Even before last night’s ghastly denouement, Trump’s Presidential and the UK’s Brexit campaigns had become coupled within the tidal wave of public rhetoric. I’m not suggesting that there are not some similarities, but that does not mean that they are even vaguely ‘the same thing’ and certainly not in terms of what was ultimately at stake
Let’s get the similarities out of the way. Both campaigns lent heavily on:
- a shifting of macro-economic power from the West to the East
- the resultant worsening of the relative economic positions of blue-collar workers
- the impact of the above on particular regions
- a belief within many communities that central government was failing them and disinterested in them
- an immigration flow of refugees and economic migrants
- a confusion between these 2 categories of migrants
- assumptions, many false, as to the scale and social & economic impact of immigration
- fear, plain & simple
Weighing in against these forces, both the Clinton & The Remain campaigns:
- were seen as insensitive defenders of the status quo and the political establishment.
- lent heavily on authority figures, who warned earnestly of disastrous consequences that would result if their views did not prevail
- appeared indifferent at best, and demeaning at worst, to the issues being raised by the other side.
So yes, the resultant outcomes were effective forged along the social & economic fault-lines that exist within our respective communities. These are realities, and hugely significant ones, but they are underlying causes not the issues that were being contested.
The Trump campaign was an inwardly-directed campaign which ultimately succeeded because, despite everything else, the candidate and his team exploited the above fault-lines for their own benefit; an objective, to put it simply, to gain control of executive power. The Brexit campaign was also about executive power but it was a referendum on an externally-directed issue that was fought on a cross-party basis, despite all the efforts of the UK media to present it as otherwise. As a consequence of this, no assumption of executive change could be made by any on the Leave side. Indeed the possibility existed that the government in situ would act & negotiate in response to a Brexit decision. Two different campaigns then – one a popularity contest, the other a referendum.
For many in the UK the Brexit decision is seen as a retrograde step born of prejudice and lacking in commitment to global causes. Neither of these need be the consequential result of a Brexit decision. The UK voted to make a change in its political and economic relationships and nothing yet has come to pass that suggests that the fundamental democratic and egalitarian principles that underpin our society will suffer as a consequence. In fact, as a Brexiteer, I am firmly of opinion that the relationship changes, which will come to be, will enhance our economic opportunities and that we will more than continue to be an outwardly looking nation and a generous member of the international community.
How different from the potential consequences of a Trump executive. Can you seriously suggest that the Brexit decision is worthy of a hyperbolic damnation as has just arrived in my inbox from the Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian newspaper:
“It was a terrible night for women, for Muslims, for Hispanic Americans, for people who believe climate change is a real and present danger, for people who believe women have a right to abortion, for men and women who object to sexual harassment of the most brutal and obvious kind, for disabled people, for black people, for Jewish people, for gay people, for progressives, for liberals and for people who believe Barack Obama was born in the USA.”
Followed in short order by another piece penned by one of its journalists entitled: “Globalisation is dead, and white supremacy has triumphed.”
BBC News suggests that this ‘to do list’ would feature in Trump’s 1st 100 days:
- Starting process of “removing the more than two million criminal, illegal immigrants”
- Denying visa-free travel to countries who refused to take back their citizens
- Repealing every Obama executive order
- Restrictions on White House officials becoming lobbyists
- Term limits for members of Congress
- Cancellation of all payments to UN climate change programmes
- Using that money to fix US infrastructure
- Label China a currency manipulator
To suggest that this list has any similarities with the consequences of Brexit, is misconceived and totally out of proportion.
These are indeed dangerous times but if we are to survive them we need to have the capacity to identify what things are and what they are not. There seems to be something in the air these days whereby people want to demonise absolutely those that they don’t agree with. (I actually think it is a side-bar to the zeitgeist of instant gratification – ‘wanting it now’ translating into ’agree with me now’. And this impatience then morphs into an “if you can’t see the sanity of what I am saying then you must be insane”). Everything we don’t like or care for is not hewn from the same stuff. If we are to steer a safe path through the obstacles of our time we have to be treat matters on their own merit and respond proportionately. In the coming days and months the real strength and integrity of our political institutions will be severely challenged. Given the role that public opinion plays in today’s political to-ings and fro-ings, it is vitally important that we see matters in shades of grey, rather than black-and-white.
The Trump presidency is a real-and-present danger because of the sort of person he is, the things he stands for and because the United States is a global leader. As a result, the world has indeed taken a lurch towards the dark side. If we are to return to the light, we have see things for what they really are and not tar everything we don’t like with the same brush. And to start with we need to frame Brexit in terms of what it really is – a banana skin compared to the herd of stampeding elephants that the Trump presidency represents.