What Trump’s win and Brexit have in common

'Leave' supporters cheer results of Britain's EU referendum in London. File Photo: Reuters  

“Its going to be Brexit, plus, plus, plus,” President Elect Donald Trump - or “Mr Brexit” as he had once referred to himself, declared just days before his victory in the U.S. election. The similarities between the forces that drove him to victory, and those that led to the surprise British vote to leave the EU in June, is a theme he has returned to over and over again. He even invited Leave campaigner and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage to address one of his rallies in Mississippi back in August, who declared that they had succeeded in reaching the “little” people who believed they could “take back control” of their country, and their borders, “against all odds.”

“There are certainly parallels,” says Dr Brian Klaas, professor of politics at the LSE, of Trump’s electoral campaign and that to leave the E.U. “They were both anti establishment votes and a major cry for change, with latest racism involved in a movement, that used misplaced xenophobia to find a scapegoat for economic woes.”

“There were definitely in both cases very strong constituencies easily mobilised along an anti elitist platform,” says Dr Leslie Vinjamuri, an associate fellow at think tank Chatham House.

“Trump’s election is an unmistakable rejection of a political establishment and an economic system that simply isn’t working for most people. It is one that has delivered escalating inequality and stagnating or falling living standards for the majority, both in the US and Britain,” said Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Leader of the Opposition in a statement on Wednesday.

In both cases their ability to put forward a clear message - whether it was the Leave campaign’s “take back control” or Trump’s “Make America Great Again” contrasted with that of their opponents, who struggled to match that clarity. It meant that any inaccuracies or untruths in the Leave or Trump campaign were pretty much ignored by their supporters “In both cases the establishment has not done a good job at articulating a vision for change to a population hurt by globalization,” said Klaas.

However, there were considerable differences too: while the anti-globalisation message certainly came into play in the Brexit debate it was less dominant than in the U.S., says Vinjamuri. The British leave campaign also lacked the personality cult that built around Trump, with no single figure attracting the kind of idolization that he did.

Nevertheless, what both countries now undoubtedly share are very fractured societies. “In both cases there is going to have to be much greater cooperation among deeply divided societies, where half want to go in one direction, and the other half in the other” says Klaas. “Articulating a vision that doesn’t involve going against your neighbor will be the challenge for 2017.”

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 11:03:35 PM |

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