Brexit / Wexit

It turns out that Brexit is really not a very accurate term. Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to remain in the European Union. Holyrood may actually pull off remaining somehow, although it is difficult to see the inmates of Stormont coming together to effect the same thing.

Since it was only Wales and England that voted to pull out, maybe we should be writing about WExit instead?

Brexit’s Lessons for Hillary Clinton

First off, I was wrong predicting 55% would vote to remain. It was only 48%. The lesson to me is to stick to my day job.

I don’t think I was wrong in summing up the Brexit vote into the two gut emotions of ‘THEY are screwing us’ and the ‘OUTSIDERS are screwing us’. I just underestimated how much the good folks of England and Wales felt that THEY, the OUTSIDERS, were not just the Europeans and Muslims, but also the Londoners. The privileged class. The island within the island.

The rural voters of England and Wales felt that the Londoners were legging them over, and with good reason. Income inequality in the UK has been on the rise for at least the past 20 years. The latest economic boom sent property prices in London through the roof, but what has it done for the rest of the country? The City has done well, but where are all the new jobs everywhere else?

So when the London-based political class touts the virtues of European integration, the message really fails to resonate with the rest of the country. And that is the lesson for Hillary Clinton.

Like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have found a way to connect with the folks that feel like they are getting left behind economically and politically. Never mind that the the numbers may not pencil on their proposals – this is all about the gut feelings, not reason. People feel that the political and economic classes are legging them over and that they are disenfranchised from the country’s wealth.

Hillary does not have that gut connection with the disenfranchised and it is doubtful that she ever will. But she needs them on her side to win the election. It will be interesting to see how she approaches this. My advice (not that anyone is asking, mind you) is to use a lot of BS. Bernie Sanders.


Brexit = ISIS Wins?

As the Brexit vote nears it appears that there are two basic gut issues driving the discussion. The first one is the perception that THEY are screwing us.

This is not a new issue. In the UK, the Scots have felt this way for hundreds of years. THEY were the English. They finally got a chance to vote on it in 2014 and despite their gut feelings, 55% of the Scots decided they should stay in the political union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In the US, the Occupy movement of 2011 also focused on how THEY were screwing us. In that case, THEY were the 1%. The 1% waited the movement out, but Bernie Sanders tapped into it again. He was not going to take any money from THEM, only from you. (Hillary Clinton, who is not as discriminating in her funding sources, must profess to subscribe to the view made famous by a California politician:  “If you can’t take their money, drink their whiskey, screw their women, and vote against ‘em anyway, you don’t belong in the Legislature”)

Donald Trump is also playing the “THEY are screwing us” pitch. It is resonating with the middle and working classes who have been impacted by technology and globalization for the past 20 years. Industrial and manufacturing jobs have been moving off shore, and the ones that are left are slowly being replaced by automation.

If you think about who THEY are, it is the 1% that is driving automation and globalization. But Trump is a self-proclaimed senior member of the 1%, so that really does not work for him. Therefore, Trump has added the second basic gut issue into the mix: The OUTSIDERS want to screw us.

To hear Trump tell it, THEY are the OUTSIDERS. The immigrants. The Mexicans. The Muslims.

Fear and distrust of OUTSIDERS is basic to the human condition, because after all, we are a tribal species. But when you have groups like ISIS randomly murdering people in the name of Islam (even if it is a false Islam) it is easier to elicit this emotion.

Which brings us to Brexit. The British have an islander mentality – they see themselves as semi-European. They insist on their quirks. Look how long it took them to joint the rest of Europe and implement the metric system – it was really not until the 2000s that the final steps were taken. Anything imposed by THEM (the Europeans) is probably trying to screw them. This is not a new sentiment.

And now the OUTSIDERS want to screw them too. The mostly Muslim refugees pouring into Europe due to the instability in the Middle East and Africa provoked by radical Islamists and the terrorism in Europe by ISIS is proof that the OUTSIDERS are dangerous. We are an island – let’s pull up the drawbridge.

Which is just what ISIS wants. Their strategy is to induce fear and paranoia and polarize Muslims from the societies they are living in and turn them into a Fifth Column. So the efforts by Trump and some Brexit supporters to play the OUTSIDER / Muslim card is a big win for ISIS.

BTW, my prediction for the Brexit vote it pretty much the same as the Scottish vote: 55% vote to stay in.

Has Trump Peaked?

Has Donald Trump hit his high water mark in terms of his brand value? There is an old adage that says you should buy on the sizzle, sell on the steak.

So far, Trump’s efforts have been mostly sizzle. He really did not have to do anything but hype himself to win the primaries. Assuming he gets the nomination (hey, a lot of things could happen: Paul Ryan) he will have to start putting up some actual policies and those policies will be subject to a lot more scrutiny as they are the policies of the potential president.

Trump’s steak (!)  probably won’t stand up so well to the scrutiny. In addition, the publicity around Trump University and his many other ‘cons’ will likely only get worse. What if he gets beaten badly by Hillary Clinton? Even if he wins the election there is a good chance his approval rating will quickly fall to the dismal levels of George W’s.

Trump keeps telling his supporters (and investors) that he is a winner and that is one of the main reasons they line up behind him. Will he be able to maintain his support and brand value once he starts taking some real, sustained, hits? Or will his supporters turn around one day and tell him, “Donald, you’re fired!”.

Con-ald Trump

John Oliver did a piece on his television show a while back about Donald Trump and suggested that people call him by his ancestral family name as it would diminish his prestige: Donald Drumph just doesn’t sound as great. That is amusing but it does not really get to the essence of what has made Trump so successful in the celebrity, business and political worlds.

The thing is, if you look around the internet for the characteristics of a successful con artist, you will find that Trump exhibits most of them. He constantly brags about his success, builds supporters up as part of the ‘in’ crowd, misstates the facts (California is not in drought) and steers people away from anything inconvenient (my finances are none of your business). To be sure, there is also a large element of bully in Trump, but his success is mostly due to his mastery of the con man’s tool set. It is too bad John Oliver did not go all the way and re-name him Conald Drumph.