Never underestimate the ability of people to vote against their own self-interest. The Brexit vote turned out the opposite of how we all expected, and today I’m stuck thinking less about the future of Europe and more about the harbinger of awful times it could be for the United States. For a decade now, our entire world has been upended in how people communicate: media is driven by sensationalism and profit, niche websites and channels allow us to only hear biased perspectives, and there seems to be no recognition and accountability for anything resembling truth. It’s not surprising that we turn out uneducated electorates who spend the immediate aftermath of their decisions asking “what did we just do?”or yelping “I didn’t think my vote mattered!”
Anyone opposed to these trends in the United States, including and especially those in media, ought to be paying attention. Trump’s November defeat is far from assured: truth seems to have no bearing on the world, and the older electorate seems more focused on pining for days gone by than thinking critically about future generations.
Not that the EU is blameless
The European Union is the embodiment of every terrible European stereotype. It’s feckless, bureaucratic, inefficient, disorganized, utterly unaccountable and undemocratic. I don’t fault Britons for wanting to leave. The challenge is that in today’s economy, you need scale to be competitive as a nation. Closer European integration is the only way to remain competitive against the United States, China and India. Failed as the current iteration of the EU experiment may be, staying in and aggressively reforming (and countering Germany) was the better move. Now there’s a weaker Europe to stand against Russia, and a weaker UK to ally with as the United States. Things weren’t great before, but I have a hard time seeing them better now — unless the English see themselves in a Canadian future: a nice, stable country with no meaningful standing on the world stage (and minus NAFTA!).
Sometimes it’s in the messenger
Of course, maybe I’m just biased because Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson are hard people to get behind. Something that should be instructive to Trump supporters: these two who built their campaigns on being authentic, shooting from the hip, and honest were anything but. They promised what they could not deliver, from an exit on Britain's timetable, to NHS money, to reduced immigration. When you're not actually expecting to win, you lie but can't deliver on your promises. All those voting for a giant, great, big, glorious wall ought to take note.
The Jacksonians are back
Donald Trump is a flavor of politician we’ve seen before: the Jacksonian. As an American folk-nationalist, he and his ilk have no interest in being conservative or progressive. Rather, it’s about securing resources to those in “deserving” groups and exploiting the other. It’s a terrifying policy that has even more implications in today’s globalized world than it did the last time it was dominant (which, Native Americans may tell you, did not work out well either). This force has always been latent in American politics and won’t be going away. Figuring how to appeal to and contain it is key to both defeating Trump and keeping the country on track going forward.
Why does the IRS need guns?
Not mentioned in any of our currently misguided debates about gun control is increased anxiety among our citizenry driven by militarization of the government. The government is scarier today than it’s been in the past: not just because of electronic invasion of privacy, but the shift toward an increasingly militarized state that impresses a different dynamic of power. The Wall Street Journal looks at the explosion in armed federal officials in places like the IRS or even the Small Business Association. Why must the tax man be armed when he knocks on your door? And why are the neighborhood police arriving in an armored personnel carrier?