This is what happens when nationalism goes to the polls.
Like many Americans, I paid little attention when the British went to the polls to decide if they should leave the European Union. So what?! What did it mean to me? And, furthermore, what could I do about it? On Friday morning I woke up– Brexit was all over the news. The U.S. stock market had tanked as the Dow dropped over 600 points in one day, and many of us lost money in whatever pension or retirement account we are lucky enough to have.
I now understand what Brexit means to me. But more importantly, I understand what it means for the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
In order to understand any major political event, we must understand what motivated it. The exit vote in Britain was driven by right-wing nationalism. The white working-class was feeling left behind by globalization, and to those in Britain, globalization had a name — the European Union. In all too familiar a fashion, the British complained that immigrants were taking their jobs. In Britain these people were “Pro-Brexit,” and here in the U.S., these very same people are “Pro-Trump.”
We should take note of who has applauded this exit decision by the British voters. Vladimir Putin, Iran, and ISIS have all loudly proclaimed their support. Right-wing nationalists across Europe were cheering on Brexit, right along with Fox ‘news,’ and of course, Donald. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. But is it really that strange? All of those rejoicing have one thing in common: right-wing nationalism.
We should remember that Hitler’s campaign slogan was “Make Germany Great Again.” Hitler appealed to right-wing working class populism to create a white ethnocentric nationalism which scapegoated the Jews. Trump has simply substituted “Mexican” and “Muslim” for “Jew”– though the rest is the same. Before we dismiss this bigotry, we must remember that there were two world wars fought in Europe which were driven by right-wing nationalism. This movement is not a joke, it’s a cancer.
Yet we should also be clear that the vote in Britain was very close: only 52 percent voted to exit the European Union, and many of them are already experiencing voter’s remorse. Since Friday there have been over 3 million signatures on a petition for another election. Whether the British citizens will get a “do-over” is unclear. But what is clear is that American voters will not get a “do-over” in our own upcoming presidential election.
Recently The Economist magazine rated a Trump election as one of the top 10 threats to our economy. More importantly, they said it was a larger threat than Britain leaving the European Union. To repeat, however bad Brexit is going to turn out to be, Trump would be much worse. But of course, Trump voters want to “shake things up.” They want to see a major change in American politics, but given their choice of candidate, it seems that they want change even if it means change for the worse. The hardcore Trump supporters will never reconsider their choice. But moderate and liberal Americans should re-consider this entire election very carefully.
While it is true that 70% of Americans think that our country is headed in the wrong direction (and I am one of them), we should think more deeply about what we really mean when we say this. Much of the Brexit vote was driven by populism versus the experts. The economic experts were warning that the Brexit vote could trigger a recession. But ‘the people’ thought that they knew better. They were tired of ‘the experts’ telling them what to do.
This is just another instance of the same song and dance which climate change deniers do in the face of scientific consensus. So they, along with the Brexit-ers, Donald Trump, and his supporters are rejecting what ‘the experts’ are saying. As is always the case, however, we reject the wisdom of those who know more than us at our own peril.
Britain may or may not get their do-over, but if Trump wins in November, we certainly won’t, and we will be forced to pay for our complacency for many years to come.
a note: I cannot remain silent any longer. I am greatly concerned with the direction of our country, and I also believe the Trump would be one of the greatest disasters to ever befall our nation. Over the next four months I am going to speak out to anyone who will listen– because we have to do more than merely defeat Trump, we have to discredit (crush) his entire ideology! In order to do this, we have to understand it, and what is driving it.