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Hullabaloo


Friday, June 24, 2016

 
The perils of the protest vote

by digby















Why didn't anyone tell us?

Following Britain’s 52% to 48% decision to leave the European Union on Thursday (June 23), BBC journalist Victoria Derbyshire convened a group of voters in Manchester who cast ballots for a Brexit.

One of them, a man named Adam, is harboring some rather immediate regrets.

“I’m a bit shocked to be honest,” he said. “I’m shocked that we actually have voted to leave, I didn’t think that was going to happen.”

Adam told Derbyshire that he didn’t think his vote would ultimately matter. “I thought we were just going to remain,” he explained, “and the David Cameron resignation has blown me away to be honest.”

When Derbyshire asked him if the results had him concerned for the country’s future, he replied, “I think the period of uncertainty that we’re going to have for the next couple of months, that’s just been magnified now. So yeah, quite worried.”

Adam is not alone, apparently. Google is reporting a sharp uptick in searches relating to not just the implications of Britain leaving the EU, but the basic functions of the body all together:




With presumptive major-party nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the United States faces a similarly stark choice as EU referendum voters. Indeed, the parallels between the Leave campaign and Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement are clear—both are built on a bedrock of white, working-class angst; anti-immigrant paranoia, economic protectionism, and queasy ultranationalism.

Clinton is leading Trump in polls nationwide. She has built a coalition of key demographics—women, ethnic minorities, and the college-educated—that make up a pretty strong firewall against a Trump victory. But then again, it appears many Britons couldn’t conceive of a Brexit in the same way many Americans can’t conceive of a Trump presidency. Yet here we are, a day after the referendum, with Britain on its way out of the EU and David Cameron on his way out of office.

Political analysts say turnout for the Remain campaign was lower than expected. This, in combination with the notion that perhaps large numbers of Leave voters did not cast their ballots seriously has precipitated the current situation. And a parallel recipe has the potential to bring about a Trump victory in November.

There is no doubt that the austerity regime under Cameron made people sour and bitter and you can't blame them. It's also true that many British people just don't like immigrants. (And yes,terrorism plays a part in that as well.) Europe does not have the same history with immigration as the US and we also escaped the level of super harsh austerity that was inflicted on much of Europe, yet we're having a xenophobic backlash too.

The reasons for this are complicated. But no matter what is making people so anxious, blaming immigrants and people of color for that anxiety is just wrong. It's wrong on the merits --- they didn't cause the problem. And it is wrong on a moral basis. It's not something that people of integrity should excuse simply because big structural issues that are driving all this instability around the world are making people unhappy.

There is a danger that people will not take the threat of Donald Trump seriously enough to stop him. There is a large contingent of Americans who are signed on to his toxic program because they really like it. And there are others who either aren't taking him seriously or who are myopically obsessed with internecine battles that can be dealt with after Trump is defeated. That's a bad strategy.

As you can see from the word coming out of Britain today, a whole lot of people didn't understand the ramifications of their vote, assumed that it couldn't come to this so they didn't bother to vote, or used voting as an emotional expression of their personal discontent. None of those things are a good idea in times like these. Actually, they're never a good idea, but in times like these the consequences could be grave.The last time we had a big protest vote in the US, we got Junior Bush and Cheney gang.

I don't know if Brexit will have any long term serious effect on the world economy. This is beyond my ken. Hopefully, economic elites will learn (again) that it's playing with fire to force austerity on hard working people as a sort of moral lesson in fiscal responsibility. They rarely learn what you want them to from that.

But it is also clear that this vote was a public endorsement of disgusting xenophobia and racism. It shouldn't be hard to condemn that:




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