Brexit’s Two Warnings

The vote has been cast, like a massive stone in the world’s pool. Waves and ripples flow in all directions, affecting parts of life we haven’t even realized yet. As America continues down its own election process, it struck me immediately that there were two major lessons we need to realize and contemplate:

KNUTSFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 17:  In this photo illustration, the European Union and the Union flag sit together on bunting on March 17, 2016 in Knutsford, United Kingdom. The United Kingdom will hold a referendum on June 23, 2016 to decide whether or not to remain a member of the European Union (EU), an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries which allows members to trade together in a single market and free movement across its borders for citizens.  (Photo by illustration by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Photo by illustration by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images, from

1.  It can happen here. The same forces of turning inward and away from international connection are available here. The same fear of immigration and refugees. The same desire to focus everything inward. The same concerns about borders and terrorism. The same mindset that there is too much change, too much of our control, and the resulting desire to pull more into our sphere of control. The election campaign started with almost no one believing that Trump would win the Republican nomination, much as few believed the UK would leave the EU. Even as time marched relentlessly forward there was still a wide sense of confidence that it wouldn’t happen.  But it did.  It did in the Brexit vote, it did in the Trump nomination process.  The next leap, to Presidency, is not as implausible a leap as it seemed a year ago.

The demographics of the UK vote look alarmingly like the last election votes.  Cities going one way, rural lands going the other.  In the UK, the in-country split even puts “Stay” N. Ireland and Scotland on a noticeably different path than “Leave” England and Wales….excluding the population powerhouse of London which voted “Stay”.  Our own red-blue map shows an alarmingly similar split between the population centers and the more suburban and rural areas. The dynamics are, unsurprisingly(?), similar.

2. We have no reset. It is interesting to see how many people are suffering from voters remorse.  How many interviews have I seen of people who said they only wanted to protest with their vote, they didn’t really think the UK would leave the EU.  They wanted to express their dislike of the current situation, to thumb their noses at the political establishment. But actually leave? Actually jettison the continent? That wasn’t on their thought screen. Until …. it actually happened.  The petitions to reject the referendum results started almost immediately, garnering millions within a day.  And this for a process that requires (as I understand it) multiple additional petitions, laws and changes before the exit can actually occur.  The protest vote became too real, apparently.

We won’t have that option.  The presidential vote we cast will govern us for the next 4 years at a minimum. We won’t have the luxury of a mulligan, a do-over, a “oh, I didn’t really mean that”.  When we vote, it will be for all the marbles. No additional legislation to be passed, no two year ease-out-of-it process.  It will be for four years. It will be for keepsies.

I hope we think carefully what we are going to do in the next few months.  I hope we don’t vote emotions, vote knee-jerk, vote protest and change for the sake of protest and change.  The consequences, the almost immediate remorse felt by so many in the UK who voted based on change and message and not actual outcome, needs to be a lesson.

I hope we heed it.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by hmunro on June 28, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Brilliantly said, Jeff. Every word of it. I hope at least one “protest voter” reads your piece and changes his or her mind. Thank you so much for writing this.


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