What others say: What the U.S. can learn from Brexit

  • Wednesday, June 29, 2016 8:16pm
  • Opinion

There are lessons for the United States from last week’s Brexit vote across the pond. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has has tapped into the same populist sentiment here that caused UK voters to cast ballots in favor of leaving the European Union. The consequences could be just as frightful.

Here are three common manipulations.

1. Grabbing attention with populist appeals, the simpler the better

Brexit supporters, led by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, promised that going it alone would produce a quick remedy to all that ails the United Kingdom. No more immigrants taking jobs. No more edicts from far-away Brussels. Prosperity all around.

If this sounds familiar, it should. It mimics the most simplistic populist talking points of the Trump campaign. A wall on the U.S-Mexico border and Mexico will pay for it. A ban against Muslims entering the United States. We’ll have so many good trade deals that you couldn’t stand the winning.

If a solution to seems too simple, it probably is.

2. Contempt for practical questions

Economists warned of the folly of fleeing the EU. Breaking up a powerful trading bloc at a time when the rest of the world is seeking new trade alliances made no sense, they said. Financial markets would crash, billions of dollars would be lost. The EU and UK would be thrust into a period of grave uncertainty.

And guess what? It is happening and some voters are having buyer’s remorse for having purchased a pipe dream.

3. Ridicule of experts

Brexit supporters peddled magic beans, portraying anyone who questioned them as elitist and clueless. When pressed, Michael Gove, a pro-Brexit member of Parliament, offered this troubling response that has echoes of Trump: “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.”

Sound familiar? It could have been lifted from Trump’s playbook where doubters are automatically labled “losers” and “haters.” Memo to voters: Any person who stokes anti-establishment rage without regard to practical implications is dangerous.

It’s important to remember that elections do have consequences. Prime Minister David Cameron didn’t have to call the election. In doing so, he misread the tea leaves and gave a significant toehold to the pro-Brexit camp in a referendum. Now the future of the EU and the UK are in limbo.

Ditto to the GOP leaders here who said primary voters would never nominate a man as bombastic as Trump. They, too, misread the tea leaves. Now the GOP is badly fractured with a candidate many in party leadership want to disown.

Brexit should be a wake-up call to Americans about Trump’s campaign on this side of the Atlantic. Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee based on populist bluster. Bluster is not a policy, and the consequences of unchallenged assertions are written in the UK’s self-inflicted wounds.

— The Dallas Morning News,

June 28

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