Brexit Quote of the Night: Labour and Immigration

Via The Guardian

Chuka Umunna, the London Labour MP, said that the referendum result highlighted “particular issues” for the Labour Party adding:

I don’t actually think for a lot of our supporters and voters sovereignty was quite the issue that immigration became. Why did it become such an overwhelming issue in spite of all the warnings of the experts? A lot of people said that you are saying this about the economy but we don’t actually feel we have a lot from that economy for the moment.

This is something, I think, we’re all learning not to underestimate. Economic issues matter enormously, but they matter this year, to an extent, in how they can reframed in an “us vs them” sort of way. The EU has been rent asunder by immigration, especially the Syrian crisis. This is a 100-yr fallout that isn’t just redefining the Middle East, but redefining Europe for a generation. America’s massive annexations in the 1840s are becoming the turning point of today’s politics. The world as we knew it for all of most our lives isn’t falling apart, but it is changing quickly, and when that happens, scapegoats are to be found, and demagogues can rally the dislocated.

I don’t think what happens there is what happens here. Too many differences. But the same issues are coming to ugly play in much of the “developed” world.  We live in the flicker.

Brexit: The US Fallout


Pictured: the face that millions of people want to be President.

Leave declares victory a few minutes ago, and already the Asian markets are tumbling. Some of this is correction from the huge upsurge in stocks earlier on Thursday as it looked like Remain would win. This proves, again, that the markets are insane and are based on the gut instincts of terrified and greedy children. But regardless.

In the US, this will play out interestingly. I think it will give Trump some ammunition. After all, he supported Leave (as we said, “Leave” is the heart of Trumpism), and Obama, as any sane US president would be, was against it. This will allow Trump to talk about how his vision is correct, how the English (and he’ll probably say English, because he doesn’t know the difference between England and Great Britain and the UK) love him, and how he was really the big factor, even though he was no factor at all. It’ll be a minor coup, mitigated by his arriving in Scotland tomorrow in a miasma of phony triumph, Scotland being the one place that was firmly Remain. I don’t think he’ll have a glowing reception.

(And meanwhile, can we get some coverage on how unbearably tacky it is for a US Presidential candidate to abscond so that he can brag about his new gilded golf course? It’s not entirely Presidential, right?)

But overall, despite the strength this will give the Leave movement in the US, we’re talking about two very different places, demographically. I don’t think the Welsh will turn be too terribly inspiring in Johnstown. Trump’s crowing will hurt him even more in groups in which he is already getting pummeled. If there is economic chaos, globally, due to this, that always hurts the incumbent party, of course, but I don’t think the ramifications will be big enough, quick enough. The EU won’t collapse, and Great Britain was always at an arm’s length, anyway.

It’s still a scary, ugly time.


Brexit, Trump, and The New Dislocation


Make Great Britain, well, great again!


As I type this, ITV (through C-Span) is reporting that the Leave campaign is cruising toward a victory, with an 85% chance at victory. By the time I’m done, it could be a done deal. All night- or in the wee hours, if you are reading this in the immediately impacted areas- the results started to trickle toward the red, toward Leave. Wales, which has benefited enormously from the EU, while still suffering thanks to its postindustrial wreckage, was almost entirely and passionately Leave. England, with a resurgence of nationalism, went heavily toward an exit. Only Scotland kept it from being a total rout.

ITV just called it. It’s over. Brexit is a reality, and the world is a far different place.

It’s been a season of weirdness, on both sides of the ocean, two countries tied umbilically together. For as much as we pretend to be different, and as much as we are, there are real similarities, and they are bubbling to the surface, like some kind of deeply buried and seismically awakened sludge, in this year of simmering discontent and atavistic anger.

It’s impossible to discount what is happening. Throughout the night, there were references to the “white working class”, in cities like Manchester and Cardiff and throughout Wales, and how the Remain camp failed to persuade them that they are better off in a united Europe. I honestly don’t know if that is true they would be, though I suspect it is. But the argument is the same as it is here.

In the US, Trump is essentially in the Leave camp. I mean, he very literally is, having supported it (once he was told what it was). But instinctively, even if he didn’t know what it was, he knew, in his dark heart. He knew that “Leave” encompassed his entire campaign. The heart of Trumpism is a desire to leave the modern world. It’s a desire to leave a world where what once seemed certain and permanent (even if it was only a few generations old) was rapidly changing. It’s a desire to leave the world of complexity and uncertainty and retreat toward blood and soil. It’s the call to retreat disguised as victory.

And yes, that is a powerful message for many, left out of the global economy, punished by market forces that are beyond their control, but clearly in control of those who benefit. It’s a message that resonates because, while it blames “elites”, it really turns anger on those who are weaker (immigrants, Muslims, etc). It’s an extremely seductive howl, a lowing, lusty battle dirge. It accepts failure, but gives in to the desire to burn the world down with it. It’s the truncheon of the race riot manifest in the ballot box.

Both campaigns- Trump and Leave- have had violence as their main currency, or, if not the actual currency, the silver and gold that gives it value. Because when you tell people their country is under attack, and not just from immigrants, but from their children, and their grandchildren (as Satelan chillingly documents), and that they are being enabled by what are essentially quisling politicians, well, then what choice does a patriot have. It’s what led to the murder of Jo Cox. It’s what drives Trump’s supporters, like this terrifying racist. It’s not a policy. It’s sheer emotion.

This emotion is driven by modern dislocation. Yes, we’ve had immigration and a shifting balance of power for decades (it’s still mostly white, and male, but it is shifting). And yes, the UK has been in the EU for decades. But this is still relatively new. Before really the end of WWII an actual political alliance with France would have been insane. Even WWI was more out of the inconsistent European alliances that formed in the wake of Napolean. You don’t have many Englishman who remember France as an enemy, and the Continent as a wholly foreign place, but the memory remains. The memory of Empire remains, as it does, in another form, in America. This loss of identity, tied in with the shifting balance of power through immigration, assimilation, and expanded civil rights, is coupled with the very real economic dislocation of globalization. It all feels like a loss of power, and the personal and political can intertwine easily.

The memory of being on top is still powerful, and can be reanimated up by canny politicians who know how to stir up the blood that has dried in the soil. With sweaty passion and crocodile tears they gift life back into the blood, making it rich and liquid in a suddenly loamy soil, from which can sprout thousands of pairs of thick-booted feet, marching in unison to an old-fashioned martial beat.

It’s transoceanic, baby. Donald Trump doesn’t know anything about the world, but we’re living in his image.