Met a Trump voter in Paris. She was actually really an intelligent woman, which surprised me, because, I admit, I’ve built a stereotype of racist rednecks full of bigotry and hate being solely responsible for Trump’s rise to power. She was an ex-school teacher, very brainy and smart thinking, extremely curious about the world in general. At one point early on, she asked:
“How come the rest of the world knows so much about American politics? They know stuff here that we don’t even know in the US.”
I said to her: “Well, if America’s going to take on the role of self-appointed leader of the free world, then we’re going to want to have a say in where we’re being led.”
Those two words “self-appointed” shook her. She asked me what I’d said and took a while to process it. As far as she understood it, the US had unwillingly taken the burden of world leadership. That is a central point of the American psyche that I had never noted before. That they think they’re doing us a great big favour by making the world bow to American policy because “democracy”, and that it isn’t that after World War 2 we all needed to band together out of necessity because we needed each other to face down Communism.
With the end of the Soviet Empire and with Trump now actively in bed with Putin, that mantle “leader of the free world” suddenly seems out of date.