If you can bear it, imagine waking up on November 9 to find that the nightmare is real, and yes, Donald Trump is your new president. It might give you an inkling of how at least 14.4 million British people felt on June 24 when they woke up to the news that the nation had voted to exit the European Union (EU).
The fact that the referendum’s final tally was so close – 48 percent against 52 percent — and an estimated 1.2 million who voted for “Brexit” regretted it instantly afterwards, made it all the more agonizing.
Why is this relevant to U.S. citizens? Because several leading features of the Brexit campaign are perfect reflections of Trump’s bid for power.
1) A Whole Lot Of Lies
Of course, all politicians lie. It’s par for the course. But some of the lies emanating from both the Brexiters and Trump have been spectacularly scandalous.
With Trump, you can take your pick from a fistful. In the past week alone, he has misrepresented the facts on the number of police shootings, the rise in violent crime, and Obama’s provisions for veterans healthcare care.
The Brexit campaign leaders made nearly as many questionable assertions. Perhaps the daddy of them all was the claim that they would use Britain’s weekly contribution to the E.U. – a reported £350 million – to fund an improved National Health Service.
This appeared as an election pledge on leaflets, posters, even on the side of the campaign tour bus. Yet within an hour of the result being announced, the claim was flatly denied by one of the main spokesmen, Nigel Farage.
2) They Don’t Know How To Do What They Say They’re Going To Do
Trump is fond of making grandiose promises about what he’ll do when he comes to power. When it comes to explaining how he’ll fulfil them, he goes vague. A relevant example was when he suggested blocking terror groups from internet access.
In December of 2015, Trump said:
“ISIS is using the internet better than we are using the internet, and it was our idea…I sure as hell don’t want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation to use our internet.”
But apart from handing the challenge off to “the brilliant people from Silicon Valley,” he can’t explain how this could be achieved. Probably because it can’t.
Maybe he doesn’t realize it’s the world wide web, not the USA-wide web. Maybe his knowledge of VPN’s only goes as far as VP.
Meanwhile, one of the main planks of Brexit – which Trump would thoroughly endorse – was a promise to curb the rate of immigration. But how? Britain would have to disavow the EU-wide Freedom of Movement Act, which would suicidally scupper any chance of trade with the remaining EU countries. This would cause the UK economy to nosedive.
3) Two Issues Catastrophically Conflated
Both Trump and the Brexiters have gained traction with white working class people devastated by the death of traditional heavy industry. Therefore affecting jobs in their neighborhoods. The only remaining alternatives are call centers, drugs and alcohol, depression, and hopelessness.
So fundamentally they’re not voting for change, they’re voting to express their anger with the status quo. And no matter how many promises their new heroes come up with, there’s no guarantee that they can, or even want to, make things better.
4) They’ve Both Opened The Gates To Hate
Trump has dialed back on his aggressive rhetoric lately, but his campaign is besmirched with incidents of protesters being punched and abused. Especially at his rallies where he gleefully encourages the violence from the stage.
In the days immediately after the referendum, racially motivated hate crimes leapt by an alarming 57 percent in the UK. Asian Muslims have bore the brunt of the attacks, but Polish and German residents have been victimized too. One dreads to think where it might end.
After the referendum, a lot of the UK’s pro-Remain voters admitted that, deep down, they never really believed that Brexit would happen. The notion was just too ridiculous.
So while you watch the Trump cavalcade as it wends its way towards Washington, D.C, please don’t think “it could never happen here.” Because it already has happened there.