I was recently watching a political panel discussion on one of the US cable news networks when, by way of aside, one of the guests launched into a bombastic tirade about the statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the Palace of Westminster. 'Fascist dictator, blah blah...'
Just like many students at Oxford University he had fallen into the fallacy of thinking that the man and the statue of the man are precisely the same thing. The statue outside Parliament is surely not of the historical Lord Protector as such, but of the man as he was re-imagined by the Victorians.
Yet Americans have good reason to fixate themselves on this rather dark personage from English history. Trump's ascendancy appears to signify the culmination of an alarming recent drift towards fascism on the starboard side of American politics - but listen closely to the rhetoric of the Christian right and you will start to hear the same backhanded pleas for tyranny behind all those chest-thumping adjurations of freedom that long ago accompanied the rise of Cromwell. It’s the original, ineradicable bug in the puritan prototype.