Does Hillary Clinton get it?
The Democratic presidential candidate, for whom Bernie Sanders now says he will vote in November, reacted to the British referendum to withdraw from the European Union in much the same fashion as, well, the EU bureaucrats just rejected by voters much like those driving Trumpism in the United States.
“Our first task has to be to make sure that the economic uncertainty created by these events does not hurt working families here in America,” she intoned. “This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced … ” blah blah blah.
Frankly, this is the sort of airless boilerplate that gives a suspiciously bland name to bureaucracy, much less a somewhat threatening cosmopolitanism.
The former secretary of state revealed no awareness of what drove British voters frightened by the encroachment of real and imagined chaos to opt for, well, more chaos.
It’s alarming because, even though most everything has been going Hillary’s way for several weeks, her regained lead over the execrable Donald Trump is still just in the mid-single digits. Which is just about what the last polls on Brexit showed, leading now outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron to conclude that victory for his Remain side was in the offing just a few hours before he offered his resignation.
What all the polls — and listening to the BBC World Service coverage from the time the polls closed till Cameron’s announcement of his resignation made it clear there were multiple private polls circulating in the business community that were also misleading — missed was three-fold.
First, the polling missed the much greater intensity on the Leave side.
Next, the polling missed the over-performance of the Leave vote. Cameron reportedly tumbled to the fact that he was likely to lose his silly gamble on solving an inter-party problem by holding a national referendum when a couple of bellwether voting areas differed wildly from expectations. That’s around the time that the tone of the BBC coverage made a sharp shift.
In retrospect, some polling respondents may have given what they viewed as more politically correct responses after British Member of Parliament Jo Cox was brutally murdered by an anti-immigrant/anti-EU extremist tied to American Neo-Nazis.
Finally, the polling missed the under-performance of the Remain vote, which seemed not much more inspired by the major parties’ establishmentarian leaders than Leave voters were dissuaded by same.
While Cameron, his career destroyed at 49, and his Conservative allies failed to rein in the right-wing alliance which drove the Brexit, Labour Party leaders failed to turn out enough of their voters to stave off a fundamentally reactionary move.
As longtime readers know, I’ve been deeply alarmed about the ascendance of Donald Trump since last summer. For all his ludicrous deficiencies, it’s not hard to see how Trump might just replicate that same polling phenomenon against the establishmentarian Clinton. And that’s without a few major things which might go wrong for Democrats, including an economic downturn in the US which may result from, well, the vote just taken in Britain.
Just as Trump’s candidacy is remarkably, er, counter-factual, so, too, were most of the Brexit policy complaints about the supposedly onerous European Union. It didn’t matter, because voters frightened and angered by terrorism, immigration and changing culture, and the hollowing economy for non-financial elites were much more interested in striking back than reaching out. Even if that striking back was really a form of acting out.
How does Hillary Clinton, just the sort of establishmentarian figure whose counsel was just rejected in the mother country, deal with this?
First, she has to address the driving pro-Brexit/pro-Trump concerns in relatable, non-condescending language. While some of these voters are simply anti-Enlightenment, reactionary know-nothings — never forget that 42 percent of Americans reject evolution science in favor of the view that the biblical God created humans several thousand years ago — who endlessly reinforce their prejudices in supportive media environments, these voters aren’t all racists taking up the white man’s burden, as some imagine. There are legitimate concerns about encroaching economic and social chaos that Clinton has to address.
It won’t be an easy case for an obvious economic and social elite like the former first lady to make. The usual multi-cultural tropes won’t work. For all the class differences in the Brexit vote, the biggest difference is on education. According to the BBC, 72 percent of Britons with post-graduate education voted to stay in the EU to only 31 percent of those who didn’t go beyond high school.
The other thing Clinton must do is what the Labour Party’s troubled leadership failed to do, i.e., maximize the vote on the left.
Fortunately for Hillary, Senator Bernie Sanders had gotten more candid about the state of his candidacy, acknowledging the evident reality that he will not be the Democratic presidential nominee even before the Brexit vote. That’s good for him, though it’s not clear that he’s been prompt enough in acknowledging the obvious.
It’s important to bear in mind, however, that he has the task of bringing along some balky supporters for whom the faux populism and trendy nihilism of Donald Trump holds at least a surface glitter. In any event, Sanders is not the sort of career political hack who can blithely go from sharp denunciations to sudden hearty fellowship. At the very least, that would be a severe continuity problem in his storyline.
Trump’s speech earlier in the week attacking Hillary as the most corrupt politician/biggest liar in American history is of course, ludicrous. Especially coming from Trump, who actually is a very serious candidate for the title of biggest liar ever to be a major presidential candidate. That’s in all of American history, not just lately.
In reality, three-quarters of Trump’s claims examined by Politifact have turned out to be mostly false to entirely false. For Hillary, it’s a mere one-quarter.
So Clinton is, in reality, as any experienced observer probably knows anyway, within the normal range of honesty/dishonesty for a professional politician. If anything, she may be a little better than most these days.
But it’s not a good time for a thoroughly conventional politician, which Hillary Clinton, notwithstanding her gender, most assuredly is. (At least so far.) Chaos has been on the rise for years, and establishmentarians have for the most part been of little use. And the Clintons, who came to do good and stayed to do well (while also doing some good), are fairly easily cast as villains.
Not that the frequently deranged and thoroughly ignorant likes of a President Trump would not make things much worse.
In the meantime, things are bad enough.
The European Union is flawed yet does represent a decent attempt to move in a needed direction. In the long run, civilization will only be uplifted if we find ways to work together. And people are generally more powerful and secure when they find ways to band together rather than split apart.
Brexit may well lead to other exits. It’s not at all clear that the European Union will thrive, or even survive.
And it’s increasingly clear that another union is likely to split asunder in the wake of Brexit. That would be the United Kingdom as a whole and historic Great Britain itself.
For Scotland, in deep dismay over Brexit, is likely to leave the UK. Scots voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. EU membership through the UK was a major reason that Scotland did not secede less than two years ago.
Of the four historic nations which comprise the UK, Scotland, which voted 62 percent to 38 percent to Remain, was by far the most pro-EU. Northern Ireland also voted Remain, while Wales and the rest of England minus heavily pro-EU London went hard on the Remain side.
The union of England and Scotland which made up Great Britain dates back more than 400 years and produced one of the most storied empires in world history. No Scotland, no Great Britain. Or British Empire or British Commonwealth. The coming split should make a fitting final epitaph for David Cameron’s career.
Not that Donald Trump, who blithered on about his arrival in the midst of a great independence movement when he incongruously gave a press conference at his new golf course, understands any of this.
“Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote,” he tweeted in his customary idiocratic style. “They took their country back,” he blathered on, grabbing on to Jerry Brown’s 1992 presidential campaign slogan, “just like we will take America back.”
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