If you’ve been following the presidential race in recent weeks, you may have seen the name Nigel Farage pop up in news stories. You may also have seen the acronym UKIP.
These might sound familiar. They’re leftovers from an earlier election. Back in June, Farage and his nationalist UK Independence Party were leading figures in the Brexit movement. As a result of that campaign, 52 percent of voters in Britain chose to leave the European Union.
Since then, Farage has resurfaced in the new world. He’s been campaigning in support of Donald Trump. It’s a natural fit. Many of the same issues that animated the Brexit movement have breathed life into Trump’s insurgent campaign. The most obvious parallel, of course, is immigration. One of the key arguments among Brexit supporters for Britain’s exit from the EU was that it would give the country — which they saw as under threat from hordes of immigrants — control over its borders. So far as I’m aware, no one proposed walling off the island nation, but the kinship with Trump is clear.
Other parallels exist, too.
Pollsters and pundits tell us Trump supporters and Brexit voters share the belief the system is rigged against them. There’s the sense, among many on both sides of the Atlantic, that institutions which once served them have been hijacked by a global elite and now work against regular folks in both countries.
“As the rich have got richer in our respective nations, the average family has found the going tough,” Farage wrote last week in an op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he called the Brexit vote the first victory against the international political elite.
Trump, too, was quick to jump on the Brexit victory. He noted many of these similarities, and of course, saw it as a precursor to his own success.
In Farage’s Washington Post column, he minced no words about the relationship.
“When the Trump team draw parallels between the situations in Britain and the United States — the detachment many voters feel — and compare their effort to our recent referendum success, they are absolutely right.”
While I’m far from the first commentator to note these links, they lead me to a different conclusion.
I can’t help but notice nearly three month’s after Farage’s victory, we have yet to see an actual Brexit. Despite the fact had they chosen to do so, Britain’s elected leaders could have triggered the Article 50 exit clause from the Treaty on European Union the morning after the vote, the nation remains firmly ensconced in the European Union.
Of course, Britain could leave the EU at any point in the future, but it’s not 100 percent clear such an exit will ever happen. And many Brexit supports have begun to back away from the promises made about border security. Nor is it clear many of the folks who voted for Brexit would actually benefit from it happening.
That said, from a broken immigration system to a stagnant economy to income inequality and the corrupting influence of money in politics, many of the issues the Trump and Brexit campaigns highlight are real, and the frustration among voters is genuine and justified. But the challenges we face are deep and complex. They’ve developed over generations and as the result of many elections. Their solutions will be neither quick nor easy.
The lesson in all this, for me, transcends Trump or Brexit: We’re likely to hear from many protest-vote politicians this year who are only too willing to tap into our frustration. They’ll offer promises that seem as bold and as they are fuzzy about the details. If you want to vote for one of these candidates, do it because it feels good. Do it because you feel like you don’t have any other choice.
But if you do it, don’t expect to actually get the kind of change for which you’re voting.
— Nate A. Miller is the local news and web editor. Reach him at (970) 392-4445 or email@example.com.