Reagan-Thatcher in the Age of Trump: The Origins of the Anglo-American Alliance

So, the Trump-May relationship begins on the cusp of greatness, and while many are not quite convinced that Theresa May is a true Conservative, this is a fresh start between both countries with a promising past. But much of the future depends on Prime Minister May delivering on her Brexit promise to ensure the UK leaves the EU, and a rekindling of what the British do so well – global trade. In 2017, both new leaders, Trump-May, still have a real chance to make the Anglo-American Alliance stronger than ever.

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By Monica Morrill l January 18, 2017

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The political establishment has continued to overestimate themselves while simultaneously underestimating a number of groups during the Congressional Confirmation Hearings. This includes: Donald Trump and his inevitable administration, American voting citizens, and the level of anger by the American populace. The DC political elite has even underestimated President Putin.

Political thinkers will have plenty of time to shed ink on the evolution of ‘Trumpism’ but the phenomenon can be traced back to the deep frustration in party politics, and a two-party system that has endured for centuries in America. Trumpocrats are Democrat citizens who are and have been disgusted with the Democrat Party path; while Trumplicans are Republican citizens who for a time were once ready to leave the Republican Party due in part to the shame of the direction of their Grand Old Party. The Republican Party has not just survived the 2016 election, it transformed itself, adapting and absorbing most of the Trumplican identities, much of which is actually rooted in the early principles of the Republican Party when it was founded in 1854.

In a recent Times of London article, the current British Ambassador, Kim Darroch, to the United States gathered correctly that from Brexit to President-elect Trump, “People on both sides of the Atlantic are asking for direction and leadership,” then added rather optimistically, “There is much that the United States and Britain should, and will, tackle together, as they have for 200 years.” Without dampening his Excellency’s enthusiasm, Ambassador Darroch didn’t quite get it right on the 200-year-old relationship.

The Reagan-Thatcher success was actually built on a legacy that took approximately 120 years to develop. While there isn’t sufficient time or space here to elaborate on the occasional setbacks between American frontiersmen and changing British subjects, the Anglo-American relationship was actually rather slow going after the War of 1812, nearly 205 years ago. From the runaway slave Frederick Douglass in the United States, whose freedom was bought by two women in England who raised the money while Douglass was there on a speaking tour in 1846, to an American President Abraham Lincoln and a British intellectual John Bright welding a relationship of principles built to some extent on the noble efforts of William Wilberforce, there is much to cover. The Anglo-American friendship is not a union that was quickly formed after Independence, nor will it fade away overnight.

It’s true that British-American relations began to warm during the Civil War, but they were not cozy. My late relative, U.S. Senator Justin Morrill, went on a tour of Europe in 1867 with fellow U.S. Representative James Blaine (who just two years later would became Speaker of the House, and 14 and 22 years later would twice become the Secretary of State) – both were not warmly received in England. While Morrill had a respectful appreciation for England, the gardens impressed the Senator more than the people. Morrill described them as, “not an agreeable people . . . rather independent than polite, cold—not sympathizing easily with strangers—brutal rather than kindly.” Together Senator Morrill and Representative Blaine attended the races at Hyde Park, where the Prince of Wales singled out the elected Americans with their “soft round hats” amidst a sea of gentlemen wearing crisp hats with sharp corners, remarking that “here no one wears such shocking bad hats.” That’s not quite the memory the future sovereign of Great Britain would have wanted to leave with two influential Congressmen, if they felt truly united.

After the Civil War reconstruction, the depth of trust between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill brought the Anglo-American Alliance to a new level. Resilient American women, mainly heiresses who restored the fortunes of British aristocratic bachelors in need of a wife, culturally flanked the American troops, who entered World War I when it was nearly coming to an end. Churchill confessed himself he was half American (from his maternal side) and subsequently won over the hearts of a vast American audience. Another British Conservative Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, who had also personally met with General Dwight D. Eisenhower while they fought with the Allied Forces in World War II, happened to be Premier during John F. Kennedy’s time in the White House. Harold Macmillan also had an American mother who influenced his education with tremendous rigor.

Hence, many cannot imagine it the other way around, a British-born mother who became an American citizen, influencing an American President like Donald Trump. The first since the early Presidents George Washington to John Adams, and even then they were British Colonial mothers living on American soil. Donald Trump’s mother, Mary Macleod grew up in the challenging Scottish Isle of Lewis. Undoubtedly, some of that British culture and history has influenced Donald Trump, potentially explaining why President-elect Trump has requested that the Obama-rejected bust of Winston Churchill be returned to the Oval Office before he is sworn in as President on January 20th.

Thus, Ambassador Kim Darroch’s sudden 200 years of “togetherness” is actually more recent. Witness the excerpt of the forgotten verse in the National Anthem of the United States, which was only just dropped from public singing nearly one hundred years ago after World War I because it was deemed too caustic toward the new American alliance with the British:

“And where is that band [of British and Hessian troops] who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more? [forcing the new American citizens as subjects again under the British crown]
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution [even the footsteps of the British were viewed as toxic].
No refuge could save the hireling and slavez
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The deliberately lost anthem verse to avoid any unpleasantness with the British is an excellent marker in history, and exemplifies the warming relations between America and the United Kingdom as the sun began to set on the British Empire. It was just after World War I, nearly one hundred years ago, between President Woodrow Wilson and Prime Minister Lloyd George.

Nonetheless, the reality is, that both President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher likely knew that their partnership would not be easily replicated. Mrs. Thatcher expressed it to me personally. There was undoubtedly a twinkling of enchantment between Reagan-Thatcher that didn’t quite match the Roosevelt-Winston club, or the Eisenhower/Kennedy-Macmillan charm. The other U.S.-UK leaders just didn’t measure up.

So, the Trump-May relationship begins on the cusp of greatness, and while many are not quite convinced that Theresa May is a true Conservative, this is a fresh start between both countries with a promising past. But much of the future depends on Prime Minister May delivering on her Brexit promise to ensure the UK leaves the EU, and a rekindling of what the British do so well – global trade.

During the Cold War, Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy was “peace through strength,” and during the War on Terror Obama’s foreign policy has been weakness through vacillation. On January 10th, Nigel Farage overshadowed that possibility by pointing out he doesn’t believe “Theresa May has the flair, excitement, or vision to lead this country into its new Brexit chapter.” How will both countries adapt politically and economically? In 2017, both new leaders, Trump-May, still have a real chance to make the Anglo-American Alliance stronger than ever.


Monica Morrill is a Geographer focusing on government regulation and policies. She co-authored the book BETRAYED: The Shocking True Story of Extortion 17 as told by a Navy SEAL’s Father. Ms. Morrill was a member of the Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee to President-elect Trump during the 2016 Presidential elections. Ms. Morrill is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis, of the conservative-online-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

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