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.