In the last year, Brexit and Donald Trump's election victory have made it very clear that people both in the UK and US are angry and frustrated at the politicians who have served us of late. In recent years trust towards our elected representatives has sunk lower and lower, so can it really come as a surprise that a majority of people are now voting against the status quo?
The results on their own are not necessarily that big of a deal; Governments change because people aren't happy with the current leadership and want something better, that's how our whole system works. What's strange about what's happened recently is that people have voted for things they know may impact them negatively, whether it be economically or socially. So why do it?
Beginning with Brexit, many people have suggested that deliberate lies told by the leave campaign influenced voters who as a result thought that exiting the EU would be the best option. I think this greatly underestimates the average intelligence of British people- how many honestly believed that if we left Europe we would give an extra £350m a week to the NHS? People knew this would never happen, yet they still chose to ignore the vast majority of experts and economists who warned of the dire financial consequences a leave vote could bring. Since the referendum we have seen the Conservative government choose to interpret this as a vote against immigration, and it's hard to argue this- if we knew we were going to be less well off financially, then what other reason was there for voting to leave? The whole campaign was fought almost wholly around those two issues.
And then to America where we have seen Donald Trump triumph over Hillary Clinton after a bitter and divisive campaign. Again, it has been argued that voters were misled by Trump's lies and exaggerations, but again I would argue the electorate knew what he was saying to be untrue, yet voted for him anyway. With Brexit it was fairly clear we would be worse off economically, whilst with Trump it's quite obvious he was by far the less experienced, less knowledgeable, less professional candidate, yet we arrived at similar outcomes. And once again one of the overriding factors in this decision was immigration, particularly regarding Muslims and Mexicans. Mr Trump has been highly critical of ethnic minorities, LGBT people and women, so after alienating such a large amount of the population, who was there left to vote for him? Exit polls show that whilst roughly 90% of black people, 75% of Latino people and 54% of women voted for Clinton, white men voted 63% in favour of Trump, and that's where the election was won. It was clear that a vote for Trump was a vote against so much of the social progression that has been seen in America in recent years, as well as risking financial instability through his questionable foreign policy. And yet he emerged victorious nonetheless.
In both the UK and America, we have seen the more socially progressive and economically beneficial option be neglected in favour of an isolationist and anti-immigrant alternative. There is no doubt this has shown how frustrated people are with the situation of politics globally, and as a result hopefully we will see less traditional and more progressive options on the ballot paper in the future. However, to me what this shows more than anything is that underpinning our whole society are xenophobic, misogynistic and fundamentally dangerous viewpoints that I naively thought had just about disappeared. Instead of being angry at those who voted for Trump or Brexit, and instead of looking to find loopholes to overturn the results, we need to look at what we can do as tolerant and progressive people to make sure our voices are not stifled amongst those who still have these backwards and outdated views.