Brexit, Trump pull rug out from under elite
The shock of Britain's decision to exit the EU shows just how out of touch the so-called "elites" and "experts" really are — not just those heading up the EU, but in Britain itself, in the failure of their dire warnings to prevent the vote to leave the union.
And while imperfect comparisons are being made to the populist uprising here — the younger vote in Britain was strongly in favor of the status quo, a sentiment that Hillary Clinton only wishes she could have — it's clear that on both sides of the Atlantic a more traditional electorate is angry over economic stagnation and the sense of a rigged system unresponsive to their needs.
The experts and elites, used to calling the shots, had the rug pulled out from under them in Thursday's vote. In the uncertainty that gripped the global economy, stock markets around the world took a dive. It gave them a taste of the uncertainty and even fear experienced in the heartland, in the rust belts and among the economically squeezed who feel left behind by the promises of a globalized economy and shells of vanished industries. Younger generations trained in new technologies and just starting out may navigate their way through to the future, but the days of a high school diploma and a willingness to work hard, which once landed a good-paying career in a local plant, are long passed.
The fear of the unknown that roiled markets is likely to settle, as columnist Anne Applebaum in London pointed out on this page Saturday. The time it takes for this divorce to proceed will allow markets to adjust to a new normal — perhaps analogous to how we've all become inured to the previously unimaginable process of lining up in airports and taking off our shoes. Ms. Applebaum presciently wrote just prior to the election in Britain that pro-exit supporters didn't seem to care about predictions of slower growth or financial chaos; they seemed willing to live with the consequence in pursuit of national identity and sense of control.
And that's where comparisons to the populist uprisings in our presidential election cycle appear to match. The Brexit vote, after all, was foolishly initiated by the soon-to-be-former Prime Minister David Cameron, sure of a "Remain" majority, as a way to quell a division in his party. In the U.S, elites, so used to getting their way that dynastic families vie for leadership, lost control this year on the Republican side and nearly lost control on the Democratic side. The fallout will play out for years. Britain's insurgent voters, 52 percent to 48 percent, brought fresh appraisals of Donald Trump's candidacy just as his campaign seemed mired in problems. Once again, the sudden "What does this mean?" discussion reveals how out of touch the so-called experts are this year. The Brexit vote hasn't changed what's happened here except bring increased attention to Mr. Trump, who naturally sees a connection to his own presumptive nomination.
Mr. Trump, as usual, showed up in all the right places at the right times, saying all the necessary things in fueling media coverage. Bizarrely, or perhaps not, he left the campaign trail to fly to his reopened Trump Turnberry Resort in Scotland, where he gave a press conference from the 9th tee, lifting his political gamesmanship to an international level. Wearing his trademark "Make America Great Again" hat ("Made Turnberry Great Again" hats were also in evidence) and against a backdrop of bagpipers, tartans, heather and ocean, he laid into President Obama for daring to set foot on British soil to encourage the Brits to remain in the E.U. "People want to see borders," Mr. Trump said. "They don't necessarily want people pouring into their country that they don't know who they are and where they come from."
Which in a not-so-round-about way brings at least part of the Brexit issue back to the U.S. role in the Middle East mess. Created by the Bush administration's misbegotten invasion of Iraq, exacerbated by the vacuum created by the Obama administration's anxiousness get out and then the refusal to act decisively in Syria, U.S. action and inaction helped unleash the flood of migrants that flooded Europe. A butterfly effect, if you will, that helped fuel a humanitarian catastrophe and stressed the EU. The repercussions will rebound with Britain, the EU, around the globe and in the presidential run.
– The (Worcester) Telegram & Gazette (Mass.), June 26, 2016
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