Brits say "FU!" To the EU.
On October 19, 1781, on Virginia’s Yorktown peninsula, column after column of British soldiers marched in file as they stacked their arms, the final act of capitulation to a combined American and French army under the command of Gen. George Washington.
This ritual of surrender played out to the accompaniment of the British army band playing a most appropriate tune, an old English ballad, “The World Turned Upside Down.” After all, this wasn’t supposed to happen. How could 13 backward colonies possibly defeat the world’s greatest military power?
On Thursday, June 23, 2016, the world once again turned upside down. What wasn’t supposed to happen happened: The British people voted to withdraw from the previously sacrosanct European Union, toppling the government of Prime Minister David Cameron and tanking financial markets from New York to Rangoon.
And this means what?
Well, it could mean a lot to the Brits. The United Kingdom may end up disunited if Scotland and Northern Ireland, two member states of the Commonwealth, hold yet another referendum and decide to split from the country.
Anti-EU movements are growing in France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland and possibly the rest of Europe as well.
While there are a multitude of reasons that millions of Brits chose to vote with their feet, the two key issues in Thursday’s election turned out to be a loss of sovereignty and immigration.
Nobody should be surprised.
The elites of England — like their counterparts in America’s political, economic and media establishment — have ignored the legitimate concerns of their fellow countrymen left to suffer the consequences of profound social and economic upheaval.
Worries about jobs lost to globalization and cherished cultural identity were/are arrogantly dismissed as provincialism, xenophobia and racism. While change is always greeted with resistance in a democracy, cramming social and economic upheaval down peoples’ throats without any attempt to correct excesses is a virtual guarantee of an equal and opposite reaction.
Exhibit A? Donald Trump.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee happened to be in Scotland pimping two of his golf course properties on the very day of the historic Brexit election. This quirk of timing presented Trump with a worldwide audience to spike the football at Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama’s expense. Trump correctly analogizes the frustration of long-ignored Brits with the frustrations of millions upon millions of Americans whose jobs have been lost to outsourcing or the abundant supply of cheaper and cheaper labor via illegal immigration.
Had Britain’s leaders offered some redress of grievances, Thursday’s election might never have happened.
Had Republican and Democratic leaders in this country addressed the real pain and suffering of towns and cities whose economies have been gutted by offshoring and the influx of millions upon millions of foreign workers, both legal and illegal, Donald Trump would still be benignly employed as a reality television goofball rather than a few Electoral College votes away from access to our nuclear arsenal.
My crystal ball is notoriously cloudy, therefore I’ll spare you yet another media prediction. I have no idea if last Thursday’s vote will turn out to be another Battle of Yorktown or England’s finest hour. I am willing to predict the same forces that swept Great Britain out of the European Union can sweep Donald Trump into the Oval Office.
Talk about an upside-down world.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays from 5-10 a.m. on KABC AM (790). He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.