An American “Brexit” revolt? Not likely

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” — H.L. Mencken


Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party Nigel Farage holds a placard as he launches his party's EU referendum tour bus in London, Britain May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party Nigel Farage holds a placard as he launches his party’s EU referendum tour bus in London, Britain May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

June 25, 2016

The recriminations have started already.

Neil Farage, the leader of Britain’s racist, nationalist UKIP party, and one of the main leaders in Britain’s vote on Thursday to leave the European Union, admitted Friday morning that the claim by Leave supporters that Britain’s National Health Service would be given an extra 350 million pounds a week, that normally would go to the EU, was a “mistake” and “should never have been said.”

No kidding.

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Meanwhile, the pound dropped more in one day than it has in almost 40 years, and British investments lost more than $350 billion pounds, which as one member of the European parliament from Belgium noted, was more than England had given to the EU in the last 15 years. Major banks from other European countries and the US, with  headquarters in London, are saying they will move to Germany.

Perhaps all this was best summed up by a British woman from a small town in England who had voted for the Leave side, and the morning after the vote, seeing the carnage, said “If I had only known what would happen, I would have voted to remain.”


Meanwhile, across the pond, the hyperventilating US media was finding umpteen different ways to say “It could happen here.” After all, we have a racist nationalist here, in Donald Trump, and a lot of angry white voters, many  poorly educated, as were the majority of Leave voters in England. Fears about immigration, border security and elites cheating us all are also here. It’s the same toxic stew, many commentators said.

This American media chorus is wrong. In typical fashion, they have overreacted to the headline of the day and, rather than taking time for thought, forged forward with guns blazing to paint a scenario in the US similar to England’s.

Yes, for sure, some of the same elements that lead to England’s Leave vote are present in America. But there are many more fundamental differences that make it very, very difficult for a similar result (ie; Donald Trump winning the presidency) to occur stateside.

Number one is that the United States is a much more diverse country, its diverse population much more a part of everyday life than are non-British immigrants in England. (Non-Hispanic whites make up about 62% of the US population. In England, whites are 85% of the population.)

One great example is America’s Muslim population. Muslims are as likely as other Americans to have a household income of over $100,000 a year. In the US, there is no one particular kind of Islam – no one version of the faith dominates. As the Economist reported in 2014, about 15% of American Muslims are married to a spouse from another faith, higher than the intermarriage rate for American Jews at a similar time in their history, and higher than present day Mormons.

Hispanics are few in England, yet play a huge role in the US. And despite his claims that he will do “great with the Hispanics” in the general election, Donald Trump is losing the Hispanic vote in historic proportions. The Hispanic vote will be a key factor in many southwestern and even some mid-western states in the fall presidential election.

(Hillary Clinton is leading Trump in Arizona [a state that went for Mitt Romney in 2012 by 9 points], and is doing very well in several other very GOP states, such as Utah and Georgia.)

Then there are women. According to the latest polls, 70% of American women have an unfavorable view of Trump. In May, polls showed a 22-point gap between Clinton and Trump. Clinton also has a big gap with men, but since women vote in significantly higher numbers then men do, this should worry him.

There are other factors at play. The Leave proponents ran a very good campaign while the Remain side was  chaotic and did not do a good job explaining why the United Kingdom needed to stay in Europe. (This may explain why so many Brits on the morning after the vote Googled, in their millions, ‘What does leaving the EU mean for England?’)

It’s a much different story in the US. Trump, as Ian Bremmer, the founder of the international political consulting firm Eurasia put it, “still has no money, no campaign infrastructure, and Republicans are still only tepidly supporting him.”

(A Republican convention delegate from Virginia announced on Friday that he is suing for the right not to have to support Trump on the first ballot because “He is unfit to be president.”)

Other differing factors include the way America votes (remember, the president is elected by the Electoral College and not by direct popular vote), the chances that Trump will continue to shoot himself in the foot, strong Democratic voices like the very popular trio of Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, and that the general election is still five months away. The American voting public can barely remember what happened last week, let alone five months in the past. (This will also give the Americans who do pay attention five whole months to watch the catastrophe for England unfold, which may many Trump supporters second thoughts.)

All this is not to say that Democrats have it in the bag. The general fall American election will still be close. Fear is a strong motivating factor, and Trump is great at making people feel afraid. Another terrorist incident, or if Hillary Clinton were to be charged in the controversy over her private email server while secretary of state, and many other things, could change everything.

The point remains, however, that comparing the results and causes of the Brexit vote with America’s situation may give talking heads on cable news something to chatter about, but Brexit and the fall U.S. election are entirely different.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:


Related stories on F&O:

‘Explosive shock’ as Britain votes to leave EU, Cameron quits, by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton  Report

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Britain has voted to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity.

Brexit Factbox: Who, where, when why – and what next, by Alastair MacDonald, Report

In England’s Mean and Truculent Land, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs columnist

Britain’s departure from the EU will be a journey across new territory full of terrors and treacherous terrain. Among the many stupidities in Cameron’s management of the referendum was allowing a simple majority for victory.


Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

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