So here we go again. Back in June my husband brought me a cup of tea in bed (I know, I’m always grateful!) along with the news that Britain had voted to bail out of Europe. I naturally thought he was trying to wind me up.. he has been known to have a bizarre sense of humour. But no. I spent the morning on the sofa, chewing my nails, failing to sort the children out for school and desperately trying to fight the rising feeling of foreboding.
Fast forward a few months and here I sit again feeling distinctly ill. The result are in, the world markets are already falling and that sense of foreboding is in full swing.
And my first question is exactly the same as it was back in June.. Why? Why is it that when faced with a choice that looks so clear cut to me, so many people choose what I would consider to be a frightening option? In the American election, I think it’s fair to say that there is a very thick glass ceiling which played its part in keeping Hilary in her place. But is it too easy to say that people would simply rather vote for a man than a woman? Because in this case they’re voting for a man with a very checkered past. A man that has been repeatedly accused of various crimes against women, a man who believes the way forward is to put up walls, a man who mocked disability in front of the world. Of course the woman he was up against had her own issues. A lack of care with security in previous high profile roles, a wayward husband and an inability to connect with ordinary people seem to be her greatest crimes. But is that it? Because we’d struggle to blame the battle of the sexes for the shock Brexit result.
It seems to me that in both cases democracy has become a carrier of fear. For many millions of people on this side of the Atlantic and in America, every day life is hard. We struggle to pay mortgages or rent; we struggle to find homes and work; we trudge along in unsatisfying jobs stuck on a never ending treadmill; we struggle to raise our children, to get them a good education and make sure they’re well fed and happy, and we worry whether we’ll ever be secure enough to retire. And we are continually told by our politicians that what we do on a daily basis isn’t good enough.
We look at those people with their grace and favour second homes; with their long lists of expenses that we pay; with their high earnings from multiple careers; their public school educations and their inherited wealth and we start to wonder why would we vote for them? They are forever telling us about the pains we need to endure to repay national debt but millions are now asking why? Why us? Why are we working harder for less when the ruling elite sail through life with their superior attitudes? And so millions of people have spoken. In these elections they’ve said that they’ve had enough. Enough of being ruled by people who are massively out of touch with reality. Enough of being patronised and blamed. Enough of shouldering the responsibility for the mistakes of the rich.
The full repercussions of both of these votes may take years to become clear, and whether or not politicians will finally start to hear this message remains to be seen. The polls in both cases were disastrously wrong, but were a clear indication of how the ‘haves’ massively underestimated the strength of feeling and the power of the ‘have nots’. The people that cast their votes in favour of Brexit and Trump can’t all be labelled as madmen or racist…many have just decided that the system is broken and so needs to be shaken up. They’ve got a point, but let’s hope that our politicians hear their message and learn from this quickly before too much damage is done..