Trump’s Brexit rhetoric shores up base but likely to drive away others

By Matthew Rusling Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/29 21:33:01

US presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump's support for Brexit will help him with his base but could hurt him in efforts to gain backing from independent voters, experts said.

The UK last week voted in a non-binding referendum to leave the European Union with separatists citing their desire not to be controlled by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, as well as concerns about the massive influx of legal immigration from Eastern Europe, which is tenfold what it was in the early 1990s.

But many economists have warned of many negative economic impacts from the move, which has already caused a drastic drop in global financial markets and a drop in the British currency.

In the days leading up to the historic vote, Trump pledged his support for those who wanted to leave the EU, casting the fight as that of the masses versus the political elite.

Asked a month ago about Brexit, however, Trump was unaware of what it meant. Upon arrival in Scotland for a visit to one of his golf clubs, he praised the locals for voting against the EU, apparently ignorant of the fact that the region voted overwhelmingly to remain.

The situation has played into Trump's narrative that Washington politicians are selling the nation down the tubes at the expense of ordinary Americans.

While his stance will likely help shore up support with his base, even if the markets take another hit, it may hurt him with independent voters who want someone more predictable and someone they view as stable, experts said.

Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua that Trump supports Brexit simply because it is a good way to play to his populist base.

Many of Trump's supporters believe that international trade deals have been bad for the average worker and that Brexit is a way to give people in particular countries more control over their economic destinies, West said.

Even though the stock market has dropped, Trump's base sees Brexit as a good thing because it allows many countries to erect borders and do things that put their own nation first.

"That is very consistent with Trump's economic agenda. It doesn't matter if there is short-term damage because these people feel it will be good in the longer run," West said.

Indeed, the bombastic businessman has called for the US to build a wall on its border with Mexico, and get Mexico to pay for it, in a bid to stem the tide of illegal immigration, which already stands at around 11 million.

His stance on illegal immigration reflects concerns of those who voted for the Brexit, at a time when legal immigration to England is surging and shifting the cultural landscape. Immigrants from Eastern Europe are utilizing the EU's freedom of labor laws to enter the UK.

But for the population of undecided voters and independents, Trump's Brexit support could cost him, especially in an election that may well be decided by those voters.

"It could hurt Trump in that Americans might be more concerned about electing someone so unpredictable and untested in an unstable world. This is the message that Hillary Clinton will sell," Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, told Xinhua.

Indeed, Democratic nominee Clinton has slammed Trump for his Brexit support, saying the country needs leaders who "understand that bombastic comments in turbulent times can actually cause more turbulence, and who put the interests of the American people ahead of their personal business interests."

While the markets may well bounce back once the dust clears, the political damage to Trump may be long lasting, and allow Clinton to paint him as a reckless cowboy who is not the kind of leader that Americans want to see in the White House.

"Moments like these can create major doubts in the minds of voters that don't disappear even as stability returns," Zelizer said.

The author is a writer with the Xinhua News Agency.

Posted in: Voices

blog comments powered by Disqus