Brexit, Trump, and You and Me (commentary from WMC Live with Robin Morgan 7.2.16)
| July 6, 2016
Well, what a mess the guys--the UKIP, Tories, and Labour Party guys--have made, playing with fire and now facing the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. They didn't take it seriously. They called it "Brexit," a cutesy name for a very unfunny referendum that was "Brexstraordinarily" stupid. Now, as global markets, diplomats, security and intelligence agencies, and entire governments, not to mention the public, wring hands over the disaster that was wreaked by a relative handful of people in less prosperous regions of England and Wales: older, white, rural, non-university graduates--vulnerable prey for fear-mongering; now, as British currency plummets in value, as the United Kingdom itself faces possible fragmentation with Scotland going its own independent pro-European way, and Northern Ireland longing again to join with Ireland; now, we are possibly witnessing the end of Great Britain.
Many Americans are worried that the politics of Donald Trump actually might prevail as a reflection of what occurred in England. I did notice that the referendum happened in the first place because David Cameron wanted to appease the far right wing inside his own Conservative Party: Paul Ryan take note. And, because women are always hit harder by policy shifts to the right, I worried about the impact of this in Britain on women.
Well, last item first. Sophie Walker, founder and leader of the Woman's Equality Party in the UK, and previous guest on Women's Media Center Live, addressed that question, saying that during the campaign she'd wanted to know what leaving the EU would mean for women: for the cost of child care, for the likelihood of closing the pay gap, and for the chances of her country ever ratifying the Pan European Istanbul Convention to end violence against women and girls. She said, "I don't know the answers to any of these questions because none of them were discussed by the other political parties in the miserably blinkered campaign that preceded the vote. The two opposing camps put on a Punch and Judy show and the media cried for more, there was no room, again, for women."
Walker points out that every recession has prompted the same response: slashing spending on women's jobs (the public service workers), and throwing money at construction and building, showy jobs, mainly for the boys. She also makes it clear that there can be no reneging on legislation prompted by membership in the EU, which has done a lot to enhance the lives of women workers: protection from sexual harassment in the workplace, maternity leave, opening new opportunities for women's employment, and ensuring future tariffs do not eat into money needed for benefits in services. She notes that overshadowing much of the referendum were lies told by the Leave campaign about immigrants, adding that women have made up the majority of the UK's migrant population since 1993: women fleeing persecution, violence, and human rights violations. Walker gives 'em hell, and they deserve it.
As for any echo effect on our own elections, there are commonalities: the voter breakdown between generations, between rural and urban, less educated and more so, male and female, and white versus citizens of color is mirrored here in Trump's supporters versus . . . well, the rest of us. So there is reason to be afraid. But there is no reason to panic.
There are vital distinctions; even Republican presidents have celebrated immigrants as integral to American prosperity and identity. Furthermore, U.S. presidential elections are largely decided by an ethnically diverse and upscale electorate in America's cities and suburbs, and people of color comprised more than a quarter of the electorate in the last presidential campaign. There is far greater multiculturalism vibrantly alive in the United States than in the U.K. Moreover, the British vote was a referendum on a cumbersome bureaucratic European coalition that was easy to rally against, while the U.S. presidential vote is every day more and more a referendum on a polarizing individual, Donald Trump (who predictably celebrated the referendum result because a crash for the British pound would benefit his business).
Last, the wisdom of the Framers of the Constitution rises again like a beneficent ghost. The EU membership was decided by a popular vote in Britain, but the White House race here is determined by the Electoral College. Most Americans are not sure what that is exactly, and many Americans have never even heard of it; you know, they're the people who can't identify where the Gulf of Mexico is, or work out in their heads that it just might be somewhere near... hmmm ...Mexico? The Electoral College consists of 538 electors; a majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your state's entitled allotment of electors equals the number of members in its congressional delegation, one for each member in the House of Representatives, plus two for your Senators. Electors' votes usually, but not always, reflect their state's popular votes. Now here's the interesting part. Some large states with significant populations of color have for the last three decades voted for every Democratic nominee: California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, and together those states hold 166 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. You see, the Framers were really strong on balance. Balance between the three branches of government, balance between majority rule and protection of the minority by the Bill of Rights, and balance between what some of them, including Jefferson and Adams, regarded as a possible tyranny of democracy: populist mob rule needing restraining measures by cooler heads. Hence, the Electoral College. So exhale--but do so without a breath of complacency.
Of course, the other recent major headline was the Supreme Court's decision on the Texas abortion case, a victory for women's reproductive rights nationally--and a reminder that the Court, and the very constitution of the Court, currently in play with a justice missing, well, that issue alone would make this an incalculably crucial election.
So ask yourself what you're doing: concretely, practically, now, to stop Trump, and the possibility, however vague, that in November we wake up as dazed as the British are now, asking each other, "How did we let this happen? And can we possibly, possibly have a do-over?"
If for whatever reason you can't stand Hillary Rodham Clinton, then get active in the Libertarian Party, and drain votes from Trump. Better still, join the tide of history for the first woman president: send money, volunteer to make calls and ring doorbells, register voters and pledge to help bring them to the polls, do all of the above and more--and think, just think of all the interesting people you'll meet in the process! Not only do you not want to be one of the 'good Germans' who claimed they didn't know what was happening until it was too late; you want to be on the winning side--and not of just an election but of history, and saving the planet.
Copyright © 2016 by Robin Morgan All Rights Reserved
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent WMC. WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.