Friday, June 24, 2016

Two Lessons from the Brexit Vote

In a tightly contested race, citizens of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union. There are two lessons we can draw from this:

1) Don't underestimate the ability of misguided xenophobic nationalism to carry a national election. This is something for cocky American progressives to keep in mind as we face down a Donald Trump candidacy. Just because it's a really stupid idea doesn't mean it won't happen. And in this day and age, one makes a very serious mistake regarding the sentiments of the right-wing rank-and-file if one only pays attention to the opinions of the right-wing elite. The latter are rapidly losing the grip on the former.

2) A Jeremy Corbyn style left is utterly incapable of standing against this sort of tide. This is true for many reasons, but the primary one is that the sort of conspiracy-laden thinking Corbynistas like to indulge in isn't really that different from the instincts that motivate their right-wing counterpart. Ultimately, they share a sense that "Real Americans Brits" are under the thumb of some sinister foreign body -- the details of whether its the UN or the EU or the banks or the Jews or the neoliberals or the Zionists or the radical Muslims cabals really matter less than one would  think. It is no accident that even though Labour officially supported the Remain position, Brexit won traditional Labour strongholds by crushing margins.

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