Here's Why Brexit, Donald Trump, & The 2016 Elections Don't Share Any Similarities
The moment it became clear that Brexit had passed, pundits started drawing comparisons between the U.K. referendum vote and the U.S. presidential election. The pro-Brexit campaign combined populist, anti-immigrant, and anti-globalist sentiments so successfully that many across the pond were reminded of Donald Trump, America's own populist, anti-immigrant, anti-globalist candidate. But don't be fooled: Brexit has nothing to do with Trump and here's why it says nothing about what will happen in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The crucial thing to keep in mind is that the Brexit debate was about regional issues, political questions specific to the United Kingdom and Europe that have no real analog in the U.S. To try and extrapolate the Brexit vote to America is to ignore the fact that U.K. voters are in a different country, a different political environment, and most importantly, a different continent than U.S. voters. It's simply an invalid comparison; crucial issues in the Brexit decision, such as the EU's regulatory overreach, have no equivalent in America.
This becomes obvious when you ask yourself: Would a Brexit vote have passed in the U.S.? Don't think too hard about that; it's a nonsensical question. What happened in the United Kingdom is that voters passed a referendum advocating withdrawal from the European Union. But the U.S. is not part of the EU, or any organization that's comparable to the EU. There could never be an "American Brexit" — there's nothing for America to "exit" from in the first place.
A lot of the Brexit debate centered on immigration, and proponents of Brexit stoked anti-immigration fears as a strategy for rallying support. This, too, has drawn comparisons to Trump's campaign, but the immigration debate in Europe is very, very different from the one here in the U.S. Most importantly, Europe is facing a refugee and migration crisis of stunning, historic proportions — for example, over 13 million displaced Syrians look for a place to settle. The U.S. isn't.
It's impossible to talk about immigration policy in Europe in 2016 without acknowledging the Syrian refugee crisis; after all, it's what's driving the debate. The U.S., however, hasn't been forced to directly confront this crisis, simply because there's an ocean separating the U.S. from Syria. As a result, the politics are completely different. When Trump talks about immigration, he accuses Mexicans of "taking our jobs." When Nigel Farage, the pro-Brexit leader of the UK Independence Party, talks about immigration, he's stoking fear about ISIS terrorists sneaking across the border.
And let's not forget that the U.K. has been weighing a Brexit for decades. It even held a referendum on withdrawing from the EU in 1975, long before Trump was even famous.
At the end of the day, the Brexit question is a Euro-specific debate. Or, as former House Speaker Tip O'Neill famously said, all politics is local.