There is one theme in common between the very different Brexit and Trump campaigns. Both drew strength from the growing hostility to global government, global treaties, neo con military interventions. Both challenged the arrogant assumption of superior wisdom and moral right adopted by a gilded elite flitting between the large corporations, quangos and governments of the advanced countries, claiming they know best and should be allowed to get on with it unchallenged.
In the case of the UK there was a strong feeling that a largely unaccountable use of power by the EU institutions was not what electors want. We accept that national governments make mistakes and may annoy us, but they are mistakes we can criticise and do something about . They are governments we can persuade to change or politicians we can remove from office if they stubbornly persist in doing the wrong things. We have little power or influence to change EU taxes , budgets and laws, and find that the rigid Treaty based legalistic approach makes normal democracy impossible. This is even more true for Euro members as Greece and its chosen government, Syriza discovered.
We remember the litany of disasters the so called experts and elites have visited upon us – their Exchange Rate Mechanism recession, their Banking crash slump, their Euro with running crises attached, their dear and intermittent energy which often produces more carbon dioxide overall, not less. On both sides of the Atlantic politicians struggle to explain why lower incomes remain depressed and why so many jobs have been exported abroad.
In the USA there was a feeling that their Washington elites – of both major parties – has embedded too much in global treaties too. They felt their trade and global warming treaties did not take into account the need for more and better paid jobs at home, and the important role cheaper energy plays in industrial renaissance. In both countries there was an anger about the elite idea that we in the west know best how Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern states should be governed, and have a moral duty to bomb their cities and train rebel groups in those countries to effect violent change.
The gilded elite lacks awareness of its own moral insensitivity. Why did Mrs Clinton think it a good idea to spend valuable campaign and air time in the last week fraternising with rich celebrities, rather than making it her business to see what she could do for out of work steelworkers or middle income Americans facing huge health insurance premium hikes from Obamacare? Why did she think it right to organise a large fireworks celebration of her victory before she was secure in that aim? Why did she not see that the big money she raised from corporates for her campaign posed presentational problems and would not guarantee victory just because she had more cash to spend than her rival?
There are so many examples of the elite rewarding itself too generously from public funds, living on donations from companies whilst claiming they have bought no influence, and meeting in private gatherings where the corporate financiers of it all can rub shoulders with the political leaders. If the governments do not deliver what people want, voters get suspicious of these methods.
Mr Trump’s slogan “Drain the swamp of Washington” resonated. It will be interesting to see if he can do it. A good start would be tough limits on how much a candidate can spend in an election, just as we rightly have here for individual constituency campaigns.