Op-Ed: The Emotional Appeal of Brexit and Trumpism

Anti-establishment sentiments on the ground have been steadily increasing due to economic dissatisfaction and political disillusionment. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the UK and the US.

Brexit results indicate that Londoners have been living in their own bubble compared to the rest of England. While Londoners have gained from globalisation and the financial markets, Britons in the Midlands and the North East have struggled to make ends meet with deindustrialisation and a shifty jobs market. London’s dominance in politics and the media has left Britons elsewhere feeling ignored and left behind.

Thus Brexit has largely been analysed as revenge against the metropolitan elite; a means of punishing politicians like David Cameron and George Osborne – public school boys and members of Oxford’s Bullingdon Club.


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Indeed, Boris Johnson is of similar breed – an Old Etonian and Bullingdon alumni. Yet his appearance and demeanour of a shaggy buffoon enabled him to position himself as an anti-establishment figure, set on “taking back control” from the EU. To the disenfranchised outside London, Boris Johnson represented hope despite his silver-spoon upbringing.

Similarly, The Donald is an “anti-candidate” candidate. He thrives on not being a politician, and relies on his political incorrectness for exposure and popularity. Although his solutions are wrong and xenophobic, such as building a wall on the Mexican border and banning Muslims from entering the US, his narrative is clear – politicians have been getting it wrong and only he can Make America Great Again. Trumpism is essentially music to the ears of the protest voter.


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One could also argue that The Donald’s popularity is not because he is entertaining or even likeable, but because voters simply loathe Hillary Clinton. Protest voters loathe her so much that they are willing to vote Trump just because he is the alternative to a Clinton White House. With three months to go until the election, she is still unable to shy away from the perception of her as untrustworthy, corrupt and elitist. Even Barack Obama’s donors have yet to support her when she is running on continuing the President’s work.

The anti-establishment sentiments are clear. Brexit was a vote against the cosmopolitan, elitist bubble that is London. And Trumpism signals that demagogues trump rationality in politics today (excuse the pun.)

Politics & Current Affairs Contributor