There’s been lots of cognitive dissonance among British internetters today as they look on with incredulity at the American election, while quickly rushing to deny any parallels between Trump and Brexit. In the former they are impartial observers and in the latter they are emotional participants.
The Trump and Brexit situation are exactly the same; take away a small and insignificant band of true believers in either cause and it’s a symbolic protest against established politicians made by people who may have valid grievances but certainly don’t have a valid understanding of the implications of their vote on their grievances.
At some point, the smarter brexiters will have to accept that people all around the anglosphere aren’t all that different and if Americans are stupid for voting Trump, we are stupid for voting Brexit.
What Britain and the US both have in common is a completely unfair two party system and a broken electoral system that discards most of the votes entered into it and encourages protest votes. Voting for Trump or Brexit temporarily returns a bit of power to the voter; the voter has the legitimate opportunity to rebel against The Establishment. The possibility of the result causing upset to the voter is secondary to the immediate upset it causes to The Establishment. It’s a basic human instinct to annoy other people and it gets stronger the more frustrated you are with that other person (hence why online political discussion is usually so bad).
As well as better economic policies, we also need better representation. Proportional representation is a good start but it’s probably not enough.
Now we live in interesting times. If this becomes a trend and Le Pen starts gaining influence in France and causes a Frexit as she promises to (and note that Nigel Farage managed this despite being a 7-time electoral failure who is widely disliked even by the people who voted for brexit – more dissonance), along with brexit, then the EU will collapse. If Trump follows through on his hints to abandon NATO while also pursuing poor economic policies then suddenly the West is in deep trouble in terms of both money and security.
Having said all that, it may just be because, as I said at the start of this post, I am an impartial observer on Trump and not an emotional participant like I am on Brexit, but it is currently my opinion that Trump is going to be less damaging to the US than Brexit will be to the UK. Looking past the dubious character, Trump may yet have answers for working and middle class Americans who feel that the last 10 years of economic policies have failed them, by penalising global trade in such a way that it spurs demand in local economies. If Brexit delivers the same, it will be because it copies Trump’s lead.