Monday, 27 June 2016

Like Trump, Brexit won by accident

Brexiteer fumbling this weekend gives an impression of self-interested politicians who launched a campaign they didn't expect to actually win. Sound familiar?

This morning's appearances on the Sunday shows by the politicians who campaigned for Brexit was a full-on car crash. Perhaps the most extraordinary was Ian Duncan Smith's interview with Andrew Marr.

After trying to get any shred of information from IDS, Marr finally asked, exasperated, “What’s the plan?” “How do you mean?” IDS responded defensively. So Marr cited, for example, the leave campaign's promise to spend the "£350m per week that the UK sends to Brussels" (a completely inaccurate figure) to instead fund the NHS. 

“We never said that,” IDS replied. Marr was indignant. “Yes you did. So even if there was £350m per week, which there isn’t, how are you going to fulfil all of your other spending promises?”

“We never made any commitments. We just made a series of promises that were possibilities," IDS responded.

Meanwhile over on Sky News, Faisal Islam was left speechless after a Conservative pro-Brexit MP told him the Leave campaign “didn’t have a plan” for Brexit and “number 10 should have had one”. By that he means the now-resigned prime minister David Cameron, who campaigned for the UK to remain.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson, the nominative head of the Brexit movement who is tipped to become prime minister and head a Brexit Britain regime, has been nowhere to be found since he was greeted by an angry mob after leaving his home on Friday. Michael Gove, set to become chancellor, was also AWOL. 

It seems now abundantly clear that the Brexiteers have no plan for what comes next, probably because they never expected to win this referendum. They viewed it as a way to advance their own careers. For Johnson, he probably hoped for a narrow loss for Brexit so that he could later challenge Cameron for the prime ministership, claiming to be the true 'representative of working people' who wanted Brexit.

And would just a few thousand more young people have turned out on Thursday, Johnson might have gotten his wish. 

I'm not the only one who thinks this. This was Johnson's Conservative colleague, Business Minister Anna Soubry, on Friday: "I think he didn't think that they would win. That's why it was 'all going to be alright'. But for his own interests, wanting to be prime minister, he went for leave."

So we've got a wild-haired buffoon who entered a campaign for the purpose of self-promotion, but then unexpectedly won and has no plan for the follow-up. Sound familiar?

I've written before about how Brexit is the British Trump, due to the parallels of a mainstream centre-right party stoking racism and xenophobia and then letting it get out of control.

But here clearly is another parallel, which I didn't write about before. Donald Trump is a con artist, obviously. He got into the Republican primary race as a way to promote his projects and stoke his ego. The Republican primary process had long become a vehicle for such self-promoters who had no intention of ever becoming president - that's why that primary has so many participants. 

Rachel Maddow did a good job last week of explaining how the Republican primary process has for a decade now been a money-making scam for participants.

So what seems pretty clear is that Trump got into the race to promote himself and his brand, but then to his own surprise he won the thing because of an increasingly destructive mood among the public. Now he has no plan on how to win in a general election, and certainly no plan on how to actually be president. And that doesn't seem to bother him too much.

Brexit Britain is now giving us a preview of what happens in the US if Trump becomes president at the end of the year. A campaign which never intended to win accidentally find itself winning, but has no plan for what comes next. The next steps are governing on the fly, prompting huge uncertainty that sends markets tanking.

What all of this signals - both the Brexit vote and the Trump primary win - is that Western Democracy has become fundamentally broken. People are not taking their votes seriously, and at the same time, political players are not taking democracy seriously. 

Democracy has become a plaything for the powerful and a joke to the powerless.

I don't know how we solve this, but clearly something needs to be done. The status quo is failing us and yielding dangerous outcomes. It's time to rethink our current democratic models.

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