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Brexit and Trump? Two Protest Votes With Completely Different Outcomes

12/08/2016 12:19 | Updated 12 August 2016
ERIC THAYER / Reuters

The comparison between Brexit and a Trump victory at first seems apt, the demographics of the base of Vote Leave and Trump share many similarities, with the *average* Brexiteer and Trump supporter no doubt older, whiter and on the whole less likely to be degree educated than the opposition they faced. Whilst there were many solid reasons to support Brexit, like regaining sovereignty, it is unfortunately clear that immigration coupled with a chance to kick the establishment fuelled Vote Leave. It's naïve to dismiss the majority as 'bigots' primed for right-wing populism, for some (not all) surface hostility is rooted in deeper problems. These were the voters that globalisation forgot, who lost jobs as uncompetitive manufacturing moved overseas or saw communities change beyond recognition, without seeing the benefits of inward skilled labour or investment like London. Meanwhile, elites ran riot in the UK and the US, the political class that the Clintons' so perfectly embody, grew richer from 'public service', alongside the already wealthy and seemed at best ignorant and at worst apathetic to the problems faced by ordinary voters. No doubt many of these voters will come out for Trump in November the same way they came out for Brexit.

Past the protest-voter base, the similarities end. Whether you were a Brexiteer or Remainer, Brexit was always a jump into the void, a path not previously travelled in which Britain faced an uncertain future in terms of economic and national security. Brexiteers were optimistic of a brighter future whilst Remainers were fearful of decline. The same can simply not be said about Trump, a known quantity who has revealed his ugly character and economic and global outlook. The sometimes harsh anti-immigration rhetoric of Vote Leave, has nothing on the brazen racism and vulgarity of the Trump campaign. The mislabelling of Latinos as 'rapists and thieves', the 'build a wall' nonsense, the complete dismissiveness on sexual harassment (when the question was framed around his own daughter), and the idiocy of attacking the family of a dead soldier who dared to speak out against him. To vote for a thin skinned xenophobe is in no way a vote for hope, anyone who thinks so is delusional. Any concerns for a process of globalisation that is not working for many are invalidated and overshadowed by mindless support for divisiveness. This divisiveness is already taking hold if footage of violence and racial slurs from supporters at many rallies is anything to go by. As Donald Trump knocks down any remaining pillars of the modern Republican Party (although sadly not commitment to trickle down economics), abandoning commitment to free trade and a strong, clearly defined role for America in the world, there is no doubt of a future of economic and national insecurity. Trade barriers, fractures in NATO, lack of understanding on Ukraine, endorsement of torture 'worse than waterboarding' and cosying up to Putin paints a terrifying picture.

For all the doom-mongering and hysteria, Britain's fate remains far from sealed by Brexit, a vision still to be shaped over coming decades, and there is no reason to not remain cautiously optimistic, or at least hopeful that Britain will make a success of itself outside the EU. The election of Trump could seal the fate of the US far longer than his presidency, bringing entrenched divide and rule coupled with economic and global insecurity. Thankfully his chances are slim and falling by the day, but clear knowledge of the destructiveness of his character and vision for the US, make this a protest vote far more hate-filled and dangerous.

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