"Anybody who was anybody in politics, business, finance, academia, punditry, polling, and even bookmakers resolutely declared that Brexit shouldn't happen and wouldn't happen. Within living memory, never have so many been so wrong about so much."
So I observed in a Denver Post column last July, remarking on how the UK's stunning vote to leave the European Union pointed up the political and economic malaise of the West.
Substitute the phrase "a Trump victory" for the word "Brexit" and this paragraph aptly describes the political earthquake that occurred on November 8th.
The Reagan landslide of 1980 is the closest parallel in American history. But in terms of sheer jaw- dropping surprise, even that fails comparison with the stunning upset achieved by Donald Trump.
Those whom the British call the "talking classes" are utterly baffled and at a loss to describe how and why this seismic event happened.
For perspective it is best to see this election as part of a "revolt of the masses" against globalization and in defense of national sovereignty that is occurring across the Western world.
Globalization has created a "New Economy" which has been great for society's elites but deadly for the little guy. Wall St. loves it, but Main St. hates it.
The handmaiden of the New Economy is a "New Politics" which militates toward ever-greater centralization and the empowerment of unelected bureaucrats and bankers who arrogate to themselves authority to make rules and regulations for everybody else and effectively decide who will be the winners and losers in this "Brave New World".
The similarities between the Brexit and Trump victories are striking in terms of the people, the issues, and the complete failure of the "Establishment" in both countries to see the upset coming.
On hearing of the Trump victory English commentator Julian Tollast said, "Oh, God, the media and the polls got it completely wrong again." Professor Matthew Goodwin of the University of Kent observed, "Once again we have collectively failed to identify the frustration and anger among mainly white and less educated people regarding globalization and uncontrolled immigration."
They also failed to gauge the intensity of feeling and the massive turnout it generated in the rural and Rust Belt regions of both countries.
Yet another similarity was the manner in which the parties of the Left- U.K. Labour and U.S. Democrats- were hugely deserted by their heretofore-loyal working class constituencies. Today both parties are reeling and groping for new identities in this radically transformed political environment.
Brexit architect Nigel Farage, who had campaigned with Trump, calls on him after the election
The reverberations from these two elections are rippling all across Europe where previously "populism" and "nationalism" had been demonized by the Elites as “racist” and even "Fascist”. Suddenly these condescending attitudes are being reconsidered. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson "the prospect of being Hanged in the Morning (electorally speaking) concentrates the mind Wonderfully."
What comes next in American politics depends on the answers to several questions that are simply unknowable at this early date. Can Mr. Trump work effectively with GOP Congressional leaders many of whom fled from his candidacy during the recent campaign? Will these same Congressional leaders see that they must meet Mr. Trump at least halfway on his key issues (e.g. trade, immigration) if they are to have any hope of passing meaningful legislation?
Can Democrats in Congress notably the twenty-five Senators who are on the ballot in 2018 recognize why so many of their constituents voted for Mr. Trump and see the virtue of avoiding outright obstructionism? Can Mr. Trump who fancies himself "Negotiator" and "Deal-Maker" par excellence actually find an intelligent path in dealing with the host of foreign friends and foes who right now are urgently trying to figure him out.
All Americans should be heartened by the strikingly civil tones and cooperative themes evidenced in the first post-election speeches of Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton, and President Obama. In the end this election was not about the "tumult and shouting", or even about the candidates, but about the American people who reminded us once again that the Great American Democracy remains in Lincoln's immortal words a "government of the people, by the people and for the people."
Bill Moloney is a Centennial Institute fellow and former Colorado education commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post and Human Events