Most old-school conservatives in America have made their peace with Donald Trump, but they’re not about to accept him as their standard-bearer. They drew back in horror when the GOP nominated this braggadocious, thrice-married, non-observant Presbyterian. They looked on, mystified, as the Party of Reagan embraced protectionism, capitulated on same-sex marriage and sought rapprochement with Russia. Half a century of ideological consensus fell apart in a matter of months.
In the background of last year’s US presidential election was the rise of Theresa May. True: David Cameron was a bit soggy. But Mrs May’s rhetoric about “ordinary working people” and businesses’ “social responsibility” threw up red flags for American conservatives. “Theresa May is no Maggie Thatcher,” a Wall Street Journal headline grumbled. “She wasn’t even a second John Major,” the Weekly Standard added in a post-general election obituary. “She was another Edward Heath – cold, incompetent and not as popular as she thought.”
Where could they turn now? Not the Vatican, surely. John Paul II was a saint in Republicans’ eyes long before he was canonised by the Catholic Church. His role in bringing down the Iron Curtain cast him as the third person in the anti-communist trinity, alongside Reagan and Thatcher. But Pope Francis? Most conservatives (including an alarming number of Catholics) half-expected him to slap a “Hillary 2016” bumper sticker on the Popemobile.
In their very hour of need, the Reaganites’ European allies lay dead on the hustings. Then Moggmania swept Britain – and it didn’t take long to spread across the pond. “The Honourable Member for the Early 20th Century” is exactly the champion American conservatives are looking for.
National Review, the so-called Bible of American conservatism, has already endorsed Rees-Mogg’s yet unrealised bid for prime minister. “His classical liberalism is much closer to American conservatism than to traditional English Toryism,” they trilled. He’s a marriage traditionalist, pro-life stalwart, fearless Eurosceptic, a firm believer in our special relationship… and an orthodox Catholic to boot. What more could they ask for?
Crucially, he also shares their nostalgia for the good ol’ days of the Cold War. A clip of Rees-Mogg suggesting that Parliament “deify” Lady Thatcher in the manner of ancient Rome has been circulating among Washington conservatives in the last few weeks. You could actually feel the winds change with the force of thousands of free-marketeers collectively swooning.
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