On November 8th, Donald Trump won a shocking victory over Democrat Hilary Clinton in one of the most controversial and surprising United States presidential elections in recent history. There were many reasons the result was considered such an upset – Trump’s lack of experience in politics, his inflammatory comments throughout the campaign, and the inability of polls to foresee such an outcome. Notably, Trump lost the popular vote while winning the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the election, thanks to close victories in key battleground states.
However, observers have pointed out that there were many signs of what was to come, particularly Britain’s referendum in which voters opted to leave the European Union. The vote was an equally close call, with 52 percent of voters choosing ‘Leave’.
Donald Trump’s focus on tightening immigration, and his reliance on votes from the rural, white, working class echo some of the factors behind Britain’s equally shocking June referendum that called for an exit from the EU. Also reminiscent of the Brexit referendum was the failure of pundits and pollsters to see what was coming – publications such as NY Times and Huffington Post rated Clinton’s chances of locking down the nomination at close to 99 percent.
Both Trump voters and Leave voters had high enthusiasm campaigns that seemed to generate unexpected turnout at the last minute. Both the Clinton campaign and the Remain campaign were criticized for what was perceived as establishment arrogance, assuming voters would “come to their senses” and vote the right way, while failing to ignite a movement to counter the opposition.
Perhaps above all, these votes indicated how both British and American culture had each diverged, with wide chasms opening between professionals in cosmopolitan urban areas and the working class in white, rural areas. In both instances, Remain and Clinton voters were astounded by the results, expressing that they were personally surrounded by like-minded voters.
Brexit leaders such as Nigel Farage even stumped for Donald Trump on the campaign trail, predicting “the end of a period of big business and big politics controlling our lives,” and saying Trump would be “a president who likes our country and understands our post-Brexit values.”
Donald Trump’s victory is also likely to embolden similar right-wing politicians seeking a larger share of power, especially in Europe. In France, former president Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking the nomination of the center right.
French analyst François Heisbourg said “It will feed into the process in France. Marine Le Pen actually looks sensible by comparison, and the one who will look most like Trump is Sarkozy.”
Le Pen, who is considerably further to the right wing than Sarkozy, has been considered a much more viable candidate since Trump’s shocking victory. She has run on anti-immigration and anti-interventionist sentiments similar to Donald Trump, although unlike Trump, she is not running as a member of a mainstream political party. Pen was one of the first European politicians to congratulate Trump on his upset victory.