aNewDomain — Hours before voters decided this morning to yank the United Kingdom out of the European Union, it began. First, the British pound nosedived, sinking to its lowest low in 33 years. And Scotland and Northern Ireland began publicly talking about holding their own referendums to break away from the UK. Then, after word was out that Brexit won, Prime Minister David Cameron resigned. The Bank of England declared the UK to be in a state of financial emergency. And world financial markets, from the FTSE to the Nasdaq, limped away, wounded even before the opening bell.
As for the strident, disenfranchised voters who fought so angrily and so tirelessly for Brexit — the ones who told pollsters they wouldn’t stop till they’d sent a message to show just how angry they were, wouldn’t stop until they were “free” — well, they have begun to party.
They don’t know they’re dancing to a Nero tune.
Now you would think — if you’ve been under a rock, that is — that their obvious counterparts here in the former colonies might get the message in all this. America Firsters say they don’t care about trashing free speech rights or even freedom of religion, foundations every American child know lie at the broad base of this country.
But they’re every bit as angry and mistrustful of people trying to tell them the consequences of their choices as the Brexiteers. Actually, they’re angrier. And more disenfranchised.
Are there any real differences worth noting here? That’s what I want to know.
When the buzz wears off …
The predominantly rural, blue collar and mostly older, conservative voters hailing from Wales and the English countryside wanted, in the words of one of their leaders, to “take their country back.”
They must’ve felt real good when they won Brexit, sending a profound screw you message to the EU and the country’s privileged political, business and financial classes. That’ll show the greedy, lying bureaucrats who’ve been looking down at them for all these years.
But when the buzz of victory wears off — when jobs evaporate, when prices soar, when they notice their EU food subsidies did kind of matter after all — they will have to see they’ve screwed themselves. Or they’ll blame someone else for it. Or maybe they will never realize.
The real point is that these voters were repeatedly told that exiting the EU would trigger disaster for themselves and their livelihoods. But they didn’t believe it. They thought the experts were lying, trying to trick them back into complacency. Which pissed them off still more.
Having lost all trust in society and authority, and confused by resentment and frustration, they became drunk first with the exhilaration of being able to vent, to speak out, then addicted to the validation they got from the breathless media reports so willing to broadcast their outrage. They grew more outrageous as a result, of course. They demanded independence, freedom from EU bureaucracy and the paternal warnings of UK political leaders who tried to tell them they were just being silly.
Shockingly, the Brexit people won.
They wanted to make their point at all costs. Like the disenfranchised masses who slavishly follow Trump despite every lie, every misstep, every stunning revelation about his ignorance of the economy and so much else, they wanted to keep on marching.
Russian president Vladimir Putin must be hugging himself right now.
Of all the mainstream media stories that bubbled up in the early morning hours after the Brexit, the UK Daily Mail tabloid’s Brexit coverage was the first to go viral.
The story was titled: “Brexit is proof that Trump will be the next president”: Anti-immigration message and shift to the Right that led to UK’s seismic break with Europe deaws parallels with rise of the Donald”.
It went viral because everyone, even people in cars who should be watching the road, love to rubber neck a car accident.
Advisors to Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton should be burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how to warn the angry mob of Trump followers without warning, how to somehow show them without showing what the consequences to their freedoms and economic livelihoods might be if they do like the Brexit voters and just say, screw them all.
Warning them will work about as well as warning the Welsh Brexit hordes that a vote for Brexit would be the end of EU food subsidies. They won’t believe it, and it will only make them madder.
Maybe things will have to get worse in Europe before they’re able to convincingly pull off that magic trick. But waiting for the freakishly fearful and angry among us to arrive at that conclusion is futile.
Democracies have historically shown themselves to have vastly greater strengths than more autocratic governments. But short of a genius idea here, there is really nothing to stop voters from opting to damage their country, especially when their leaders have lost their respect and their trust.
Cover image: Tom Ewing for aNewDomain Media, All Rights Reserved;