Will Britain's American Children Follow The Mother Country's Populism?

The shouts of defiance that shaped the Brexit victory may carry across the Atlantic, with implications for Donald Trump and the U.S.

24/06/2016 3:13 PM AEST | Updated 24/06/2016 10:19 PM AEST
Matt Cardy via Getty Images
A mural on a derelict building in Stokes Croft shows U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump sharing a kiss with former London Mayor Boris Johnson, one of the biggest names leading the Brexit campaign.

WASHINGTON -- The United Kingdom and the United States are not one country, nor do they beat with one political heart.

But the two empires -- one faded, the other holding on -- share a centuries-long history and a common imperial culture in which the ideal of “white man’s burden” -- to quote Rudyard Kipling -- is a privileged inheritance and a sacred identity.

The pro-Brexit vote in the U.K. is a cry of defiance by what’s left of that Anglo-American white tribal faith, and the decision to leave the European Union should send a shudder through those who think that Donald Trump is a xenophobic, racist nationalist with no chance to win the U.S. presidency.

A glance at the U.K. referendum results show that Brexit won handily in England, especially in the rural, traditional towns and cities least dominated by immigrant cultural and globalism. 

Brexit also won in Wales, which in many ways historically is the home of some of the most ancient religious and cultural traditions of old Britain -- going back before the Norman Conquest.

Wales and rural England were the rallying grounds of Oliver Cromwell’s assault on the continentally oriented 17th-century kings, and those regions rose up in a nativist way now.

The parallel to the U.S. is obvious -- and ominous if you worry that Trump could somehow find his way to the White House.

Trump is riding the same tide of anti-globalism that propelled the likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage in the U.K.: against waves of immigrants, against global corporate dominance of trade, against Muslim claims that terrorism is not intrinsically part of their religion, against the control of power by internationalist intellect and capital.

His greatest appeal so far is not only in traditionally Republican states in the South and Mountain regions, but potentially in states such as Pennsylvania – where the immigrant population is relatively low and there remains a fealty to the old ways. Former British subjects rebelled, to be sure, but they nevertheless followed the old country’s ideas about law and politics and culture.

Trump, if he is anything substantive, is a scream of defiance by white America -- married, traditional, commercial -- against the new multicultural and global country and world.

Not surprisingly, Trump was for Brexit, more or less.

Not surprisingly, Johnson and Farage have had some nice things to say about Trump, while the now-humiliated Prime Minister David Cameron did not.

Scotland, which voted to stay in Europe, will now try to leave the U.K., and Scottish leaders who once praised The Donald for his investments in the Auld Sod now despise him.

The White Man’s Burden now has new meaning in the U.K. and in the U.S. It is the burden of defying history, which is moving in the direction of a multicultural, multiglobal identity for the entire human race on a beleaguered planet.

It seems increasingly possible that, come November, American voters may decide to join England and Wales in defiance.

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

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