The Difference Between Trump and Brexit

Joanna Williams,

Release Date
January 27, 2017



Brexit and Trump’s election were both ways of “sticking the finger up to the establishment,” says the UK’s Dr. Joanna Williams — but the two votes were very different.

    1. Making Sense Of “Trumpism” (video): Steve Davies argues that there is a connection between the rise of Donald Trump and European populist movements, including Brexit. 
    2. Brexit Illustrates Why Voting Is One of the Worst Ways to Make Decisions (blog post): Professor Michael Munger argues that, for a number of reasons, voting is a terrible way to make decisions. 
    3. Populism is not an ideology (blog post): Joseph Salerno explains what populism is.


Dr. J. Williams: I think there’s lots of very interesting parallels that we can draw and I think the main parallel is that it’s essentially sticking the finger up to the establishment in both UK and the US. We’ve had enough of being told what to do. We’ve had enough of being told how to think and we, in the privacy of the voting booth, we will assert our right not to be told what to do, but I think it gives Trump too much credit and it degrades the concept of Brexit.
The vote for Brexit, I think, was a vote for independence, a vote for freedom, and the most important point about the Brexit vote was it was not for any one particular candidate. So, now you see Nigel Farage coming and having his photo taken next to Donal Trump, kind of chummying up and everything, and he’s trying to claim ownership of Brexit as if this was all his doing and as if it was a vote for him. It absolutely wasn’t.
Dave Rubin: Right. He was a piece of it, but he didn’t get power because of it.
Dr. J. Williams: Exactly. Exactly. So, lots of people, myself included, voted Leave to vote to leave the EU without for one second endorsing Nigel Farage. We did not think Nigel Farage represented us. We did not want Nigel Farage to represent us. We hate an awful lot of the things that he stood for and yet still felt able to vote Leave because to vote Leave was a vote for independence, a vote for freedom. For me, it was about saying I want to be able to vote out the people who make laws that have an impact upon my life. I think that’s a really basic fundamental right of a democracy. If you live in a democratic society if laws are made that affect your life, you should have the right to vote out the people who are making those laws. Under the EU we don’t.
But that said nothing about what laws you do want to have or who you want to be governing you or what kind of system you do want to live for. It was a reaction against. We want that freedom. Whereas the vote for Trump is a vote for something. It is a vote that’s going to give power to one individual. It might stem from the same root cause. There might be that same desire to tell the establishment we’ve had enough, but they’re very, very different.