“The shot heard ’round the world” marked the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775. The American colonists were disgusted with the tyranny of the distant imperial government in London. (Donald Trump thinks Brexit means the next American Revolution – with him as King.)
Fast-forward to June 2016, when the British voted to exit (or “Brexit”) the European Union, in a referendum that stunned international observers. The British were also sick of the tyranny of a distant imperial government – this time, in Brussels. The villain is the European Union’s idealist, but ultimately redundant, incompetent, and parochial bureaucracy.
The Wall Street Journal basically dubbed this seismic shift a Shot Heard ‘Round the World v2.0. But the WSJ and many pundits misread Brexit. They see it as a dire warning about the rise of right-wing nationalist populism, a warning they apply to the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Donald Trump, they say, is riding the same xenophobic wave that caused Britain to kick the EU to the curb.
But is this really true? Certainly, nationalist sentiments among the British people contributed to the exit vote. Older white Brits voted overwhelmingly to secede from the EU; Britain’s younger, more racially diverse populace voted overwhelmingly to remain. There is no doubt that the EU’s extremely liberal immigration policy has caused great anxiety among the British. Many view this bit of liberal EU policy as responsible, at least indirectly, for both a rise of terrorism on British soil and a dearth of jobs for middle-class Brits.
Nationalist-minded, working-class Brits look dimly on having to compete with impoverished Muslim immigrants and other refugees from other EU countries. Mostly, these are good folks who are guilty of little more than flocking to the United Kingdom, Germany, or France, in hopes of employment and a better life – just as many immigrants come to the United States looking for the same.
But this is only half the picture. The other half? Many wise Brits find the additional layer of EU government bureaucracy completely redundant, irrelevant, and oppressive. The Brits (as do the French) find little need for the European Union Constitution because England and France hardly require federal supervision from Brussels on the issues of human rights and democracy. Nor do they need lessons from the EU as to how to conduct international trade effectively. And they do not care for the EU bureaucracy, notoriously slow and ineffective in every way. (If you disagree, consider that even Britain’s exit from the EU is expected to take two years of negotiations )to accomplish.
In truth, Brexit reflects the United Kingdom stating loudly that they are just fine without the EU – in fact, probably better off when all is said and done.
Why? Because both Americans and Brits understand this: Ever-bigger, more transnational, more complex governments and institutions are not inherent manifestations of progress, nor do they guarantee peace, prosperity and liberal values. Sometimes they accomplish the opposite.
The solution lies not in trusting cumbersome forms of governments who are removed from their citizens’ values, but rather to pivot toward smaller, more effective governments that can be responsive to the communities they represent – and which can be held accountable by citizens. You can believe passionately in human rights, freedom, free trade, liberalism and democracy without believing in Washington, D.C., the United Nations, or in Brussels.
The United Kingdom and the United States share much political DNA.
Here in America, it’s often hard to see the value in Washington, D.C. anymore. Republicans control Congress, and the NRA and other odious special interest groups have Republicans by the balls. Congress is seemingly incapable of passing a budget or agreeing that terrorists shouldn’t be able to buy assault rifles. It’s insanity. If Brexit is the beginning of a trend in which we scale down the size of governments so they can actually reflect the people they represent and respond to their needs, then maybe it’s the start of a good thing.
This doesn’t mean that most Americans will therefore vote for Donald Trump. In the haze of his narcissism, Trump fails to understand that the dysfunction and incompetence in Washington D.C. – something which he correctly diagnosed – cannot be solved by a nationalist strongman like himself.
People worriedly compare Trump to Hitler, but in reality Trump is more like Mussolini with a Twitter account. He is an ineffectual, self-absorbed buffoon, with a mean streak borne of insecurity.
Indeed, Trump is even more incompetent than the politicians he wants to replace. Trump University was a massive racket that might have made the Mafia proud before Trump U. collapsed under the weight of its own fraudulence. Trump has filed for multiple bankruptcies, and 3,500 people have sued him and his businesses in the last twenty years. In addition to screwing people for a living, Trump is a sexist, racist, xenophobe who lies about his net worth (and nearly everything else). He demonstrates, on a daily basis, that being famous and doing media hits are not synonymous with the ability to govern America effectively.
I am confident the American people will elect Hillary Clinton, not just because they hate Trump. They will also realize that she is a true progressive, who knows how to tackle both entrenched special interests and recalcitrant conservatives. Britain’s exit from the European Union is hardly a harbinger of Trump’s ascent to the throne of national socialism. Rather, it simply signals that the British – like their American cousins – want responsive, effective government that reflects their cherished Enlightenment values. This reflects Hillary’s positive, inclusive vision of what America can be.
Trump will deliver none of the above. He won’t make America great “again” — he’ll simply do what Mussolini did for Italy. We all know how that went. So Donald – time to Trexit?