Politics à la Little House on the Prairie

Who doesn’t remember the opening sequence of Little House on the Prairie (1983), with its characteristic music and images of green pastures and little girls running down the hill with their dog. Such images establish the values of a bygone era: of innocence, family and the American West as the origin of the American character, created through hardship and resilience. These were also the values of Reaganite America at the time Little House was aired (Ronald Reagan presidential term, 1981-1989). This nostalgia for a past that never existed is the fundamental selling point of two different campaigns run by the two great men of our times, one much less known than the other—in fact no one has ever heard of him in the US—Farage and Trump. Trump’s politics have been compared to that of Reagan, on more than one occasion. In the case of Farage, it appears that his dream of a great Britannia and an Edenic English life à la Little House on the Prairie, has, as of lately, been transformed into something greater…

Farage, “You are really spoiling us”

That was then. Fast-forward, and we are at 150 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London. It was here, at the famous Ritz hotel, a symbol of luxury and high society, where on Wednesday night (23 Nov.), its owners, the tax exiles Barclay Bros, and the British millionaire and sponsor of the Leave.EU campaign, Arron Banks, threw a party in Nigel Farage’s honour to celebrate their Brexit victory. Farage, the interim Ukip leader, is the first UK politician to meet Trump, and the president-elect had praised Farage by tweeting, “Many people would like to see [@Nigel_Farage] represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States.” At the Ritz reception, and as a nod to Trump’s comments, Farage was given a tray with a pyramid of Ferrero Rocher chocolates to hand out to his guests, reproducing the 1993 Ferrero Rocher advert set at an ambassador’s reception and with the line: “You are really spoiling us.”

Farage’s slogan “Make Britain Great Again”, or was it “We Want our Country Back” (?), has taken him to new shores, seeking to expand his “power” by visiting the most powerful man on earth, Trump. From what we have seen—remember the picture of Trump and Farage in front of Trump Tower’s golden doors—Farage seems to espouse anything that glitters: from the Trump Tower to the golden Ferrero Rocher chocolates, he is attracted to fame, gold and power, like a moth is attracted to light. Even if both, the Trump Tower (allegedly built with Chinese aluminium) and the chocolates (made in Italy), are not made in the US or UK (just saying).  

Britain has a problem

At the reception, Farage told his 120 guests—among them the rich and famous, Lords and diplomats— that at the next general election there will be a “seismic shock," if Theresa May doesn’t deliver Brexit by 2020. 

“In America the revolution is total. Not only have the people spoken and won, but the old administration, Obama and all those ghastly people, are out and the Trump people are in,” he said.

Farage hasn’t lost his enthusiasm. But, let’s not forget our history lessons and any calls for “total” solutions. We should be suspicious of a politics of fear and crisis that would take advantage of the difficulties that liberal democracy is facing, only to offer its own version of absolutism.

In a similar way, the Brexiteers created a politics of fear against the foreign, taking advantage of the failure of existing parties to address the people’s dissatisfaction and situation. The same with Trump: his message was an alternative to the rationalism and individualism of Clinton’s neoliberal class. Both Trump and Farage’s camps reacted against the materialism, well-being, happiness of the established order, and sought to offer an idealistic way of looking at life. The Little House on the Prairie idealism, the pure and simple life of community that Farage and Trump incorporated in their messages, was exactly a world that attacked the individualism, reason, rights and democracy which the mainstream parties in the UK and US stood for. 

At the Ritz reception, Farage reminded his guests of the dangers that the establishment poses: “In this country, the people have spoken but the same players have just been shuffled around the chess board and we are still being run by the career professional political class.”

Farage added: “I suspect that the Conservative party is not fit for the legacy of Brexit. I suspect there is going to be a genuine realignment of British politics over the course of the next three or four years ... There are great battles to be fought and I’m going to go on fighting those battles.”

Trump and Farage herald a new world of politics that, like the Ferrero Rocher chocolates, is wrapped in gold and tastes of aspiration—the Ferrero Rocher advert, with the silver tray of chocolates as a sign of the ambassador’s “exquisite taste,” paints a world of wealth and privilege.

Not everything that glitters is gold

We all believed in the story of the Little House on the Prairie. It’s emotional, nostalgic, cozy. But, it’s also too white, too simple, too clean. Confronted with the glittery brilliance of the new order of Trump and Farage, we are dazzled, almost blinded. 

But not everything that glitters is gold.