As an American, I have drawn a degree of satisfaction from the turmoil in Great Britain over their decision to leave the European Union. It’s sadistically comforting to see another developed country in which many of its residents are stupid, too. In a rather hasty decision, they voted to leave the European Union without really knowing all the possible negative consequences. Now many are having second thoughts. The boisterous campaign known as Brexit is now being called “Bregret” by many. They are learning a lesson (I hope is learned by many Americans). You shouldn’t vote on emotion and slogans. England is our staunchest ally. And they seem to resemble us in more ways than one; it’s not just our shared language. We have a similar resolve. We’re basically both center-right countries politically. We tend to have the same enemies. Our leaders seem to genuinely get along. And we both went gaga over the Spice Girls for a minute. We’re a lot alike.
Now I’m as embarrassed for them as I am some of our citizens. They were sold a bill of goods with this whole #Brexit thing. One “blowhard” politician spearheaded a campaign that was rooted in nationalism and xenophobia. This bill of goods essentially urged “real” Britons to take their country back by leaving the E.U. It played on the fears of the rank and file Brit. Many worry about the same uncertainty many Americans face, due in large part to their resistance to either change or education. We live in a changing world, where manufacturing jobs are shipped out to Asian countries with less restrictive safety and pollution regulations. They also have much cheaper labor. Foundation industries like steel and coal are either modernizing, requiring a more educated workforce; or they are becoming obsolete, replaced by “greener” energy products.
Instead of accepting responsibility for their own inflexibility in a changing work environment, many an average Joe is more comfortable blaming an influx of immigrants and refugees for their plight. Couple that with the fear of terrorism, and you’ve got a recipe for xenophobic stew. Folks are lapping it up on both sides of the pond. Skillful politicians such as former London Mayor Boris Johnson play on the fears of the dissatisfied, less informed, and insecure. They feed them a mix of half truths with easy to regurgitate rhetoric. In this way, Johnson is very similar to Donald Trump. They are both wealthy men who have a following of primarily working class citizens who see a world that is progressing beyond them; and they want it stopped. They see immigrants taking advantage of educational opportunities they are unwilling or unable to acquire. Consequently, they see jobs filled for which they don’t qualify, and their jealousy and frustration manifests itself as veiled racism . . . sometimes the veil is really thin.
In any case, the British voters elected for Brexit by a margin of 52% to 48%. Now many have admitted they didn’t know all the ramifications. Others confessed theirs was simply a protest vote. Now some even want a revote. I see a lot of the same frustration with the American voter in this year’s Presidential Primary. How else could one explain the dominance of Donald Trump on the Republican side over much more qualified candidates? Brexit could prove a cautionary tale for us over here. Or we could ignore it and make a very similar mistake. Be careful America. We could be headed for “Trumpgret.” And there’s no easy way out of that in our system!
Agenda Bloggers: Written by Kevin Foster for “Social Almanac” | Want to comment? Login/Register here.