‘…The recent victory of the Brexiters in the referendum on whether the UK should remain in the EU has led many people to reflect on–and worry about–similarities between support for Trump in the US and support for Brexit in the UK. Clearly, both campaigns have appealed to racist attitudes and anti-immigrant sentiments; indeed, this has been a core element without which neither would have got off the ground. The lack of clarity about what Leavers think Brexit will entail, and the immediate backpedalling after their victory of those who campaigned for it, is also revealing. It looks like a classic case of chickens coming home to roost when overly simple solutions are proposed for complex problems. And Trump’s critics hope the US electorate will draw the appropriate moral from this.
…It seems blindingly obvious that Trump is a narcissistic, mendacious windbag, an attention junkie who manifestly lacks the knowledge, experience, judgment, and character that one would hope for in any individual who wishes to shoulder the responsibilities of high office. Asked by journalists to explain their position, Trump supporters seem to traffic mainly in vacuities or absurdities…
But suppose we bracket the racism, the xenophobia, the hopeful embracing of simplistic solutions, and (in the case of Trump supporters) the messianic faith in an individual savior. Are there, in addition, cogent reasons why people might vote for Trump. I think there are, although “cogent” does not here mean “good”; it just means understandable in rational terms. And here, too, there are interesting parallels between the appeal of Brexit and the appeal of Trump…’