Friday, June 24, 2016

My reaction to the Brexit. Is it the start of something bigger?

Leave supporters celebrate the Brexit. NBC/AFP. 

As you know the United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union and have voted in favor of the Brexit. 52 percent of voters chose to leave the EU. Now I am no expert on the EU and the UK, but I do think that there are some pretty obvious trends to talk about here.

Do I think the Brexit was the right thing to do? I'm not completely sure. I think in the short term it will probably hurt the economy of the UK and the EU, and may have a global effect on the market. Long term though, it could go either way, but my guess is that it will be good for the UK in the end. The EU is on the way out and getting out now is probably for the best. If I had been in the UK, I probably would have voted for Brexit. How things will work out long term though is still very unclear. There is a decent chance that whatever negative consequences of the Brexit will be worsened by retaliation from the EU.

With the Brexit happening I do think we can extrapolate a bit of information from it. There are some global trends going on and I think the Brexit is a clear game changer. Right wing ideas are on the rise and left wing ones are on the decline. Here's what we learned from the Brexit:

1. The EU is a fundamentally weak union. The cracks began to show with the Greek debt crisis. It showed how one weak country could threaten the economy of the entire union. Though the crisis eventually lessened it did not change the fact that the EU is an economic basket case. Greece is hardly the only state in the Union that has economic problems. 

But the real disaster was the reaction to the migrant crisis. Germany basically decided that they wanted to take in millions of migrants, to be distributed throughout the EU. This created a huge burden for the rest of the EU, and effected poor countries disproportionately, including the the already economically unstable Greeks. This showed that one country making a baffling descion could greatly damage the entire union.

Already, right wing politicians across Europe are calling for referendums in their own countries. Though I don't know how many of those efforts will be successful, it certainly seems like the dominoes are falling. I would not be surprised if a decade from now the EU will no longer exist. 

2. Leftist propaganda is becoming less effective. From what I understand the BBC and other UK news outlets supported the stay campaign pretty much exclusively. Though the British newspapers had a lot more diversity in opinions, the news media was clearly biased against the leave campaign.

Though 48% of people were convinced, it's still shocking that 52% of people were able to ignore the propaganda. Why? Because of social media. Pro-leave campaigners were able to get their message out through facebook, twitter and various forums. Even though the stay campaign dominated the traditional news media it seems as though many people weren't listening 

3. People aren't anywhere near as afraid of being called racist anymore. Though there were many other arguments for not leaving the EU, the one I heard the most was that doing so was racist. The claim was that the only reason people wanted to leave the EU was because they hated brown people. And that argument was repeated ad nasuem. It's a poor argument anyways, but in the past it's been very effective.

In the past an accusation of racism would be enough completely shut down an argument. Now people are no longer so scared of such things. The success of the Brexit, after such claims shows that the word racist is losing power due to overuse. For a very long time the left, regardless of where the left was found, would call anyone who disagrees with them racist. Slowly the word stopped meaning people that hate other people based on race. With the meaning shifting it's almost as people are reclaiming the word. At the very least people aren't as afraid of being called racist.

4. Polling was wrong. Though Leave and Stay had been fairly close in terms of polling, most showed people supporting Stay. Especially after the murder of Jo Cox by a Leave supporter. Obviously the polls were wrong, but why? 

My guess is related to the above point about "racism". Even though many people no longer care about the "racist" label some clearly still do. And when those people got called by pollsters they lie because even though they supported the Brexit they did not anyone to know about it. Right wing ideas appealed to them personally, but they didn't want to pay the price if their views became public knowledge. 

Incidentally, I think the same thing is going on in the United States with Donald Trump. Though Trump is down in the polls, how many people are just lying to the pollsters about him because they don't want to be labeled? From what I understand Trump consistently does better with online polls then phone polls where they actually have to talk to someone. Are people really hiding their support of Trump? If the Brexit is any indication it may be about a 5% difference, which means that Clinton and Trump are probably tied. 

5. Immigration is the major issue of the day. I already talked about how the EU made a huge mistake with the migrant crisis, but I think that immigration needs to be talked about further. The massive wave of mostly Islamic migrants is causing great fear throughout the world. With the massive terrorist attacks in France and Belgium and the rape crisis that exploded with Rotherham scandal and the Cologne attacks, there is good reason to be concerned. With camps of migrants across the channel at Calais demanding to be let into the UK, you can't tell me that Islamic immigration wasn't a major factor.

But it wasn't the only factor. I would be a mistake to present the Brexit as a referendum on Islamic immigration. There was also a lot of anger at non-Muslim migrants from the EU as well. Workers form Poland and Romania often travel to the UK for work. This depresses wages and creates more competition for native born UK workers and even for their other migrant communities. Is it any wonder why people were angry? 

So what did we learn? I think that right wing ideas are becoming more popular throughout Europe and the world. People aren't as vulnerable to left wing propaganda as they once were and are less afraid of being attacked by the left wing. And even those that still are afraid, are more willing to show up at the ballot box. And, of course, immigration is a huge issue that will greatly effect elections in the future.

My opinion is that the Brexit proves that the Overton Window of acceptable ideas has shifted to the right. The real question is if this is a trend or if the Brexit is a one off thing. I think the next tests will be the election of Donald Trump and the success or failure of other exit campaigns. We will see in due time... 

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