Commentary: Can a Brexit Mindset Spread to the USA?

Donald J. Trump, president-elect of the United States of America.

by Jack Crombie

Early last July, I wrote a column on the recent Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom (UK) and its implications for the U.S. presidential election.  It was apparent from the results that a majority of people in the UK had rejected the assurances from “The Establishment” that the economy was doing great and that everyone in the country was prospering.

Certainly the country’s elite were doing very well with their investments, their stocks, their interests in banking and insurance; but the ordinary working people were feeling left behind and ignored. The jobs in factories and heavy manufacturing that had formerly provided a good living to the working men and women had been largely shipped overseas. Without any good options for employment and without any apparent effective representation of their interests, they were left angry and demanding change.

The British establishment completely misread the situation and chose to embrace simplified and often derogatory characterizations of the anti-establishment candidates based on a few wild, sometimes racist or sexist statements.  By misunderstanding, minimizing and devaluing the momentum and angst that was driving the movement, “The Establishment” actually poured fuel on the fire by validating the antiestablishment argument that they were unheard and unrepresented.

Let’s hope president-elect Donald is as good at cutting deals as he claims.

If the motivation of the people is not understood, then arguments advanced to convince them to adopt any alternative positions are likely to be unpersuasive and fail. This was certainly the case in the UK, where not only did  “The Establishment” politicians get it wrong but the pundits, the news media and even the bookies also got it wrong.

The anti-establishment proponents of Brexit, against the dire warnings of imminent economic collapse, triggered the undoing of treaties, alliances and agreements made by the status quo for the particular benefit of the economic elites.

One might have imagined that the events in the UK might have been noted, but apparently, the Democratic National Committee did not get the message!  Instead of listening and allowing the open expression of the anti-establishment forces in their own party marshaled under the somewhat unlikely banner of Bernie Sanders, they did everything they could to undermine his campaign, including various nefarious actions and sabotage that amounted to nothing less than political corruption.

Thus, as in the UK, while attempting to eliminate Bernie, the DNC establishment actually provided fuel for the anti-establishment movement as a whole and gave traction to the remaining anti-establishment candidate left in the race, Donald Trump.

The arc of history might reveal that the time in which we live, to be a period of systemic economic, industrial and political change, affecting almost the entire world on a scale not seen since the industrial revolution.  The redistribution of industrial and economic opportunity throughout the world has had the effect of lifting millions out of poverty and of removing the scourge of disease and starvation from large areas of the developing world.  At the same time it has reduced the earning power of those formerly employed in manufacturing in the developed countries.

Since the entire system is powered by capital from the developed countries and America in particular, Donald’s plan, I think, is to tax the profits made on this American capital that has built the factories and empowered entire economies throughout the developing world. He has said he plans to use this money to rebuild American infrastructure and employ workers who are currently underemployed, angry and demoralized. It sounds like a good plan, but the devil is in the details and it is not clear to me how such a taxation might be levied.  Let’s hope president-elect Donald is as good at cutting deals as he claims.

A larger concern might be the obvious dangers of conflict provided by the increasing militant nationalism of many countries throughout the world, from Russia to Iran and from China to the Ukraine. France and Germany are both having elections coming up within the next year with the same type of anti-establishment nationalist movements seen in the UK and the USA. As these countries look more inward with selfish intent, the opportunity for disaster on a wide number of fronts even if one avoids outright conflict, can hardly be exaggerated.   So it is with equal measures of hope, fear and trepidation that we will be embracing our immediate future.

Jack Crombie is a Chicago area business owner. He lives in Winthrop Harbor.

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