Transatlantic intellectuals relax by riffing on old notions. Let’s play with one of their most appealing: this civilization’s fate requires enlightened, united leadership by the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada: the old lion, the midlife crisis, and loyal Peter Pan.
As usual, their talent scouts today are driven by existential concerns. The UK wants to be more British, even if it requires losing Scotland and blowing up the European Union. The US wants to feel in charge of the world again, while tempted to blow up its own head office. And Canada wants to rethink its world view: Should it stay back with its decrepit Anglo partners or gamble that a giant in Asia has the staying power and temperament to be its new best friend.
The leaders needn’t be perfect—one person alone never gets to do anything historic in this civilization. Punching softly above our weight, however, still demands that leaders be interesting and commonsensical as well. (All three are asset rich; two members have live nuclear weapons and still have the taste of world dominion in their mouths.)
So, what’s in store?
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and, simultaneously, an MP and Churchillian troublemaker, has lovely thin, blond strands that are so high Anglican that he must religiously mess up his locks before appearing in public. He’s now leading the charge to pull the UK out of the European Union and become the next Conservative Prime Minister.
Donald Trump, mega-real-estate dealmaker and famous builder of dreams, manipulates the golden threads he has left with a delicacy that well serves men with little hands. He’s threatening to introduce Great Depression–level tariffs and build a military so awesome that his enemies will trade in their swords for casino chips. He expects to make good deals with a world full of politicians itching to tell POTUS to get lost.
Justin Trudeau climbed up each rung of the political ladder by winning elections outside and within the Liberal Party. He’s bringing Canada back to what the New York Times imagined Canada was before the Dark Decade. He needn’t really give a damn about his exquisite hair. Yet his barber(s) surely must work tirelessly at highlighting all his rakish, wide-eyed, and deliberative sides.
By year-end, our three great democracies may be led by three gifted groomers. They offer pictures of themselves and better times. They’re not policy wonks. But policies don’t last that long either.