After winning at the BAFTAs, Gary Oldman should rightly also win the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour. The picture surely deserves consideration for best film as well.
The film depicts the utter failure of the Neville Chamberlain government, and the rise to power of Prime Minister Churchill. It portrays May 1940, when the Nazis were sweeping through Western Europe, and Chamberlain has lost because he proved to be perilously unprepared and tried to placate Hitler.
At the time, Churchill eluded to a single purpose: namely, the national interest. The nation needed a leader. This was the same question asked in 2016 when Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States: What is in America’s interest after decades of failed policies?
The UK establishment, depicted by Lord Halifax, is interested in just one thing: appeasement. Throwing in the towel in defeat. Similarly, in the U.S. even the Republican Party opposed Trump. Both Churchill and Trump are best seen as anti–establishment figures who unexpectedly came to power in a time of crisis. Only one man, Winston Churchill, proved capable of winning in his day. Just like Trump, it took uncommon courage and a willingness to completely redirect the ship of state — to “drain the swamp.”
While there are many differences in the specifics of time and place, from an airliner view Trump’s and Churchill’s qualities match. While Neville Chamberlain had been practicing strategic patience, the Nazis were taking Europe. The leadership assumed Britain would always exist, as if granted that right by God. Churchill saw the evil forces in the world, bent on destruction of Western civilization and he vowed to fight. Compare that to Trump’s urgency with ISIS and North Korea. Soon after he took office he dropped a MOAB on ISIS, then surrounded and eradicated them. Not leaving them to fight another day. With North Korea, the thought of a million Americans perishing at the hands of an evil dictator did not sit well. He has spoken of “ending this threat” rather than appeasing and letting “Rocket Man” grow stronger.
It took the same fortitude as Churchill to go to this uncomfortable place. Pundits claim Trump will kill us all in nuclear war; actually it’s just the opposite: Fight now or die later. The survival of Churchill’s Britain and Trump’s U.S.A depended on this direction being taken.
Upon entering office, Churchill inherited a nation with a deteriorating military, unprepared for war. And he immediately ramped that up, just as Trump has done. Why has the U.S. dithered for so long on missile defense? On taking care of the troops? Trump put General Mattis in charge, added to the budget, and discarded the politically correct rules of engagement. He came ready to recognize and defeat evil in any form.
Churchill had to implore Europe to fight back against the Nazis rather than surrender and leave their fates to England. This is exactly what Trump has done, forcing NATO members to prioritize and pay their fair share for defense. For these policies promoting the national interest and survival of their sovereign nations, both men were despised by their own administrations and the press. Both were even targets for being removed from office on day one.
Both fought on.
True, Churchill loved his gin and tonic, Pol Roger champagne, cigars, and a full English breakfast. Wearing his smoking jacket, he was seen as “an awful brute.” He was called unkind, rough, and rude. Trump has his own vices, sans alcohol, and is near-universally viewed as a bully. Yet both Trump and Churchill speak truth to power and care nothing for respect — they focus only on results. Churchill’s opponents called him abusive and even crazy; Trump has been called deranged, unstable, and every other name in the book, including “nazi.”
Churchill received his strength from the everyday people, the average man, just as Trump represents “the forgotten man”: the silent majority, so-called Middle America.
In his War Cabinet of rivals, Churchill found all forces aligned against him. Trump faces similar discord in Congress and with appointed colleagues and unruly staff.
Churchill exclaimed it would take “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” to prevail. Trump may use saltier language, but it all comes down to the same sentiment. Nothing will come easy. For Britain in 1940, the policy was to “wage war against a monstrous tyranny.” Its aim was just one word: VICTORY.
Churchill’s team tried to remove him from office in year one on a no confidence vote. Instead, he quoted Cicero on fortune to them: “where them with a spirit of feeling thy do not yet have.” Trump may have lesser rhetorical skills, but he summoned the same spirit in his Inaugural Address when he empowered all the people to take their country back.
The refusal to surrender to servitude and shame motivated Churchill to find a way forward. Trump saw what he termed a “crippled America,” and likewise sought to make it “great again.”
For Britain, the terror came in the form of the Luftwaffe, and there was only one telling the unmitigated truth. Churchill asked the nation to “fight on.” Trump asks the American people to do exactly the same in the face of danger, calamity, ISIS, economic demise, and rogue nuclear powers. Trump cares only about winning. Churchill’s party wanted compromise and appeasement with Hitler; they were ready to capitulate. Winston would have none of it. Trump’s foes don’t want to take on the enemies at home or overseas and are willing to fold their hands, shut down the government, or engage in strategic dithering.
The solution chosen at Dunkirk — an assembly of civilian and military boats to evacuate the 300,000 British troops — saved the day. Operation Dynamo was an historic watershed, as has been the entire first year of the Trump administration. With its allies and Trump’s morale-boosting rules of engagement, the U.S. has defeated ISIS, U.S. companies are repatriating, Wall Street is at record highs, and unemployment among black males is at an all-time low.
Churchill was unwanted. Even the king told him he “scared people,” and that “no one knows what will come out of your mouth next.” Sound familiar? Trump’s less-than-diplomatic tweets have unsettled many at home and abroad, but they have a purpose: to circumvent the biased news media and appeal directly to the populace. Just as Churchill mobilized the English language, Trump has mobilized social media.
Europe was lost in 1940. Paris had fallen. Though it had not fallen, in 2016 the U.S. was in an extended decline that appeared hopeless.
Well, the U.S. is back already.
Churchill asked: “When will the lesson be learned? You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.” Trump said in his UN speech: “In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty. Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens, to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights and to defend their values,”
It all boils down to courage, a virtue shared by both Churchill and Trump. “No one puts words together like you,” Churchill’s able secretary said when he mumbled. Trump articulates the heart and soul of America in the vernacular of the ordinary man. He speaks their language.
Churchill and Trump doubtless feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. Both seek out the recognition of the people and tell them an unvarnished version of the truth.
Churchill asked the British people: “What is your mood?” Their resounding answer was to fight: “They’ll never take Piccadilly.” No peace with Hitler and fascism. Trump has aroused the same spirit against North Korea, Iran, and the globalists.
As Prime Minister Churchill exited the Underground at Westminster to give the speech of a lifetime to Parliament, he concluded that the swastika would never fly over Buckingham Palace. Trump defends the American flag and national anthem with the same vigor and zeal.
Churchill put the nation first. Trump has a strategy of America first. Churchill sought to defend his island home. Trump defends America’s borders and its economy and jobs.
The grip of the Gestapo will not come to England, Churchill said: “We shall not fail — we shall go on to the end. We shall fight on the beaches … we shall never surrender.”
Trump is built of the same fortitude. He will not lie down or give in.
Churchill saw that, in good time, the New World (America) would step to the side of the Old. Trump should be so lucky if the Europeans choose to share the burdens they had promised to share.
Churchill sent his nation into battle. Five hard years latter, a bloodied Britain and her allies — essentially America — finally declared Victory. In eight years time, hopefully, Trump can do precisely the same.
Perhaps Trump is our Churchill.