How the West Was Won (and Where It Got Us)

How the West Was Won (and Where It Got Us) [1]

So. 2016, eh? An extraordinary year.

Brexit, Trump and all that. What did it all mean? Well…

What did Brexit and Trump have in common?

There were two choices to fall down on either side of the Brexit referendum: In or Out, Remain or Leave. Each side had two subdivisions, making four groups in total: Left(wing)-Out, Right(wing)-Out, Left-In, and Right-In. There now follows a terrible oversimplification. Bear with me briefly.

Left-In was summed up as “another Europe is possible” by remaining-in-and-reforming the European Union (the EU).
Left-Out (ironically, a lot of the people who felt left-behind and left-out) can be summed up as “another Europe is NOT possible” and opposed things such as big business and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Right-In was a vote for the status quo, conservative with a small “c”.
Right-Out was a vote for the return to the old British Empire, with connections back to the Commonwealth. I will crudely sum this up as “make Britain Great again”.

Now, what kind of people voted for Donald Trump? A big majority of the electoral college vote, and almost half of the folks who turned out to vote (the popular vote). A lot of people voted for Trump however you look at it.

Once again, there is now a ridiculous oversimplification. I’ll do it anyway.

Left-wing Trump voters: these are people who didn’t want the US to invade Vietnam and Iraq, didn’t want big trade deals (such as NAFTA, TPP, and the aforementioned TTIP), but want better jobs and higher wages.

Right-wing Trump voters: these are people who didn’t want Hillary and, more pertinently, a continuation of globalism. These people are in favour of putting America first by starting to isolate the country from the rest of the world. These people also wanted lower taxes and less state-intervention in the economy. Trump promised all of these (probably contradictory) things.

What caused Brexit and Trump?

Looking at the history of Britain and the United States, we can see these two allied nations were the victors of WWII in 1945 and then experienced the post-war boom. This boom continued until about the early 1970s when, for various reasons, both nations started to wane in power.

For the States, the ignominy of Vietnam and Watergate meant many people began to lose faith in America’s foreign policies and presidents, respectively. More recently, especially so with regards to both presidents named George Bush, who were both pro-interventionist with regards to foreign nations (Iraq, twice) but anti-interventionist with regards to Wall Street.

The Republican Party didn’t know who to put forward for their nominee in 2016. Even in the Republican-nominee debates alone, Trump was incredibly divisive and split even the Republican Party, never mind the country. In the end, Republicans nominated someone who wasn’t endorsed by any previous president: in this respect alone, Donald Trump was similar to George Washington!

Yes, but what REALLY caused Brexit and Trump?

In Britain we have experienced the longest and slowest recovery from a recession since the South Sea Bubble [2]; America’s recovery since the Crash of 2008 hasn’t been much better. Those people who were left behind on both sides of the Atlantic felt that jobs were going to China [3], so were having to work longer hours for lower wages and would have to work for many more years until receiving a small pension at the end.

Continuation of the status quo and the post-WWII consensus of centre-ground politics didn’t seem to fit the bill for many people. If we look at the demographics of voters for Brexit and the Donald, we can see they are generally more rural, older, whiter, poorer, less formally-educated. Vast swathes of populations of non-city dwellers. Working class and lower middle-class, old-fashioned blue-collar types (C2DEs, in marketing terminology). [4][5]

In 2008, Barack Obama had campaigned using the slogan: “change we can believe in”. For various reasons, he didn’t change too much in America in his eight years in office. In 2016, it seems, lots of people in Britain and the States rejected the status quo and wanted real change: and with Brexit and Trump, for better or worse, they got it.

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[1] With apologies to the band, R.E.M. At least I didn’t quote the R.E.M. song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” 

[2] http://www.standard.co.uk/news/call-a-halt-to-austerity-danny-blanchflower-says-the-uk-economy-is-slowing-so-we-need-to-take-off-a3090746.html

[3] http://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/update/2015-10-20/pm-needs-to-do-more-to-stop-chinese-steel-dumping/

[4] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/2016-election-day/election-polls-nbc-news-analysis-2016-votes-voters-n680466 

[5] http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2016/06/how-the-united-kingdom-voted-and-why/

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Everyone Welcome!

Dear Reader,

Thanks for taking the time to check out this new blog. This reflects well on you and shows you are extremely intelligent and good-looking.

It has been suggested to me that I start writing a blog of some kind. Using the old maxim “write about what interests you,” I shall pass on my experience of Buddhism and meditation. This is my own personal experience and does not reflect the views of any tradition.

With this in mind, I will attempt to the best of my ability to produce thought-provoking posts in the weeks and months to come. Fingers crossed.

Peace and love, man.