Grumpy Old Men

As an Arts and IR student from Melbourne, my column offers a broad perspective on current International affairs. I’m in my first year, draw political cartoons and major in history. Living on campus and keen on politics, my column Armchair Expert hopes to keep you informed for when politics come up in conversation.


Brexit and the Trump phenomenon can be traced back to voters that feel forgotten and abandoned.
2008 and the election of Barack Obama promised a new era of liberal ideology, a shrinking of the economic divide in America, freedom from racial persecution and the embracement of globalisation. All desirable prospects, and two Nobel peace prizes later, Obama seemed to be delivering. Yet today, the richest 62 people in the world own more than the bottom 50%, 102 unarmed African-Americans were killed by police in America in 2015, and Britain, Europe’s second largest economy, elected to leave the EU. Where did we go wrong? Simple. We failed to include the established and conservative-leaning demographics of society in this revolution, and they are now making us pay.

Consider Trump. If he had run in 2008 after two terms of Bush and trickle down economics, he would have either been assassinated (successfully) or laughed out of the first Republican debate. Yet after 8 long years of a president who is presented as a gun-grabbing, unpatriotic and – worst of all – un-relatable foreigner, the lower-classes are prepared to accept and even embrace racism and bigotry as a rebellion against the Washington elite. This tide of conservatism is overdue and already pushing at liberal sandbanks. Such a mood is reflected in Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton’s disapproval standing at 55%. Admittedly this figure is still lower than Trump’s, yet for a centrist politician to be so disconnected from the population, when such a radically right and unlikely character is stimulating such momentum, it suggests that these are not normal times. Executive orders, gridlock and a seemingly overwhelming China and Mexico are seen as betrayals to conservatives who value a narrow interpretation of the constitution, low immigration and the world’s best military and economy. Indeed, these values are exactly what Trump promises, seen through his conservative list of supreme court nominees, border protection at the center of his campaign and, of course, his hats. “Make America Great Again” promises a future where Americans are again the priority, securely tucked in behind a wall. The weight of this forgotten block of voters is undeniable, with 11.1 million voting for Trump already, and many more to come.

Now consider Brexit. “I am shocked but not surprised,” Elliot Tepper, political science professor and senior fellow at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, said of the results. “We have seen across Europe and in the United States, the rise of anti-establishment feeling. And certainly there are reasons for the disaffection.” Reasons such as a liberal acceptance of refugees during the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Unfortunately, such an intake invariably leads to an ‘us’ and ‘them’ divide.

The ‘us’ camp came out in force on the 23rd of June, pushing Britain out of the EU despite both major parties supporting a remain vote. Again, like the unlikely rise of Trump, this astounding result outlines the disobedience of citizens to parties that they feel have abandoned them in favor of liberal and outward policies, rather than conservative and inward focused priorities. Comically, both leaders of this latest conservative push are blonde, white, overweight males – Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. A mirror to the conservative voter: grumpy old men.

Brexit was significant, as unlike in America where The Donald is likely to crash and burn, the conservative block was actually the majority – 51% to 48%. Certainly a revolution is in process, but a very different revolution to 2008. In place of liberalism; conservatism.

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