GILLIAN Tett in last Saturday's Financial Times, considering what Brexit means for the USA in respect of Donald Trump, writes that there are some lessons:
- 'Brexit shows just how a blind political elite can be in socially and economically polarised world. As my colleagues Gideon Rachman and Edward Luce have recently written, the Brexit vote was partly a protest vote – a howl of rage against ecomic pain, immigration and loss of cultural identity. The only thing more surprising than this vote was that the UK elite was surprised by it...'
- The second lesson is that the electorate is losing its fear of leaping into the unknown.... In a world where voters feel angry, taking risk no longer seems so risky. And there is another important psychological issue at work: the electorate has just experienced a decade in which most of the rules of finance and economics have been turned upside down, as a result of the financial crisis. Turning the political rules on their head no longer seems so strange – at least, no stranger than seeing rates turn negative and big banks collapse.
- That leads to a third lesson: revolution cannot be crushed by mere statistics or scare stories. Politicians such as Cameron tried to defeat the Brexit vote by citing economic data showing how dangerous Brexit might be; but voters dismissed it because they were too angry to listen – and too distrustful of the elite. The Brexit vote was decided on the basis of emotion – and the Remain camp failed to give voters a really positive vision of Europe. The Brexit camp, by contrast, invoked an image of an independent, proud sovereign nation that appealed to many voters.
- [A further lesson] is that it is not just emotions that matter: the geeky details of the electoral process do too. One reason why the Remain camp lost in the UK was that turnout was low among potential young voters (who generally favoured Remain). Another issue was a little- noticed technical detail: parents used to be able automatically to register their teenage kids to vote, but this has recently changed.
- And this brings us to the [last] and most important lesson from Brexit: that democracy, by its nature, is unpredictable, particularly as social polarisation is increasing. Elites might hate this. So might investors or businesses, which need to plan for the long term. But if the whole point of democracy is to give people a voice, there will always be a risk that this voice will either howl in rage – or sit at home and not speak at all.