1. Brexit Wasn't 'Slick.' It Was Angry.
There was more than just casual insults slung between the Leave and Remain camps. There was a deep rooted tension between the two sides. Much like the 2016 election, the two sides feared the ideology of the other, and the possibility of the opposition succeeding angered them. This anger reached a boiling point when a British parliament member was attacked and killed in June by what appeared to be a Leave supporter.
Likewise, the rise of Donald Trump is because Americans are angry. While his prolonged existence in the political scene is thanks to bigots and racists attracted to Trumps message, his upstart is thanks to a populous that feels disenfranchised. They see politicians, including Clinton, as a political machine that only cares for special interests at the expense of the middle class. They see Washington as home to overpaid, out-of-touch bureaucrats who are unwilling or unable to effect change. They see college costs rising, wages stagnating, and elected officials doing nothing to fix the root problems.
One simple message, Make America Great Again, combined with an incredibly unorthodox method of spreading that message, has empowered the Donald. Whereas Clinton has relied on an infrastructure system that took years to build, Trump has relied on free media. He remains as loud and boisterous as possible to keep the camera's on him constantly. Grab people's attention, say things others wouldn't, and generally be the topic of conversation. It's a free ride, one he concocted long before this election season began.
The strategy is far from traditional but isn't ineffective in the slightest. In primaries it seemed Trump stood little chance against his more politically experienced opponents who had the backing of typical donors and voters. By April, Trump had come out on top and secured the nomination, maintaining a comfortable lead in the polls since the beginning thanks to his unapologetic tone.
Trump is unlike any other candidate before him. Likewise, Brexit is unlike any referendum before it. Both are unprecedented movements, and while they may have different strategies, their message is easy to understand: nationalism first.
2. Brexit Aggregate Polling Changed Little
While it's true that individual polls went back and forth between Remain and Leave in the closing weeks of Brexit, the aggregate changed little. In the days before the vote, Remain had a clear advantage over Leave. This lead, combined with the idea that something as unprecedented as a British Exit from the European Union would never occur, allowed Remain campers to become complacent.
The 2016 presidential polls nearly mimic Brexit. Hillary Clinton has led the polls since the beginning, with Trump being up for only a brief period after the Republican convention. He has on several occasions come close or tied with Clinton, but has never held a sustained lead over her.
Before the announcement by the FBI Friday that they were reopening the case on Clinton's emails, it seemed inevitable that she would take the White House in a landslide. At least, that's what the polling aggregate would suggest. While she remains ahead, this certainly presents a new challenge for her campaign.
Individual polls still hold some weight, though their dependability is becoming more questionable. As such, it's important to examine each poll carefully. Quality can be hit or miss as sample size, margin of error, and method of collection, vary widely by pollster. That's not to say the polls are skewed against Trump, but they certainly should be taken with a grain of salt.
3. Brexit Was Fair; The Electoral College Isn't
Unlike a fair and equal popular vote, the electoral college allows a candidate to win who the majority of Americans didn't vote for. In other words, the populous may not want you, but you could still become president, and while this doesn't happen often, the possibility still exists.
When Britons voted on June 23rd, they cast a direct vote for Remain or Leave. When Americans vote on November 8th, they'll be casting a vote for someone to then go and cast a vote for them. While this system had good intentions when it was implemented by the founding fathers, it's since fallen out of favor with the voting public. It's a voting system known as first-past-the-post, and it essentially silences the other 49%.
Think of it like this: let's say, for the sake of argument, that all 1.7 million registered voters in the state of Nevada vote. Now let's assume 50.5% of these voters cast their vote for Clinton. By first-past-the-post rules she's won Nevada, and the remaining 49.5%, or 841 million votes, count as nothing. All that separated Clinton between defeat and victory was a mere 17,000 votes.
If we use these same numbers on Brexit, assuming Remain is Clinton, the vote is much more fair. The Brexit vote was a popular vote. If Remain (Clinton) won the majority by 17,000 in one constituency, their opponents (Leave) 841 million votes would be combined with other Leave votes in other constituencies, instead of simply being irrelevant.
4. Brexit Had Mistruths, But Presidential Candidates Lie
Politics is a game, one that has been played since the beginning of civilization. The game is fairly easy to understand: create a platform, tap into a core demographic, raise a lot of money, and discredit your adversaries. Oh and, most importantly, bend the truth.
The game varies little in the western world, and the UK is no exception. Granted American politics may be lacking the same level of civility, particularly this time around, there isn't a greater level of mistruths here than there is there.
Both sides, Leave and Remain, lied to UK voters to try and sway their votes. For example Remain spread the belief that by leaving the. EU, citizens would have far less access to travel and career opportunities. Leave of course sold Britons on the idea of one nation, under the queen, where money is spent on England, and immigration policy is discretionary, not mandatory.
The lies told during the 2016 election make Brexit look like a walk in the park. Both Trump and Clinton have lied extensively to the American people. But the American people aren't buying it, and both sides largely overlook the laundry list of mistruths both candidates have peddled. They're used to it, even expecting it, and aren't quick to dismiss someone simply because they lie. At this point in the political process, lies have become irrelevant when it comes to supporting a candidate, and only makes people angry at the system, not the individuals.
5. Not All Media Is Created Equal
Brexit was supported by the major newspapers of the United Kingdom. The two largest in the nation by circulation, The Sun and The Daily Mail, stood firm behind the Leave camp, and promoted Brexit often. If Trump is the American Brexit then shouldn’t the media stand behind him as well? Instead, the media has attacked and denounced Trump nonstop throughout the election season, and the heat has been increasing gradually since day one.
On the surface, it's easy to say that Trump should have media backing if he truly is another Brexit, but the devil’s in the details. If we look at the context, and compare major British media outlets to their American counterparts, including their motives and ideology, there are big differences.
Both the Sun and the Daily Mail are conservative right-leaning papers, with the former being owned by Rupert Murdoch's notoriously Republican media outlet News Corp. Murdoch himself was pro-Brexit. The Daily Mail was founded in the 1920s and was supporting fascism by the 1930s and were sympathetic to British figures like Oswald Mosley, a member of parliament and a devout fascist. This makes the two largest papers in the UK right-of-center on the political spectrum, meaning they’re more likely to support an action like Brexit
By comparison, the two largest papers in the United States, USA Today and the New York Times, tend to lean left, with the Times being a famously leftist publication that has stood behind Hillary since the the beginning.
Another major difference between British and American media is their establishment status. In the United States, the news is establishment. They’ve stood behind establishment candidates in every modern election, whether Democrat or Republican and have often dismissed candidates considered outsiders, such as Bernie Sanders. This, coupled with the fact that there’s actually little choice when it comes to news sources, has led to severe distrust of major media by the public. In fact, media distrust is really the only common ground between the UK and US public.
But unlike Bernie Sanders, Trump recognizes the value of the media. If the media is a master at manipulating the public, then Trump is a master at manipulating the media. As pointed out above, Trump is utilizing outlandish behavior to grab the media’s attention, so if they’re attacking him daily, you can bet it’s all part of his strategy. He see’s it as a win-win; they talk bad about him, keeping his name in front of the American voters, while he can simultaneously cry bias, and paint them as establishment sources trying to prevent a populus takeover. The fact is, it’s working.
6. People Are Already Alienated, Trump is Their Voice
Brexit didn’t aim to unite people. It wasn't a cause to bring together England under one synonymous voice. Brexit was out of frustration. Frustration from a dysfunctional government that put globalism before country. This frustration divided the country into a two factions. One that saw the European Union as a drag on the UK and sought to leave the organization, and another that believed a the dangers of leaving were too great shouldn’t be risked. The nation did not become unified directly after the vote, and a division still exists within the Queen's land.
Likewise, Trump doesn't wish to unify the entire United States under his wing. He’s struggled to unify major leaders of the Republican party, lead alone the electoral at large. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Trump just doesn’t care if a great number of people hate him. He see’s his opponents and critics the same way his supporters see them: establishment. In fact, as been pointed out numerous times throughout this election, a general hatred for establishment is what has allowed candidates like Trump and Sanders to surge in popularity, for better or worse. And even after November 8th, American’s will still remain deeply divided over the direction of the US.
The point is, Brexit wasn’t a movement meant to bring together the UK. It was a means to an end. A method to make a stronger nation, whatever the cost may be. Trump sees his campaign the same way. America has been weakened significantly, and in order to make it strong once more, he must do the necessary, even if people don’t like it
Trump could win, but probably won't due to the electoral college. The polls are probably off but not completely wrong. The silent majority is out there, and they’re displeased with the current political situation.
But dismissing Trump as the next Brexit ignores the details of comparison and looks only at the face values of each movement. It is a kindergarten simplification of Trump and Brexit and leads people to believe there’s little in common between the two.
Editors Note: Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have lied extensively to the American people over the course of their campaigns. They are both bigots who support more powerful government and will most certainty continue to strip away the freedoms of the American people. Both individuals are grossly lacking in character and judgement and should never be entrusted to lead the free world.
Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on November 16, 2016:
I was interested to read this Drew, as I am in the process of writing an article in a similar vein - the relationship between the U.S election and Brexit, albeit concentrating on the Brexit vote. I must say that I do disagree with some of your conclusions, though that is more a question of emphasis than fact, as I feel the differences between Brexit and the U.S election are considerable and need at this time to be emphasised rather more. (I voted Brexit, but there is no way in the world I could have supported Trump).
Nonetheless you do note both similarities and differences, and it is refreshing to read an objective assessment of the U.S election. So many in debates and forums can see only one side, and that colours their opinions and increases the divide. Equally many see Brexit only as totally good or totally bad.
It is of course now possible to write about the U.S election result, and in a way maybe you were wrong, but for the right reason? You said in the summing up:
'Trump could win, but probably won't due to the electoral college. The polls are probably off but not completely wrong. The silent majority is out there, and they’re displeased with the current political situation.'
In the event, Trump may have won because of the electoral college system, as Clinton actually won the majority of the popular vote. Nonetheless you were absolutely correct that clearly a lot of 'silent' people in the swing states were displeased with the current political situation, and the polls for whatever reason, failed to take all of those people into account, just as with Brexit.
An interesting read. Thank you, Alun