The Guardian notes that for young American conservatives Nigel Farage is an unlikely heir to Margaret Thatcher, and the ‘most adored’ global politician not named Netanyahu:
Once young conservatives in the US looked across the ocean to Margaret Thatcher. Now the model is Nigel Farage.
The garrulous chain-smoker, famously fond of a pint, has become the model of trans-Atlantic conservativism to many on the right. Farage even spoke at the influential CPAC conference in 2015 where a committed crowd of conservative activists stuck around at the end of a long day of speeches to receive him rapturously.
In a time when the American right is increasingly hawkish on immigration, Farage is, in the description of rightwing talkshow host Steve Deace, “probably the global politician not named Netanyahu most adored by American conservatives”.
Dan Schneider, the executive director of the American Conservative Union, raved about Farage’s appearance in 2015 to the Guardian. He praised the UK Independent Party (Ukip) leader as a “very smart, very funny man and he can turn a phrase very well”. Schneider thought that Farage’s belief that “the people of Great Britain need to be able to govern themselves and that national sovereignty is a very important thing” was a “traditional conservative belief”.
Farage is an unlikely heir to Thatcher for American affections. The Ukip leader has never been elected to Parliament. Instead, the former stockbroker, who was a founding member of Ukip when the party broke away from the Conservatives over Europe in the early 90s, has been a longtime member of the European Parliament.
Until recently, while Ukip had some success as a protest vote in European elections, it had not broken through in campaigns for Parliament. However in 2015 the party gained over 12% of the vote and one of 650 seats in the House of Commons as it won over an increasing number of white working-class voters in addition to its rightwing base fueled by nationalism and anti-immigration rhetoric.
The renegade British politician’s rise in the estimation of American right has happened as the UK prime minister, David Cameron, formed a closer relationship with the Obama administration – even hiring top Obama aide Jim Messina to help run his re-election campaign. Cameron took vocal stands on issues such as climate change and same-sex marriage, anathema to many American conservatives.
Further, as Republicans have grown increasingly skeptical of the federal government and more adamantly pro-states rights, they have seen increasing parallels to the EU. The result has helped fuel euroscepticism among many Republicans, despite potential harm to US national security interests and global markets. This was aided by Obama’s vocal support for the UK to remain in the European Union.
The result was that the Brexit vote was greeted with jubilation by many on the American right. On talk radio, Rush Limbaugh praised the vote as a nation of people rising up against the ruling class and the elites, while Fox TV’s Sean Hannity described the Leave vote as “the British people, in their very polite way, showed Obama their middle finger”.
Further, while Donald Trump vocally endorsed Brexit, many vehement Trump opponents on the American right also did so as well. Conservative blogger and radio host Erick Erickson wrote “Welcome Home, England” after the vote; Ted Cruz called the result “a wake-up call for internationalist bureaucrats from Brussels to Washington DC that some free nations still wish to preserve their national sovereignty”.
American conservatives though haven’t totally rejected the Conservative party. Just as Farage was received as a rock star at CPAC, eurosceptic Tory Daniel Hannan features regularly at conservative conferences in the US and is a contributor to the center-right magazine the Washington Examiner.
As Ellen Carmichael, a well-connected Republican operative pointed out, Hannan “has long been a staple in conservative media circles. Before there was knowledge of Farage, there was a knowledge and admiration for Hannan.”
But as the American right combines long-standing suspicion of big government and growing hawkishness on immigration, the admiration for Farage and Ukip in the US is only likely to grow.