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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Brexit (2019 HBO Movie): Lessons for America




The new movie Brexit, released twelve days ago on HBO, provides some important lessons for America, in the parallels of what led to the Brexit win in the UK referendum and the election of Donald Trump President of the United States in the Electoral College.   That difference - success in a straightforward plebiscite verses a complex and indirect electoral college, in addition to Trump's opponent winning the popular vote in the US - points to a crucial way in which the two exercises in democracy are not comparable.  But let's look at the similarities, first.

The two factors that protagonist Dominic Cummings (well played by Benedict Cumberbatch) brilliantly taps into and applies in Brexit are the feeling of many people that life has passed them by ("take back control") and the value of social media with their records of Likes, Shares, Re-Tweets in reaching segments of the voting public under or off the radar of more traditional advertising media.  Trump's campaign mined both - "make America great again" and targeting of frustrated Americans on Facebook (as well as Trump's affinity for Twitter).  American computer scientist and billionaire Robert Mercer provided assistance to both Brexit and Trump, and we even see the back of Steve Bannon's head in one scene of Brexit.

Nonetheless, Trump lost the popular vote in the US.   He says, and it's a fair enough point, that he would have conducted his campaign differently if the Presidency were decided by popular vote in America.  But what could Trump have done to reduce the huge margins for Hillary Clinton in California?  Short of going to an alternate reality where the Electoral College didn't exist, we'll never know,

Brexit the movie deserves credit for getting us to look at these questions.   My favorite scene was Cummings and his counterpart Craig Oliver having a beer shortly before the ballots were cast.  Would that such profound political disagreements could be discussed so civilly more often.

Hey, I tried to do that the other day on Fox Nation ...


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