Say one thing for Donald Trump. He’s one lucky son of a bird.
The vote this week in England to remove itself from the European Union came as a shock to billions of people around the globe. Real believers in “Remain” felt certain their fellow voters would see the wisdom of staying within one unified market and set of civilized considerations.
Were we wrong!
Worse, of course, is the path this portends for the future not only of Britain but for the United States, not to mention other independent nations within Europe.
Here’s one way to look at the break-up. A preliminary understanding, which just means that’s it’s really too early to cry doom and gloom. Yet.
Draw a map of the United States as it lies along its international borders. You’ll see, in terms of the gap between rich and poor, that both coasts are doing just fine, thank you. But the center of the country is shaky, crumbling, and ripe for the message of Mr. Trump. The so-called “Rust Belt” has been too long forgotten by the barons of Wall Street and Silicon Valley.
Between the two coasts that seem to have survived more healthily the debacle of 2008 is what people have long called “Flyover Country,” i.e., that part of the US one can overlook without peril. The people on the ground down below have not had increases in wages, or in productivity, or in lowering the cost of living. Their children are far more likely to go to work out of high school –if they finish high school – if they can find jobs that provide livable wages and benefits.
Now draw a map of Great Britain, stretched sideways, with Scotland to your left and London and Kent and the southeast of England to the right. Scotland represents the US west coast, the southeast represents New York and surrounds. The center of England –the Midlands, York, Leeds, Bristol, Liverpool, all of Wales – stands in for our own ”Rust Belt” – sections of that country which, like our own less fortunate neighborhoods, are still suffering from the catastrophe of 2008.
It is in the British Flyover countryside that “Leave” made its inroads.
To be fair, many voters had little real idea of what the consequences could be from a “Leave” vote. (Many US voters have little or no idea what Trump’s promises and off-the-cuff dreams amount to, either.) “The Press” this morning is busy interviewing English men and women as they emerge from the underground to ask why they voted as they did. Too many are as stunned as we are: “I did it to protest, to make the government listen.” (Does that sound familiar to our ears?)
“Teaching” the “faceless bureaucrats” of the EU may be a horrible gamble. “Teaching” a Congress that is incapable any longer of even pretending to listen to its constituents may also be a horrible gamble.
Yet it certainly seems possible that what has happened in Great Britain could also happen here. “Closing down,” i.e., becoming isolationist – “America First!” in trade and tariffs, in banking, in construction, in defense, in medicine, shrinking our export markets – is on Mr. Trump’s list of “Things to Do.” His legions of followers are no better informed than the “Leave” hordes who “voted with their hearts” rather than with their heads.
The first thing some of us thought upon hearing the morning news was the 100 Years’ War. Combatants may change, but independence often is accompanied by being independently the target of a larger country. Russia? Oh, no, who says so?
We can’t yet know the ramifications of “Leave.” Television and radio are full of graphs and drawings showing the drops in national stock markets, in the price of gold, in inflation already. Further break-ups are envisioned: Scotland wants to stay in the EU. We don’t know what the costs of imported steel or food or clothing will be. Oil has “plunged,” but who knows how long that will last?
What we know for certain is that there’s not much we do know just now. The shake-out is going to take some time. The effects on individual Americans is yet unknown and even unimagined. What about the value of our own pensions and investments?
None of this is meant to scare people or to cry “Wolf!”
But all of it is meant to caution us to listen far more closely to the schemes and ambitions of Donald J. Trump, whose strength comes from the magic of understanding – despite his separation from them – how those without feel and dream and hunger.
The wolf is at the door.