cab man asked, “What do you think?”
“We like Trump,” I told him. “And we liked Brexit.”
He nodded and gave me a backward cabbie grin. “Time we told them what we thought, eh?”
As I take The Spectator and The New Statesman and check the Daily Telegraph and the Times occasionally (the Guardian is always more fun to make up for myself), I arrived in England with a pretty good sense of the British media’s view of both Brexit and Donald Trump, so, being very busy in London, I more or less neglected the London dailies during the five days we were in town. Drinks and dinners with editors and correspondents confirmed the situation anyhow. The British conservative press is of two minds about Donald Trump. For instance, a former Spectator editor who also worked on the Telegraph, Stuart Reid, and one current one—Freddy Gray, Chronicles’ London correspondent, whom we dined with separately—are hostile to the President-elect, and have been so from the start. So have most of the Speccie’s regular columnists. On the other hand, Charles Moore, a former editor of both that magazine and the Telegraph (he is also Margaret Thatcher’s official biographer), treated him sympathetically in his Spectator’s Notes column during the electoral season. (The Spectator endorsed the Leave campaign, incidentally, though I understand that its editor, Nelson Fraser, is in private a Remainer.) Stuart’s and Freddy’s objections to Trump seemed to me to have less to do with policy issues than with style, however; and I left England with the strong impression that the British awareness of class distinctions, combined with Britons’ historic resistance to ideological politics, explain Trump’s unpopularity with the conservative intellectual elite in Britain. Trump, of course, is not an ideologue, yet one can easily understand how his brash, blustering campaigning style could suggest an ideological commitment behind it. As a politician Donald Trump is everything Peregrine Worsthorne, the veteran English journalist, once warned a democratic politician should not be, and a proper British politician historically never has been. By contrast with the British people, the Americans and the French are susceptible to the ideological temptation—which explains both Trump’s electoral success and the relatively relaxed reception it has received on the other side of the English Channel.
We arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris on the Eurostar after the center-right Républicain primary on Sunday, November 20, when François Fillon, a former prime minister and Paris deputy in the French Assembly, handily dispatched Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of the French Republic, and departed from De Gaulle Airport two days before the run-off vote on November 27, in which Fillon overwhelmed Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux, previously a prime minister himself, by taking 67 percent of the vote.
On Wednesday the 23rd, four days after the first anniversary of the Bataclan attacks, Paris was characteristically relaxed, but “le surprise Fillon” was still fresh in everyone’s mind. As in the case of “le surprise Trump” two weeks before, the victor had not been favored by the pollsters to win. As a columnist for center-left Le Monde explained, they failed to estimate correctly the internal forces operating within the ranks of the Républicains, just as their British counterparts had failed to foresee Brexit and their American ones the election of Donald Trump. Beyond that, the parallels between the primary elections in France and the presidential one in America are very marked. A writer for Le Figaro noted that, following Trump’s electoral victory, one might have feared that the contagion of “la cause du peuple” might spread to France, thus ensuring Sarkozy’s nomination as the presidential candidate of the French right. Sarkozy, who in his campaign to regain the presidency had defended historic French identity, proposed restrictions on immigration, and demanded the assimilation of the French Muslim population, was widely viewed as France’s answer to Donald Trump. On the other hand, a commentator for the more or less conservative Le Figaro argued against using populisme as “ce mot passe-partout,” and, further, against designating as “populist” whatever one dislikes, fails to understand, and finds frightening. “The election of Donald Trump,” he said, “placed under the sign of protectionism and economic nationalism, has become emblematic of a global movement to halt the free-trade wave.”
Throughout the campaign Alain Juppé presented himself as a “new man,” representative of what he called the New France, while François Fillon stood forward as the conservateur of the old one, promising to reduce immigration significantly, support traditional social norms, exercise what he described as “strict administrative control” over Islam in France, and bolster the French security forces against terrorist acts. Both men pledged to “dynamize” an economy immobilized by François Hollande’s Socialist government, a term widely understood to mean “liberalize.” Although some critics saw the candidates’ respective economic policies as convergent, Fillon proposed delivering a “choc” to a society stalled in so many respects, including doing away with 500,000 public-sector jobs, a strategy his opponent attacked as brutal and unrealistic and that the left denounced as “ultraliberal.” Whether convergent or not, Juppé’s and Fillon’s platforms inevitably raised speculation about the arrival of Thatcherite economics in France, yet what both men proposed can be understood as Thatcherism only in the context of the French’s historic dislike of “Anglo-Saxon economics,” since what they have in mind is plainly another form of Colbertism that aligns as neatly with Donald Trump’s economic nationalism as Fillon’s cultural nationalism and social conservatism agree with the American President-Elect’s. (“François Fillon knew how to seduce the Catholic electorate,” Le Monde noted dryly.)
Finally, Donald Trump’s approach to Russia and Vladimir Putin is congruent with Fillon’s. François Fillon, a personal friend of Putin’s, is clearly bent on establishing a working relationship with the Kremlin, as De Gaulle was in his presidential days. Across Europe, the rising populist right (including in France), more concerned with the migrant threat from Africa and the Middle East than with possible Russian aggression across the Eastern European frontier, is aligning itself with Moscow’s antiprogressive and strongly nationalist politics, and Fillon seems set to accommodate it. “Mr. Fillon’s warmth toward Mr. Putin,” the New York Times has noted, “is apparently heartfelt, and it predated this election. What changed is French voters, who increasingly desire hard-line policies and signs of strength they perceive Mr. Putin as representing.” Ever since De Gaulle removed his troops from NATO in 1966, France has viewed the organization with a skepticism similar to that expressed by Trump during the campaign; a Pew poll taken in 2015 found majorities in France, German, and Italy opposed to defending an eastern NATO ally in the event of invasion by Russia, treaty obligation or no.
The American globalist elite has done, and will continue to do, its damnedest to present Donald Trump to the Americans, and to the world, as a political anomaly, a peculiarly American freak like Huey Long or Father Coughlin, albeit a spectacularly successful one. In truth, Trump is something far bigger than himself, and bigger even than that portion of America he represents. Trumpism is part of a popular groundswell across the West—the United States and Europe—against what Rusty Reno, in the March 2016 issue of First Things, identifies with what Pope Francis understands intuitively as “the emerging global governing class [that] has not won the loyalty of the masses, including the middle class in the West.”
Three weeks after the election of November 8, the New York Times printed an article detailing the effects Trump’s victory is already having on political and economic systems, and governments, everywhere. There are many more similar effects to come. Donald Trump is going around the world, and there may not be a great deal his enemies can do to stop him.
On the evening of the 24th, my wife and I were given a proper Thanksgiving dinner—American style, away from home—by Claude and Nancy Polin at their flat on the Left Bank behind the Panthéon, where we were joined by their daughter, Jenny, and her family and where we had the opportunity to give thanks once again, and for the second time in two weeks.