First Brexit, Now Trump

Branwen Phillips is a first year undergraduate at Lincoln College, and a member of Committee

First Brexit, now Trump. Common words said and posted prolifically in the last few days and months of 2016. Something I also said in frustration of the many bathetic moments this year as an outspoken Remainer and opponent of Trump. But are Brexit and Trump's electoral victory really comparable?

The answer is obviously no. There can be no accurate comparison when the variables are so vastly different. One, a general election, in a country with a population of 318.9 million people, to decide who is the best leader to navigate the country through the increasing tensions with Russia, a precarious economic situation, and increasing inequality. The other, a plebiscite to decide the UK's membership of the European Union.

Different electoral systems, causes and points of contention. But regardless, these have been two events which have been compared relentlessly in the news, journalism and social media. Is there really nothing behind this association?

In this “new” post-truth age (something I dispute as an ancient history student) these hugely different factors are inconsequential to the tidal wave of people’s emotions and personal beliefs. So when looking at these two events maybe it’s not imperative to be completely dispassionate and to dismiss these two seismic events on a technicality.

Both of these results shocked parts of Europe and the world, seeing the outcomes as alien and nonsensical. In frustration they criticise and marry together two incidents which they cannot reconcile. And it is from this point of view, an outsider, far away, that this hostile comparison has occurred, a point of view which cannot comprehend people's rationales for voting in favour of Trump and Brexit, and so labels such people as racist, sexist and xenophobic. This only creates further divides which, as the results of these votes show, already exist.

I myself struggled with this immediately after the result of Trump's election. I had deep frustration at how the US had voted in a man who had never held a public office in his life and expressed xenophobic and sexist views! However, with time and reflection it became increasingly clear that many people both in the UK and the US feel stuck in a system and style of government where they felt neglected and in which change is stagnant.

How I would explain to someone who sees the results as incomprehensible and foolish is: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Here we have the exact opposite, years of doing the same thing, voting for the standard politician and same way of governance, and seeing little change, but now something completely different, in the hope of change.

I don’t pretend to know the answers to these people’s problems. However, in a world where politics is becoming more divisive and personal it is essential not to react to results, views and theories we do not like by demonising people and unhelpfully labelling them as a homogenous group rather than looking closer at their individual struggles.

As is the way with politics, we must always be looking and moving forward. To stay caught in the anger of past results is to hold back progress and, more importantly, change. So as we move in to 2017 it is vital for the Conservative party to unite and look forward.