No, America, Brexit is Not About Donald Trump

First off: Oops.

I got this wrong, and if you, dear reader, wish to use that to discount everything I write afterwards, I can’t blame you.

In the meantime, however, there is one line of “analysis” I feel compelled to address: the notion that this result somehow improves Donald Trump’s chance of winning or reveals his chances were greater than anticipated. There are a whole slew of reasons that it just isn’t so.

The first reason should be obvious, but it needs saying: The United Kingdom is not the United States. The last time so many Americans tried to graft their politics on a UK result, John Major’s shock 1992 victory was supposed to ensure George Bush the Elder’s re-election. We saw how that worked out. Bush ended up scoring the worst popular vote result of any incumbent President in American history. We are different countries, with different electorates, different sets of issues, and different elections.

Speaking of different elections, this was a referendum, not an election. Although it has led the Prime Minister to resign, no one was choosing a government yesterday. Here, in the US, we’re considering giving Donald Trump actual power. There was no such analogy “across the pond.” This was a policy decision made irrespective of the government’s leader. More to the point, a referendum effectively reduced the options to two (Leave or Remain). There will be more than two options in November (indeed, I’m voting for Gary Johnson), draining anti-Clinton options from Trump.

Speaking of Clinton, the European Union is not a good analogy for her campaign. Sure, Mrs. Clinton is running as the unabashedly status-quo candidate, and much of what would be called the elite will be backing her. However, and there’s no nice way to put this, Hillary Clinton is not foreign. Voting for her is voting for an American politician to lead America. Voting to Remain in the EU was a vote to allow the 27 other nations to impose themselves partially on UK legislation and UK taxation. It was a vote to stay in an institution whose leadership pushed aside elected governments in Italy and Greece to impose its will on those countries. Say what you want about Clinton and Obama, but they never forced a Governor to resign, let alone a Canadian or Mexican politician doing so. Whatever one thinks of Janet Yellen, she doesn’t dictate state budgets, let alone Mark Carney or his successor as Canadian central bank chief. The EU is not like anything American politicians – let alone American voters – have ever experienced. It is an unaccountable, anti-democratic, and sclerotic institution based on a 20th Century vision that has long passed its sell-by date.

Finally, the four chief leaders for the Leave campaign – the ones seen most by the UK voters – are nothing like Trump. The closest one to him in personality (and polarization) could be Nigel Farage (UKIP leader)…except that Farage has been an elected official since 1999, and a party leader since 2006. In fact, he is the only UK-wide party leader in a century to defeat both the Tories and Labour in an election (the 2014 European Parliament elections). Meanwhile, Boris Johnson – also perceived to be a British Trump – has more time in executive office (eight years as Mayor of London) than Clinton (four years as Secretary of State), let alone Trump. Ditto Michael Gove (four years as Education Secretary, and one as Justice Secretary). Finally, Gisela Stuart has been an MP since before Trump first talked about running for President in 2000 (she was first elected in 1997), and she is an immigrant herself (from Germany). In fact, the only British politician to react in a second language was Stuart (her native German).

In short, this was a different vote, on a different matter, and with different “winners” from anything we have here in the US, and yet another example of how grafting our politics on a foreign land is never a good idea.