If many were shocked about the result of EU referendum in Britain, those shockwaves were only amplified by Trump’s comfortable victory in the US presidential elections.
As both results went against the agenda of large swathes of the political elite, both results have been lambasted as symptoms of a right-wing nationalism which is corrupting western politics. However, both results may turn out to be quite the opposite.
First, the two events have brought unparalleled numbers of people to the voting booths. Both the EU referendum and the American election revived many people’s interest in mainstream politics. There has, over the past decade, been an increasing apathy regarding politics in the UK and the USA. Such renewed interest in politics provoked by each of these singular events should not be understated. Democracy in its purest and finest form is when the will of the people not that of an individual, group or minority is clearly expressed. With such high turn outs of people voting in both elections, it would be safe to say these are two of the most democratic political events ever to take place in the West for many a day.
Additionally, both votes completely undermined the arrogance of the political elite. Many who voted for Britain to remain in the European Union and for Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the United States deemed both votes forgone conclusions.
Large majorities of the political elite in both the United Kingdom and the United States were overly confident in the result and so consequently passive, lethargic and somewhat idle in their campaigns to either to stay in the European Union or in their support for Hillary Clinton. Both the exiting of the European Union and the election of Donald Trump represent two huge curveballs being thrown into Westminster and Washington respectively. Such political upset should not be regarded as negative.
Firstly, it highlights how the political class are still secondary to the will of people. Furthermore, both Trump’s victory and that of the ‘Brexiteers’ do signal change in the political theatre. Such change is always greeted with fear, yet change can also be beneficial, it can re-shape or re-mould the politics of a country for the better. Moreover, such upset serves as a startling indicator to those involved in mainstream politics of how disconnected they are to majority of the people they are supposed to be representing.
Indeed, both results may turn Washington and Westminster back to their deep democratic roots.
Trump, who will arrive into Washington as an outsider, may be able to weaken the grip the elitist class has over America’s political capital. In addition, the UK’s departure from the European Union, means forsaking arguably the most bureaucratic union there is. Fundamentally, both results have left both the United States and the United Kingdom with a rare opportunity not only to re-engage people with politics but also bring mainstream politics closer to its democratic ideals.
To conclude, some of what Donald Trump has stated is indefensible and at times shocking, his sexist remarks being the pinnacle of such vitriol. I did not support, and indeed opposed, Donald Trump becoming the next president of the United States. With regards to Brexit, I voted for Britain to stay in the European Union. However, both results represent anger, frustration and a powerful sense of disconnection with mainstream politics, consequently these two results signal monumental change in both the USA and UK.
Indeed, there is some evidence to argue that such change will continue to manifest itself in other Western democracies. Such change may well be for the better.
Paul Doherty is an Intern at the Bow Group