How are you? I hope you are well. We’ve been having a pretty strange time of it lately in the UK. And I think you have been having similar issues in the USA.
We are both ‘United’ countries, but it seems at the moment we are rather more ‘untied’ countries. The advantage we’ve got this side of the Atlantic is that we have already made our mistake. You’ve still got a day to avoid your’s.
You see we’ve both been under the influence of two men, so similar in their outlook, rhetoric and intolerance. Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, political bedfellows and massively polarising figures. It can be no surprise they have supported each other. (Though I’d suspect that Trump sees him as little more than a toadying lickspittle.)
Both claim to be men of the people, but have come from wealth and privilege.
Both have made deeply unpleasant comments about sex, religion and ethnicity. Indeed both are deeply xenophobic and yet somehow have married foreigners.
They have both created what has been called ‘post fact politics’. They have discovered that you can make any claim on a podium, it doesn’t have to be remotely true and a section of the public will believe it unreservedly.
They have pandered to and inflated our basest fears and jealousies. They would have us believe the reason Middle America and Middle England are feeling the squeeze of austerity isn’t because of the global banking crisis caused by over-extending the credit market, but rather immigrants coming here, taking our jobs and also somehow, our benefits. Despite the fact that the data available bears no proof of this and often directly contradicts it. In the U.K at least, migrants have been shown to be a cash windfall to the economy, adding billions to GDP.
Both men have promised to make the country ‘Great’ again. Whatever that means. What is greatness in a country? Ask women, ask gays, ask blacks, or Asians or any other ethnic group what time in history they’d like to go back to, when they were great. Do these men of the people really only mean ‘great’ for white, middle aged, straight men?
You can’t put the cork back in the bottle; global capitalism happened, technology happened, the market will always source the cheapest means of production and that means industry and manufacturing has moved from the 1st world to the 3rd. What threatens the likes of Farage and Trump, is that men of their ilk used to own those means, the money still flowed into their pockets. Now however China, India etc. are creating the businesses for themselves, growing their own economies.
During their campaigns they have both made outlandish promises based on what they think the public wants, not what can actually be done. During the Brexit campaign there was much made of the £350mil a week the UK sends to the EU (which it doesn’t) and how that money could be spent on the NHS instead. A promise that could never be fulfilled. (Farage, the morning of the Brexit result immediately backed away from the promise.)
Both men have complained of media bias, usually because a news report has pointed out how utterly incorrect a statement they have made is. And yet both have been ratings gold, gaining far more publicity than men of their experience and political capital deserve. UKIP is a very minor party, on a par with The Green Party, and yet in terms of media coverage it’s punching far above its weight. Trump got so much airtime because of his antics that any more moderate Republican candidate was drowned out.
Both have claimed that the vote was or is rigged. I remember listening to a news report at 10:00pm on the 23rd of June, as the polls closed on the Brexit referendum and it looked as if the remain campaign had clinched it. Farage was already accusing the government of rigging the ballot by extending the online registration for voters. There was also the hilarious instruction circulating social media to Leave voters, to take their own pens to the polling stations to stop some shadowy organisation like MI5 from erasing the pencil votes on ballot papers.
Farage won his battle. By a tiny margin the popular vote was for Leave and since then we have been in a state of utter confusion because nobody, at any point, had actually defined what Leave or Brexit actually meant in any practical sense. Switzerland and Norway are both trading partners with the EU but not actually members, and were pointed out as examples during the campaign of future models for the UK, but, guess what, they still pay in massive amounts of cash and have to accept EU legislation and free travel over borders to do so. And because they are not members they have no seat at the table deciding this legislation. Three high court judges this week have been lynched in the right wing press for ruling that parliament has to have a say in the defining of Brexit negotiations. It is all pretty messed up.
We’ve made our decisions, we’ve made our bed. Except it’s a flat pack bed, and we’ve tried to make it without the instructions and nobody can decide if it’s a single or double, hard or soft and who gets the choice over the duvet cover.
My American friend, you still have a choice. And I am talking to the 40% of you who will vote Republican come what may, because you cannot bear the thought of voting Democrat. I don’t think you are a fool, I don’t think you are a bigot. But I think you are standing alongside fools and bigots. When the KKK endorses a candidate, does that not give you cause to pause and think? You want to protest. You want to shout that you are sick of the views of middle America being ignored, how your communities have been damaged by economic changes and nothing has been done to help you. I understand that all.
But, please, look at the UK as a warning. Sometimes a protest vote, ends up more than just a protest.
Trump has no policies, no plans, no experience. Who is going to be telling him the right path? He is going to repeal Obamacare but has no plan on how to replace it. He has promised to build a big wall that the Mexicans will pay for. He can’t do that, it won’t happen and it wouldn’t make any difference if it did. Build a big wall and a desperate person just builds a bigger ladder or a deeper tunnel.
The UK has been plunged into uncertainty because we took a leap into the dark. Don’t make the same mistake. Wait it out, the GOP isn’t going anywhere, wait four years and get behind a real candidate. Get behind a candidate who wants to govern as a Republican.
Ask yourself, would you go to a doctor who talks like Trump, a dentist, a lawyer, a bank whose manager spoke like him? Would you buy a used car off of him? Would you even stand next to a man like him in a bar or at a barbecue?
One last warning. Don’t trust the polls. In 2015 the polls predicated another coalition government for the UK – The Tory Party won an outright majority. The polls predicated that Remain would win. Leave won. When people are ashamed of how they are voting they lie to pollsters; people were ashamed to admit to voting Tory, voting Leave and, I believe, people will be ashamed to admit to voting Trump.
I was in the US for the 2000 election, between Bush and Gore, that came down to fighting over votes in Florida. (My main memory of that election day was sitting in a Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia having beer served to us from a teapot because it was illegal to serve alcohol in Pennsylvania on an Election day.) I have a gut instinct that this election result may be that close and that acrimonious. Trump has already said he won’t accept the result if he loses, adding poor loser to his already brimming trunk of charming character traits.
So, listen, America, do yourself a favour, sorry, favor. Step back from the brink of recklessly voting for a new kind of politics, because new is not always good. Remember New Coke? How’d that work out?
And, whatever you do, please, please, please, leave the guns locked in the cabinet.
So, that being said how’s everything else? The World Series looked very exciting. Congratulations to the Cubs! Hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving in a few weeks and we’ll speak before Christmas I’m sure.
My love to the family,
PS. I really mean it about the guns.