At this stage, the surprisingly successful Brexit vote that set the wheels in motion for the United Kingdom’s eventual exit from the European Union feels like an unequivocal failure. World markets have been dented, the value of the pound has dropped 12 percent against the dollar, and both Fitch and S&P have downgraded the U.K.’s credit rating. On the political side, pro-Remain U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is now a lame duck after resigning, Scotland and Northern Ireland are talking about their own independence, and promises about funding the NHS and immigration reform are coming undone as they come under scrutiny. The same promises that surely nudged many Leave voters toward that end in the first place.
In the afterglow of Thursday’s referendum, regret has taken hold. Some say they didn’t realize their vote had counted while others simply didn’t realize the gravity of the question that they were voting on, as evidenced by the forehead-smacking news that search terms like, “What is the EU?” saw an increase in the U.K. after results had been announced.
Due to that lax understanding of that which was before them and the utterly frightening consequences that have been brought about by their actions, it’s understandable why the Bregret movement has kicked up some dust with a three-million-signature strong petition for a re-vote. People are hopeful that that effort or something else will stop the avalanche before whomever emerges as the next prime minister triggers Article 50 and the beginning of lengthy and possibly contentious exit negotiations with the EU. But while there are numerous theoretical “outs,” all seem unlikely. So, basically, strap in.
While the initial cost has been high, the consequences will continue to mount for quite some time. There are already reports of a possible increase in racially motivated crimes in the U.K. What happens when reality sinks in, fear-baiting campaign promises further wither to dust, and fervent anti-immigration Leave voters realize that no one is likely going anywhere because (despite lead Leave movement leader Boris Johnson’s claims) the U.K. will likely have to abide by the EU’s open migration standards (and other policies) to remain in the single market? Anger breeds violence and these small-minded people were already pissed off enough to plunge their country (and the world economy) into low-level chaos.
Speaking of that, what happens when these deep financial losses trickle down to non-investors in the form of stagnant wage growth and possible job losses? What happens if the situation in Scotland and Northern Ireland moves to a less than civil place? We’re not so far from violence in Northern Ireland during “The Troubles” that we should forget the toll. Again, strap in.
Why am I re-airing the miserable state of things following Brexit? Really, it’s in an effort to build on what John Oliver and Samantha Bee alluded to on their respective shows this week: that all of this unrelenting and irreversible havoc should serve as a sphincter-tightening warning to American voters who aren’t paying attention to this election and the fight for the soul of this country.
Last week, I wrote about the need for us all to work to shed incumbent legislators. The lack of movement on several significant issues and the corrosive partisan rancor within Congress (and on Main Street, to be honest) demonstrates that something is wrong, and the 95 percent incumbent re-election rate (2014) and Congress’ consistent sub-20 percent approval rating proves that we’re not paying attention or that our bullsh*t detectors are faulty. And I don’t know which is more hazardous.
I get it, a vote isn’t just a vote. It’s a personal declaration that just happens to go into a pile of other personal declarations that’ll be sorted and counted in an effort to determine what kind of country we get to be.
A lot of people feel ample pride toward the political parties that they “belong to” and the candidates that they “believe in” and support, filling their lawns with signs, their bumpers with stickers, and their hearts with passion as they spread the gospel of these candidates. Even hate-filled gospel when people are scared or angry enough to take the bait and buy into generalizations about and restrictions against other races and ethnicities in a wrong-headed effort to solve complex problems. A sad commonality between the U.K. and the U.S. that was made clearer last week.
There are also those who are less engaged and apathetically vote Democrat or Republican because that’s what they’ve always done even though we should all be above having to follow a red and blue color coded system in an effort to decipher who sides with our view of things. Look deeper and ignore the soul-sucking TL;DRness of it all. This isn’t a reality show — these votes do matter. Brexit proves that. It also proves that messages like this, Oliver, and Bee’s aren’t enough on their own.
Don’t assume that there weren’t people in the U.K. shouting their heads off on television about the need to Remain and fact checkers that were calling bullsh*t on wild campaign promises from the Leave side. I imagine some were even pointing at Donald Trump’s ascent in the U.S. as a warning. But a satisfactory result was assumed with Brexit, so perhaps there wasn’t as much urgency and commitment to the cause of putting people off of the Leave effort. Regardless, this is further proof that the truth tends to get out-shouted by boasts and lies on the campaign trail and in the media. And so here we are with that problem to combat as well. The media simply needs to do a better job of grabbing a megaphone, demanding specifics, and calling out politicians — on both sides — who obfuscate and offer nothing but empty jargon.
Stump speeches need to be dissected and dismissed when they are filled with empty promises. Not broadcast like free adverts that are unvetted and lightly analyzed. But while the press has a huge responsibility to keep the heat on, voters also need to stay engaged, energized, and far away from slipping into auto-pilot. Because if they (and you and I) don’t keep focus and hold politicians accountable for their boasts, then we ultimately deserve whatever path others choose for America.
Like John Oliver said, there are no “f*cking do-overs,” and with Brexit in mind, it’s also fair to say that there should be no whining. We’ve had plenty of wake-up calls — it’s time to keep our eyes wide open.