England’s King George III went mad in 1776, and nearly 220 years had to pass, and cinema had to be invented, before his ordeal, and his son’s impatient ambitions, inspired Alan Bennett to write his wonderful 1994 film script about the Regency Crisis.
Should US president Donald Trump’s spiral towards something like King George’s eccentricities continue — and it is difficult to see how his slide might be reversed — a plethora of films seems inevitable. The role of an unhinged President Trump seems a heaven-sent opportunity for Brendan Gleeson to rage at the world as only he can. Saoirse Ronan might play Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who, just like King George’s son, the Prince Regent, seems to have ambitions beyond her capacities. In his incendiary Fire and Fury,
Michael Wolff reports that Ivanka believes she might become America’s first female president. That seems implausible, but so, too, did her father’s election. Maybe she imagines that, like George III’s ordained-at-birth son, she is part of a monarchy and that her destiny is decreed by a higher power.
In another time, that higher power might be described as a god, but in today’s world of Twitter and delusion — “Actually... my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart ... a very stable genius at that!” — that power might well be President Trump’s cabinet of billionaires, who are remaking the world in a way that was beyond even the most powerful monarch — or even Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, at the height of her autocratic pomp.
This cabal of free-market true-believers — the wealthiest in American history — is driving zealotry deregulation, which, in every instance, tips the balance away from the social contract that has underpinned the West’s stability and widening prosperity, in favour of big business and conscience-free capital. Signature decisions include reneging on trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic trade deals and pulling away from the 11th-hour Paris climate deal. Multi-billion tax cuts, which will have such a negative impact on America’s social services and enrich America’s top tier, are others. So, too, are the tax changes to encourage American multi-nationals to repatriate. The destruction of Obamacare is another. These are headline reversals, but there are more, including weakening of the regulations enacted to serve the common good in the
labour market, health-provision, energy-generation, financial services, and education. Decisions to open America’s national parks for mineral exploitation epitomise the emasculation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
We cannot ignore these developments, as if they were
subplots in a film about a long-dead, half-daft king. They will shape post-Brexit trade deals between Britain and America, objectives already declared by both governments. It is tragic that America and Britain are in the grip of such dark forces, but it would be even more tragic if we didn’t prepare for
the world they will offer us. The accelerating divergence in character and ambition between America and Britain and the EU will force a once-in-a-century decision on Ireland.
Let’s plan to serve principle, rather than succumb to the kind of panic that got Trump elected.