June 24, 2016


The tea party spirit crossed the Atlantic during the Brexit campaign :H British politics became Americanized. (Alex Massie June 24, 2016, Washington Post)

 This people's revolt represented, in many respects, the Americanization of British politics. The "leave" campaign's slogan -- its devastatingly effective slogan -- of "take back control" was positively Trumpian. Indeed, some of the same forces of alienation, discontent, economic insecurity and racial animosity that produced Trump in the United States have now hauled Britain out of the European Union. This past week's revolution, arguably the greatest political insurrection since the dawn of the democratic era, offers further evidence that some political trends recognize no borders or boundaries. It was more than just a political battle; it was a culture war, too. And it bore the hallmarks of the one that began in the United States 50 years ago.

The campaign, at its crudest, pitted the "people" against the "establishment," the powerless against the powerful. The "leave" side cast itself as a guerrilla insurgency against a complacent and out-of-touch governing elite. Like recent U.S. campaigns, this one was marked by a distaste for experts. There were shades of Barry Goldwater and the United States' 2010 tea party wave in this; shades, perhaps, of the Reagan revolution, too. Brexit might break everything, the thinking went, but unless things are broken, nothing can change. This is Year Zero now.

The referendum laid bare the fault lines in British society, and they turn out to be as stark as the divisions between red and blue America. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in Europe; England and Wales opted out. Within England, London -- cosmopolitan, liberal, wealthy -- voted for the status quo, but rural areas, from the sleepy shires to the rusting post-industrial towns of the north, chose to leave. In doing so, they revolted against more than just Brussels and the institutions of the E.U.; they delivered an Anglo-Saxon rebuke to London and Westminster (as Parliament is known), too. Only a quarter of members of Parliament came out for Brexit: The gap between the people and their representatives has never before, at least on an issue of this significance, been so wide. You do not speak for us, voters said, and we hold you in some contempt for your failure to represent, or even understand, our concerns. G.K. Chesterton's lines seem hauntingly appropriate: "Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget/For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet." Now the people have spoken, and the whole world has heard their roar.

This is backwards: The American Revolution and Founding were English.

Posted by at June 24, 2016 7:04 PM