Outcome’s ripple effects stoke presidential campaigns
Washington — Britain’s stunning vote to bolt from the European Union sent political tremors across the Atlantic Friday, fueling Donald Trump’s confidence that frustrated U.S. voters will back similarly sweeping change and rattling Democrats banking on Americans choosing a more conventional leader in Hillary Clinton.
The British referendum was no exact mirror of the U.S. political landscape. The American electorate is far more diverse and Trump is deeply unpopular with minority voters, a serious weakness dogging his Republican candidacy. The referendum also centered on a single issue, while the presidential election can be as much a decision about personality and temperament as candidates’ policies.
Yet the parallels between the forces that drove the British vote and those at the core of Trump’s campaign are striking. Among them: a belief that globalization is hurting the working class, and increased immigration is changing the country’s character. In both nations, there is strong resentment of political elites who often appear to have little connection to the voters they’re supposed to represent.
“I think there are great similarities between what happened here and my campaign,” Trump said from Scotland, at the opening of one of his golf courses. “People want to see borders. They don’t necessarily want people pouring into their country that they don’t know who they are and where they come from.”
Stock markets plummeted after the outcome, Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation and the British pound fell to its lowest level in 31 years on concerns that severing ties will undermine London’s position as a global financial center.
In the U.S., Clinton cast the economic uncertainty as a reason America needs “calm, steady, experienced leadership” in the Oval Office — a knock on her often unpredictable and politically inexperienced Republican rival. Clinton aides also highlighted Trump’s assertion Friday that a weaker pound would make his Scottish golf course more attractive to visitors.
Some Democrats, openly anxious, warned the party should not underestimate the willingness of angry U.S. voters to take a more uncertain path in November and side with Trump.
“It’s a timely big splash of cold water the face of Democrats,” said Ron Kirk, the former Democratic mayor of Dallas and U.S. trade representative for President Barack Obama.
For some Republicans, the outcome in Britain was a reminder that despite Trump’s shortcomings, he may be the candidate most attuned to voters — an intangible that campaign cash can’t buy.
“Brexit is a wakeup call for the Clinton team,” said Scott Reed, chief strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The status quo won’t work this cycle.”