Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, June 24, 2016

Does Brexit Mean Trump Will Win?

I've seen that panicked question a lot on Facebook this morning.  Brexit was England's Trump moment, where they allowed emotive ethnonationalism and diffuse anger at elites to make an irrational choice based on resentment over reason.  You know, Trumpism.

First of all, you could argue that we've had our Trump moment when he won the nomination.  His incompetence as a campaigner is now on stage for the world to see.  He can't raise money, he can't stay on message, he can't control his narcissism.  Hell, when asked about Brexit, all he could think of was his own properties in Scotland.  When Brent Scowcroft and most of the McCain campaign from 2008 endorses Clinton, you know there is a sizable portion of the electorate who simply can't stomach Trump.

Secondly, the US and UK are very different ethnically.  The UK is 87% white, 7% Asian and 3% black.  The US is 63% white, 12% black, 16% Hispanic and 5% Asian.  Trump - like every GOP candidate in a long time - will win the white vote. Leave won the white vote, too.  But there was much more white vote in England to win than in the US. Since the main commonality between Leave and Trump is ethnonationalism, Leave had a lot more voters to draw on that Trump will.  Similarly, there are simply more Democrats and Democrat-leaners than Republicans.  About 48% of Americans lean Democrat, whereas 41% lean Republican, and true independents lean away from Trump.

The same partisanship that has destroyed the Congress's ability to do anything is likely also to give the White House to Clinton.  In Britain, the cities voted Remain, while the shires voted Leave.  In the US, the Electoral College has a baked in advantage for Democrats.  Clinton likely starts at around 240 EVs before she really starts to stretch herself.

So, Brexit doesn't guarantee anything about Trump.  But a global recession could be the factor that tips enough votes his way to claw his way to 270 electoral votes. Will there be a global recession?

Remain campaigned heavily on the economic apocalypse that would follow a Leave vote.  Markets all over the world are in chaos right now, but markets aren't the economy.  Basically the following could happen:

Nothing.  Stock and currency markets go haywire for a bit, people realize that Britain can't leave for two years and things reach an equilibrium.

Britain's economy craters. The collapse of the pound leads to a recession in Britain, but the EU is able to contain most of the damage to Britain, as investments flee London and head to the EU.

Europe's economy craters.  The British collapse sends Europe into a free fall, but in a "flight to value" investors prop up the relatively safe US markets.

The global economy craters.  The British collapse creates a contagion that once again exposes how interconnected yet poorly managed the global economy is.

Only one of those - the last, obviously - helps Trump.  Theoretically, a global recession that is triggered by Brexit would suggest that America electing Trump to do more of the same would be a BAD THING.  Theoretically.  This would require a sober and rational assessment of the economic factors that led integrated markets to experience a crisis in confidence and a firm grasp of cause and effect.

Anyone want to lay money on the US electorate doing that?

The sign for hope is that when China's stock market imploded last year, the damage was largely contained.  If the economic damage is limited to Europe or Britain, then you have an excellent talking point about the disasters of ethnonationalist policy.  Britain is a laboratory for Trump's policies in some ways, although - Britain being Britain - it will play out much slower and more moderately than it would in the US.

I would argue the best case scenario for Clinton (and those Americans who don't wish to open the seventh seal and usher in the apocalypse) would be massive pain in Britain that largely stays in Britain.  Clinton already owns a massive cash-on-hand advantage over Trump and a massive campaign infrastructure advantage.  If Britain degenerates into misery, all that Wall Street money that Bernie hates will flow to Clinton just to keep the short fingered vulgarian out of the Oval Office.

Trump is going to win somewhere between 41-45% of the vote simply by being the Republican nominee.  He is going to violate norms in American politics and inject language and ideas into our politics that are deeply troubling and damaging.  But unless Brexit triggers another 2008-type crash, I don't think this makes him the 45th president.

1 comment:

Xiuyi Zheng said...

Mr. Hawes, thank you for the insightful (and comforting) analysis. One thing I'd like to add is that even if Hillary gets elected in November, you'd be right to argue that the forces that propelled Trump to the Republican nomination have already triumphed. A Hillary win is a battle won, not the war. The mid-term and 2020 elections, not to mention down ballot races, could all prove to be even more worrisome.

Hypothetically, if the Remain side won out with the same 52-48 margin, Nigel Farage and UKIP would have every right to be giddy; any strong showing for Remain would have legitimized a large part of the UKIP platform, and bestowed upon them significant political momentum. Now, of course, things are just infinitely worse on the other side of the Atlantic.

Here's to hope that Americans will make the right choice, even if just for now.