Is Trump Learning From Brexit, Or Are We?

04/10/2016 17:32
Mike Segar / Reuters

In June, many in the UK were left shell-shocked by the majority vote to leave the EU - including some of the leave voters who, realising that their protest vote actually had global repercussions which would be felt for generations to come, asked if they could go back and change their mind.

Brexit quickly became global news. Both leave and remain voters were angry at the way campaigns had been conducted and outrage centered around false promises and inaccurate media portrayal. According to the side of a London bus, Nigel Farage had promised that £350M a week "saved by leaving the EU" was to be pumped directly into the National Health Service...he was quick to explain that this was a slight misinterpretation but not before the bus had done the rounds.

Unfortunately, despite popular demand, it appears that British history will not be given the opportunity to rewrite the Brexit episode - so why reflect on it now?

"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history". - Aldous Huxley

It is often argued that one of the most important lessons from history, is to avoid making the same mistakes twice. I feel that there are dangerous parallels between Brexit and the US presidential race, and I think we all have a role to play in ensuring that we are able to learn from this very recent experience.

Donald Trump's presidential campaign is founded on fear hate and false promises. He is explicitly racist, sexist and elitist to the extent it can be difficult to figure out who is left for his policies and ideals to benefit. So why is his campaign gaining traction?

I started by asking two questions: Who is supporting Trump? Why are they supporting him? A recent Gallup study aimed to address the first question. One might think that Trump's supporters stating concerns over immigration laws have been adversely affected by immigration. In fact, many of his supporters live in the country's least ethnically diverse regions with the lowest immigration rates. On reflection this makes sense, given the fear tactics that Trump is trying to instill. If you have not seen the impact of immigration, then you are more likely to fear it. Sound familiar? Londoners, who are amongst the most exposed to ethnic and cultural diversity in the UK, disproportionately voted remain during the Brexit casting.

Educated professionals lie in the ranks of Trump supporters. Despite his overt and disgusting comments directed at women, he has retained female supporters. Trump's trigger happy insults and comedic displays of ineptitude have made it easy for commentators to question his ability to lead a country, but have done little to deter these voters. Why?

Trump represents change. People are fed up with politicians and he seems to have been awarded a get out of jail free card, precisely because he has no political experience. The problem is, Trump also represents ignorance.

In many ways, this is not dissimilar to Brexit, where a deep frustration with the way things had been run led to desire for change, and a leave vote represented an opportunity to exercise that. The difference here, is that while politics almost always needs a shake up, we also have to accept that just because someone is not 'in the system' does not mean that they have the interests of the people at heart.

Following the political outsider get out of jail free card that is excusing Trump's ignorance on matters of global importance, an argument has been put forward that the White House needs someone who understands business. If this is a perspective we are going to take then we are obligated to question why and understand the implications of our assumptions. A command of economics is vital, but a blasé attitude to bankruptcy is not. We should not take the business acumen that Trump likes to argue was his greatest strength ( I believe it is now his temperament) at face value.

This is a man who has publicly admitted to not paying taxes, gone bankrupt multiple times, not paid workers and had lawsuits filed against him for discrimination. If we are to make the argument that the United States needs someone who understands business to 'repair' the economy, we need to accept that by putting Trump in that category is endorsing discrimination, poor moral practice and financial collapse, which are things the US economy may struggle to recover from the way The Trump Organization has.

This election is probably the biggest political event that I have had an opportunity to influence by way of voting, and I believe it is of global importance. For this reason, I feel an obligation to vote. I understand however that my views are not shared by everyone. There are a growing number of eligible voters who have lost faith in the system and who believe that their vote will not influence a predetermined outcome. This demographic really has a huge opportunity to influence the outcome of the election. The cost of not acting is too high, even if you think the probability of impact is low.

No political system, no government, indeed no organisation is flawless in the way it conducts itself, but this does not mean we need to give up. US, and indeed UK citizens are privileged in that we can influence who governs our countries, this is something we should respect.

Unfortunately, this election race has been plagued by a right wing media attempting to turn it into a reality TV show. It has also been subject to extraordinary displays of double standards, that perhaps one day will earn a place in history books (if you are still concerned about Hillary's health, spare a thought for Donald, he's got the sniffles). At first, Trump's participation was almost comedic. That is no longer the case... he's moved from a top ten TV personality to a top ten global threat (The Economist).

In the aftermath of Brexit, protest voters and those who had not gone to the polling stations mourned their decisions. It was too late. With a month to go, the US election is unwritten. On November 8th don't not vote because you've given up, don't cast your vote thinking it won't count. Vote because it does matter, for the United States and the world.