How should Liberals respond to Trump’s visit?

I don’t agree with a lot of what Donald Trump says. That’s shocking, I know. Additionally, I must admit that my gut reaction to the news that good old Donald was coming to visit was a negative one. However, after giving a little more thought and discussing it with people who follow other political ideals, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a little more nuanced.

Trump may be controversial, but he is still the leader of one of the world’s most powerful countries, and one of the UK’s best allies, and in the current international climate, we most definitely need allies, and being allied to the world’s largest military would be useful.

Another argument is that he wouldn’t nearly be the worst world leader to be hosted by the UK government, with the Queen having hosted dubious figures such as Bashar al-Assad and Robert Mugabe in the past. Personally, I don’t give this idea much credence, as using the mistakes of the past to justify what could be a mistake of the future doesn’t make much sense at all. It is accepted that the UK has played host to some controversial figures, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Trump is on the same level as the man who was recently alleged to have used chemical weapons on his own citizens.

I believe that the visit should happen, Britain is an open country, open to all kinds of people, and even though we may disagree with some of his policies, we can’t shut ourselves in and deny Americans entry, making ourselves an echo chamber. In order to be able to deal with the problematic stances that Trump provides, we need to be able to open a dialogue with him. This applies to any other similar situation, we cannot just shut the door and pretend they do not exist, whether it be as a person, a party, or a nation, we have to open dialogues to different ideas and discuss them openly. 

Denying Trump his visit would not nearly be worth the feeling of moral superiority, as it would damage the relationship with one of our greatest trade partners, which doesn’t seem to be one of the objectives of the current Conservative government. However disgusting or reprehensible we may find the things Mr Trump spouts in his speeches or his tweets, we need to keep an open mind, and think of the current and turbulent political climate, with the UK needing to keep its friends close during these troubling times. 

A liberal response would be a tempered one, allowing the US president to visit, but taking care to not validate some of the more controversial parts of his politics.

* Param Barodia is a Lib Dem member and former secretary of Warwick University Liberal Democrats

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  • I strongly disagree.

    As a American Lib Dem, I’m worried and sometimes even scared about democracy in my native country. Trump lost the popular vote even with unprecedented voter suppression of those who would’ve voted against him, and he only won the electoral college by benefiting from Russian interference in our elections.

    He has been using his undemocratic mandate to cause untold suffering and even death. He’s doing his damndest to destroy the underpinnings of our federal government by appointing secretaries who want to dissolve the departments they’re in charge of. He has emboldened white supremacy all over the country, because he speaks their language.

    He is not an honorable or a democratically-elected leader and the UK should have the courage to stand up to the U.S., “special relationship” or otherwise.

    I’m grateful to the Lib Dems and others in this country who plan to join me in protests of this visit, who do not want it done in our name.

  • William Fowler 28th Apr '18 - 12:10pm

    The Left are absolutely petrified that Trump’s action actually work and embolden our own govn to imitate him where they can in cutting taxes and closing down whole swathes of largely useless and ineffective govn (unlikely under Mrs May’s watch, though).

    Trump seems very thick-skinned so I guess he will enjoy all the attention that the protests get him and a bit silly to say his actions are undemocratic when he is doing pretty much what he said he would do (BTW the art of business Trump style is to take an extreme position to get a compromise that is much nearer what he really wanted whilst the other party breathes a sigh of relief to have avoided the initial extreme actions threatened).

    UK needs a good relationship with USA so we have to overcome personal traits that many find off-putting (to put it politely)… BTW he does seem genuinely shocked by the gassing of babies etc so he is nowhere near as bad as the typical dictator and there is no way he can become president for life, just two terms.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Apr '18 - 1:29pm

    I agree with both the view and the tone of the article.

    Param engages wit the two aspects necessary.

    Trump is the president of a highly democratic country and our strongest ally. We dislike his attitude and policies on many topics.I have written articles for two years against him and the views he espouses. Yet he is not evil nor is he mad in any sense we see that used in describing leaders. He is volatile and an egomaniac, in casual or flippant language, but that is not a reason to boycott him. It would not even be reason not to have a premature State visit, the reason that would be premature is most presidents have waited longer for that honour,but this is not a State visit.

    The other point is the one Param gives emphasis also too, we host State visits of despots. There is an argument to boycott those, but until we stop those we cannot see the visit of Trump as inappropriate. Trump is here soon for a basic wormanlike series of discussions with leaders. Macron is apparently already establishing very good relations with the US president, the liberal star to many here, though I am not a fan, Trudeau, is very friendly with the President also.

    It is key that we criticise Trump and disagree with him.

    Holly and others have my respect. But the official logo of this party should not be on display as there is no party view on this, but of individuals. Local parties can make their decisions, I do not think other than that, it is sanctioned by THE Liberal Democrats.

  • Britain needs America and America needs Britain.
    We should respect the office not the man. Trump should be welcomed when he visits the UK. We should be grown up about this if we consider ourselves to be a serious party. Our relationship with the States will continue long after Trump has gone. So time to get real and appreciate it is the UK’s national interest to have a successful visit by Trump.

  • Fantastic article. Last month we had the King of Saudi Arabia, and before Trump arrives we’re getting Erdogan. Where’s the outrage?

  • What if Trump is instrumental in a Korean Peace settlement? Does that change things?

  • Tony Greaves 28th Apr '18 - 5:31pm

    If I am around at the time I shall go on a demonstration. It is Trump who is demeaning the office of President.

    “A liberal response would be a tempered one, allowing the US president to visit, but taking care to not validate some of the more controversial parts of his politics.”

    It is not time for this kind of mealy-mouthed. “Some of the more controversial parts”? What about all of them? And his behaviour and general attitude to opponents? He is not a fit and proper person.

  • Trump’s presidency will be a small blip in US history. He’ll have done his 4-8 years in office without having achieved anything, neither positively or negatively. The guy’s a grim individual but he’ll be forgotten a few years after office. I’m far, far more concerned about getting Brexit right.

  • paul barker 28th Apr '18 - 6:48pm

    There is a real problem with protesting the visit of any Foreign Leader, that their citizens will see it as an attack on them. America is already poisoned by Nationalism & division, do we risk adding to both ?
    If we decide to protest Trump there is another problem, how do we look like Liberals rather than just an add-on to The Left ? Shouting & waving clenched fists will just make us indistinguishable from The SWP.
    If we are going to have an official Libdem presence at any Demo then I suggest we keep ourselves very seperate, sing & try to look dignified.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Apr '18 - 8:13pm

    I think that Trump would be far more upset if we completely ignore him.
    I propose that everyone stays at home and no-one goes out on any demos at all. Let’s enjoy a day with our families and friends and let Mrs May meet with her chum all alone.

  • Interesting article.

    I agree that state visits from fascists many years ago do not justify any state visits now. However, more fascist figures (eg the King of Saudi Arabia last month) have been granted the royal treatment on state visits with much less fuss made about their unethical views. In this context, the problem of Trump’s visit is non existent.

    Trump’s visit should definitely go on.

  • Mark Blackburn 28th Apr '18 - 9:45pm

    I will be protesting and I urge as many others as possible to protest too. A liberal response is to stand up to the illiberal – it’s even more important to do so when the illlberal leadership is of a supposedly democratic country. It should not only be the left protesting against him, it should be all of us who abhor his sexist, racist and divisive values.

  • We should treat him like any other visiting foreign leader. If people want to protest that’s their choice. But really he’s America’s President not ours. American elections like all other national elections are decided by a national electorate, not by an international one. IMO, any protests will simply be the result of people convincing themselves that somehow they are more involved in the American political process than they can ever possibly be. The essential problem with globalism and the notion of world citizenship as political ideas is that the building blocks of governance are all national.

  • Arnold Kiel 29th Apr '18 - 6:45am

    Anybody with liberal beliefs must do his/her utmost to remove Trump from office. This is entirely possible, and the audience of our action are the republican party and Trump’s voters who can get rid of him. The message must be: he is unfit, ineffective, and dangerous.

    Meanwhile, the Government is compelled to collaborate with him based on the assumption that he will have two terms.

    The UK’s need to collaborate with the US under any president has nothing to do with British citizens’ right to express their view on the man. That is the difference of the society we want and the one he wants.

  • Ian Hurdley 29th Apr '18 - 7:54am

    How do we receive him? Polite but distant.

  • The US citizens who carry placards saying, “Love America; Hate Trump” should be our inspiration…
    Pretending that Trump is just a US phenomenon (Glenn 29th Apr ’18 – 3:53am) is completely missing the point. We are inexorably linked to the US; they say “Bomb” and we bomb, etc. A few months ago, when a shooting war with N. Korea looked likely, our foreign secretary promised that we would take part without the need to consult parliament; on the Syrian issue it actually happened…

    We should let Trump know that he is not our ‘best friend’ even if his country is…

  • Expats
    I’m simply pointing out that only Americans can vote in American elections and the proposed protests are mostly the result of people at some level thinking that they are a bit American. I sometimes think the obsession with American politics, American social problems and so on is little more than a by-product of pop culture. The American reaction to British protest will basically be along the lines of “limeys acting like we’re still a colony”. You might see America as important to British politics, but I strongly suspect that American’s mostly don’t care about politics outside of America. I also suspect the notion of a special relationship and interconnectedness is largely delusional. Britain’s actual relationship to American is that of an occasionally useful voice at the UN. IMO the best way to deal with America is to stop pretending there is any real two-way relationship involved and to stop mixing up US politics up with domestic politics, because you only realistically have a say in the latter.

  • Mmmmmmm…….., Welcome Donal Trump ?

    I well remember a time (2006) when certain Liberal Democrats (in control of Aberdeenshire Council – an area which then had Lib Dem M.P.’s) made Donald Trump more than welcome. They even sacked a colleague (Councillor Dr Martin Ford) who challenged the said Donald Trump.

    It’s all on record in Liberator 328 which contains an article by Gina Ford telling how her husband Martin had a motion of no confidence in him as the Liberal Democrat chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee after he used his casting vote to turn down a planning application from Donald Trump. The application was for 500 houses for sale, 950 holiday apartments, a 450 bed hotel and two championship golf courses and would cause serious damage to a site of special scientific interest on the Aberdeenshire coast.

    When the motion was moved, the Lib Dem leader of the council, the provost and 14 other Lib Dem councillors abstained. Martin was removed, the planning application was called in by the SNP Scottish government, a public inquiry was held and the development was approved.

    Councillor Dr Ford subsequently joined the Scottish Green Party. and still sits on the Council as a Scottish Green…. a party which now has more MSP’s than the Lib Dems.

  • Innocent Bystander 29th Apr '18 - 1:23pm

    We have to wait and see but Trump may well have broken the stalemate on the Korean peninsular, largely because the Koreans and the Chinese believe him to be reckless and unstable. They could laugh at the tepid and ineffective Obama but not a man who has an itchy trigger finger and is also Section 9 of the Mental Health Act.
    I also resent those who claim it was the Russians who cheated the Democrats out of a victory to which they were so clearly entitled. It is pure arrogance. I know of nobody who admits they were duped by the Russians but innumerable who claim that “others obviously more stupid than themselves” were. Show more respect for those of different opinions and they might have more respect for yours.
    Not that I “like” Trump but the Democrats might won if they had run Bernie.

  • David Cooper 30th Apr '18 - 9:11am

    When I protest against Trump, it will not be as president of the USA: the Americans have the right to choose whatever president they like.
    But Trump is also leader of the Free World. This matters, whatever Jeremy Corbyn might think. Trump is lying racist and unfit to be the free world’s leader, and as a UK citizen it is my business to point that out. To answer “Mosley” above, tyrants such as the King of Saudi Arabia or Erdogan matter far less than Trump because they represent only their own power base. Trump respresents far more than this.

  • Jonathan Hunt 1st May '18 - 2:14pm

    OK, as Liberals we should let him come, so long as he doesn’t insult us with readings or tweets from Mein Trumpf. But I shall be out on the streets with Tony Greaves and many other Lib Dems.

    I have already sussed out all the roads with access to the splendid and exciting new US embassy in east Battersea / Vauxhall. There is no way to get in other than some form of tunnel, as most US embassy walls now go down at least 30ft.

    However, given that Trump believes south London is entirely populated by Black people and so he won’t come here, we have to become highly mobile and go wherever he goes north of the river. It is only what we our civilised, thinking American cousins would expect of us.

  • Simon Banks 20th Jun '18 - 5:39pm

    I don’t think Trump’s America is one of our best allies at all. Other Americas might be. This is a man who’s undermining action on climate change, applauding UK racists, sparking a trade war and pushing the UK to abandon environmental and food safety standards as part of a trade deal. How do those things help the UK?

    Yes, let him come – but let us protest against his policies and show his hangers-on and qualified allies how unpopular he is in a country which is one of America’s traditional allies.

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