It’s Nigel Farage’s America Now
Behind the scenes with the ‘bad boy of Brexit’ as he celebrates the ‘revolution’ of 2016.
Nigel Farage’s inauguration party began for us in the elevator of the luxurious Hay Adams Hotel with a middle-aged California couple, Tom and Kim. They told two smartly-dressed Brits riding up with us that California was in bad political shape, and then casually mentioned they had lunch with “Nigel.” Not to be upstaged, one of the Brits eagerly said he, too, had spoken to “Nigel” yesterday. All were reassured.
Later, Nigel would assure a separate Californian gentlemen that “worse is better,” and that the divide between the government and liberal media and the public serves this rich California man’s interest. Also, Tom and Kim later told Foreign Policy that their lunch with Nigel kept them from a pro-Israel event with the youngest member of the Knesset. At the Israeli embassy? No, they said. At a Baptist church.
The elevators opened to a display of books for sale, including most prominently, “The Bad Boys of Brexit.” Sprinkled throughout the party were posters of newspaper front pages with the face and name of the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party plastered all over them. Perhaps so people could easily recognize Nigel when Nigel began to work the room. Or so Nigel could be reminded of Nigel’s Brexit victory every time Nigel glanced in a different direction.
The speech part of the evening, delivered to men in suits and women in gowns and stoles, began with a man from public affairs firm Goddard Gunster, who insisted that this night was not just about Trump, but also about Nigel. Because, he said, we wouldn’t be here tonight without Nigel.
He noted that the party had in attendance people from around the world. Including Taiwan, Belize, and Iran. No word on how the Iranian feels about the president-elect’s various comments on Muslims.
Then, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant stepped up on a small stage in the corner and, over the din of the crowd frantically networking in the background, spoke about Trump’s journey to the White House. The Mississippi pol lauded the casino developer from Queens as someone who finally “spoke their language.”
Then Nigel took the stage. The crowd cheered. He said he felt a mix of joy and disbelief, but that this was the time to end this disbelief and to say “WE DID IT.” The crowd cheered. He then slammed the British press. The crowd cheered harder. He said he likes to think that Brexit is the beginning of a global revolution. The crowd cheered. 2016, he said, will be looked at in 100 years as the year of the great pivot. The crowd cheered. And while oftentimes, after one political achievement you have to move quickly onto to the next, tonight, he said, is a chance to reflect and celebrate. Brexit was a victory, Farage said, but Trump’s victory was a Brexit Plus Plus Plus Plus Plus. The crowd cheered extra hard.
Nigel said Trump makes Nigel feels like an introvert. The crowd laughed with Nigel. The best moment of the year, he said, was seeing the faces of CNN presenters when they realized Trump won. This won the biggest cheer of the night. The second biggest was probably for the invocation of Ronald Reagan.
After that, the crowd dispersed to resume their networking and back-patting for Trump’s victory ‘against all odds’ (a common phrase heard throughout the evening). “It’s so surreal, it really was against all the odds,” one tux-donned man told Foreign Policy, reflecting on the past eight years, which he did not seem to enjoy.
“The national nightmare is finally over,” he said. The end of that nightmare included, for him, free steak and an open bar. And Nigel.
Two violinists and a cellist donning tuxedos played ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ in the background.
Nigel, in the meantime, worked the room, signing books, slapping backs, taking selfies with the Mississippians and Californians and Alabamians and Texans who all had suddenly developed a keen interest in seeing the downfall of the European Union.
Later, we asked Farage and if he’d be back in the United States.
“You’ll be seeing quite a lot of me.” he said. “Ever since November the 8, I felt quite at home here.”
Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/Getty Images.
Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin