Robert A. Levine 7-12-16
Given the terrible tragedies in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and St. Paul the last week, the ramifications of Brexit and the presidential contest may seem remote and of less importance to Americans at this time. But both matter in terms of how our nation will evolve over the next few years.
When Trump was first asked his opinion about Brexit, he initially did not know what it was.
Then when Brexit happened, Trump was in Scotland pumping his golf course, and said that the pound’s losing value would be good for his business. Trump also stated that he was in the midst of people happy about Brexit, though Scotland had voted overwhelmingly to remain in the E.U. He declared as well that Brexit would benefit Britain, though most economists believe it will negatively impact Britain’s economy and could lead to the nation splitting apart.
Given the surge in populism, the supporters of Brexit in Great Britain to a large degree mirror the people backing Trump in the U.S. Pro-Brexiters are more likely to have been from rural areas, small or medium sized towns, than from major urban areas, as is also true for the Trump advocates.
Many of those pro-Brexit and pro-Trumpers are uneducated white working men, who are unemployed or underemployed, and feel left behind by globalization. The left-behinders are angry at the “elites” who they feel have benefitted economically from the new order while they have suffered. Supporting Brexit and Trump are metaphorical punches in the nose to those on top politically or economically, showing them that white working men still count. And of course the left-behinders are against immigrants who they blame for the loss of jobs and decreased wages. In England it is the eastern Europeans and in the U.S. it is Hispanics who are accused of taking jobs. The white working men don’t see that automation and increased factory productivity has changed manufacturing forever, and that education is the only way out for those left behind.
There is also a big divide from the standpoint of age between pro-Trumpers-Brexiters, and those who disdain Trump and those who wanted to remain in the E.U. Older people are generally in the Trump-Brexit camp and the young are more likely to be anti-Trump and anti-Brexit. The young tend to be more cosmopolitan than their elders, more educated, have travelled more and are more at ease with different nationalities.
After Brexit passed, the leaders of the movement took back the promises they had made, saying that they had been wrong. However, these messages had convinced many of the English to vote to leave. But the financial benefits were seen to be a mirage, and open borders for E.U. citizens will have to remain if Britain is to keep the E.U. as its favored market.
If Trump is elected president, his promises will be seen to have been lies as well. A wall will not be built between Mexico and the United States, and Mexico will not pay for it. Actually, immigration is now reversed, with more migrants going back to Mexico than coming into the U.S, so a wall isn’t even necessary. Trump will also not deport 12 million undocumented immigrants. That would be enormously expensive to accomplish and would badly damage the American economy. These workers are needed for agriculture, hospitality, restaurants, landscaping, and so forth, jobs that many Americans would not take.
Trump will also not abandon all the trade pacts that have been signed and start trade wars with the nations we do business with. Congress would not allow him to do this, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American businessmen are already berating Trump over this idea. He is also not going to order surveillance on all Muslims, as that would be unconstitutional. And torture of suspected terrorists and killing their families can be considered war crimes, so Trump is unlikely to follow through on those promises.
A wave of populism and nationalism has been sweeping the world and Trump has been riding its crest. Brexit was also the result of populism and nationalism, though economically it made little sense. Though Hillary Clinton is a flawed candidate for president, she would be far better as an occupant of the White House than Donald Trump, the narcissist and populist-in-chief, whose campaign promises have been a pack of lies. Hopefully, people will realize this before it is too late.
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