Recent election ‘Trumps’ Brexit


Recent election ‘Trumps’ Brexit

By James Firkins

Catchy, isn’t it? It’s neat, clear and incredibly simple. As easily digestible as “Make America Great Again” or that tacky amalgamation “Brexit,” but its message is not deliberately vague.

I’m English—British, to Americans—and I’ve lived in Chicago for about nine weeks. I’ve experienced the furor surrounding Brexit firsthand and felt the liberal-leaning fugue the day after the June 23 result. I’ve also experienced the embarrassment of this presidential election and similar liberal angst the day after its Nov. 9 result.

It was upsetting when Britain decided to exit the EU, by 52 percent of the vote. The Leave campaign, spearheaded by U.K. Independence Party Member of Parliament Nigel Farage and Tory Party Member of Parliament Boris Johnson, has since been criticized as misleading. False facts were printed on the side of a bus, with Leave claiming that £350 million normally sent to the EU would instead be spent on the National Health Service. Within hours of Brexit’s result, Farage disowned this pledge and reneged on his claims saying, “I would never have made that claim. That was one of the mistakes that I think the Leave campaign made,” according to ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” show. 

Farage lied to a country, causing irreparable damage to its people, devaluing its currency and instigating a rise in hate crimes via his anti-immigrant xenophobic rhetoric, all in the name of the working class family. Does that sound familiar at all?

Farage, who has since stood down as leader of UKIP, said he achieved his political ambitions, and it was time to take a rest. Americans may know Farage’s name, because he has recently been visiting the U.S., cozying up to President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump made several bold, damaging claims during his presidential campaign—including instigating that same anti-immigrant xenophobic rhetoric—and already we can see patterns emerging as he reneges on several of his proposed policies. Within days of his election, Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he may preserve aspects of Obamacare, and during CBS’ Nov. 15 “60 Minutes,” Trump admitted that parts of the proposed wall have been reconsidered for fencing at best. Even his claim of banning Muslim immigration, a stance at odds with America’s foundations of religious freedom, has been altered to only target countries linked to terrorism. It’s as if it’s all a lot more complicated than “Ban all Muslims” or “Build a wall. Mexico will pay.” 

Both the British and American governments and the EU all contain systems set up to prevent catastrophe. There are laws, regulations and procedures in place to protect the populace. These are naturally complicated and are why it is important to elect qualified individuals to be held accountable. So why have ex-Prime Minister David Cameron, who immediately resigned following the result; Johnson, who halted his run for the position of PM; and Farage, who needed “a rest”; all remained unaccountable despite their bailing like rats from a sinking ship? Furthermore, how do the American people hold Trump accountable now that he is about to assume office?

The real tragedy with both Brexit and the recent presidential election is the resulting division. And it’s not a simple division, either; it’s the division of families. Younger, more optimistic voters are more likely to be liberal and accept approaching globalization, according to a Feb. 28 article from The Atlantic. The International Business Times reported Nov. 11 that other, more cynical voters simply wanted change, as can be seen in the calls to “#DraintheSwamp”; they are sick of unaccountable politicians preserving their own interests, and Trump and Leave’s catchphrases sounded like the simple rhetoric reserved for drunken bar talk. Complicated issues suddenly became solvable with these simple slogans.

The only way forward is to become more politically aware and active. According to a Nov. 10 BBC report, nearly 30 percent of Britain didn’t vote in Brexit. That figure is dwarfed by the 41.9 percent of eligible Americans who didn’t vote in the presidential election, as reported Nov. 16 by The Washington Post. It’s obvious that politicians are speaking to us and not for us, and citizens in any country need to hold them accountable by becoming engaged through actions like writing politicians and challenging everything one hears. By doing this, we can Make Politicians Accountable Again.