This summer, I’m studying abroad in Brussels at POLITICO. When I arrived, I was, like many Americans, completely uninformed about this whole strange “Brexit” thing that sounds more like a small meal you could eat before lunch than a serious political situation. I had no idea how to feel about it or if I could even have an opinion. (If you’re still in this boat, that’s okay! Better to admit you know nothing and educate yourself than nod along with everyone else who probably is just as clueless. Here’s a little link for you, pal.)
Over the past few weeks, I have read and heard more about this situation than I can begin to describe. In the office, in the paper, in bars, on the streets; Brexit has been the buzzword on everyone’s lips.
And as I became more familiar with the arguments on both sides of this situation, I have increasingly recognized the feelings and thoughts behind those who wanted the UK to leave the EU.
Last month, Donald Trump’s campaign released a statement saying that “America is here because of its own little Brexit”.
While not exactly a logical rendition of history, the similarities between the current political climate in America and Brexit cannot be missed.
While each nation has its own historical and social factors driving their current situations, whether that’s leaving the European Union or flocking behind an arguably dangerous demagogue, there are ideological and sociological similarities between both situations. The same mentalities and cultural factors which caused millions of people to vote for Brexit are also making people flock to Donald Trump.
Trump and Brexit both emerged from the same ideologies: fear, a lack of open-mindedness, and a desperation for life to improve.
I’m not here to write a blog post hating on Trump or his supporters.
Demonizing Trump or Brexit voters is neither fair nor accurate. While some people tend to simplify Trump and Brexit supporters as being racist, narrow minded, and ignorant, the truth is far more complex. While those traits may be present in some voters, just as they are in some citizens in every population, they do not explain the overall phenomenon of the world’s current politics.
In short, many citizens in Britain and the US have one thing in common: they are afraid.
And politicians are playing off the fear of the people to gain power. Many Americans are becoming hysterical with the hyped-up fear over Islamic terrorism and an economy they believe is crashing. Similarly, Brexit supporters found themselves faced with a bureaucratic authority they did not entirely understand, the fear of migrants and terrorism, and the search for a simple answer to complex problems.
In the UK, it was the EU that citizens turned into a scapegoat. In the US, it is a mixture of immigrants and corporate power that are being burned at the stake.
For some, voting for Trump or Brexit is more about giving the metaphorical middle finger to the establishment, then anything. Thousands of voters after the British referendum admitted they regretted their vote and didn’t believe the UK would really leave. They expressed frustration over feeling invisible to the establishment and simply voted out of protest.
Many Americans, no matter who they’re voting for, may be feeling the same way; frustrated over their lack of power, tired of not being given their dues, afraid things will never get better. And in that sense, Trump voters are not thinking logically. Just as Brexit voters didn’t fully understand the consequences of their vote, so are thousands of people rallying to Trump.
Donald Trump would not make a good president. He wouldn’t even make a good leader in any sense of the word. Even if you support his positions, enjoy his speeches, admire his frankness, and find his straightforward manner refreshing, those are not the qualities needed to lead the free world.
If we are going to give someone the enormous responsibility of representing the US in the world, we had better make sure they’re qualified. And there is honestly no argument you can make for why Donald Trump would ever be qualified to deal with foreign leaders, be given the power to start a nuclear war, handle the national budget or create new policies and laws.
If you need more proof of this from someone more knowledge and more hilarious than me (hard to believe I know) please watch this. All of it. It is an incredibly well done analysis of Trump. It is not hateful and mocking, it is pure fact. And if you still don’t believe me, listen to Trump’s top strategist, who said Trump doesn’t even WANT to be president.
But I understand why people are flocking to him. Because people are afraid, people are desperate, and people are becoming more polarized and separated from one another.
Just because there are reasons for their existence, however, does not mean they will not have dire consequences. Following fear, frustration and false information will lead nowhere except down a path of destruction.
And if you’re one of those many voters who is considering voting for Trump out of hatred for Hillary or not voting at all, I feel you, but this is my message to you.
Trump described America as having its “own little Brexit.” For the sake of the future of the US, and the world, we should truly hope that this doesn’t become all too true.