In the past two to three years, it’s fair to say that there have been some controversial decisions within politics in the Western world and some people, such as MEP Martin Schulz, ￼have argued that these decisions were voted as a form of protest. Rather than logical voting, they were made using emotion and made as a push back against the integrated system. This article looks to explore this question in the context of the Brexit vote and the Trump presidency in order to help formulate an answer.
Starting with the Trump presidency, it is undoubtable that he is a controversial figure: he has made remarks during his presidency, and even beforehand, which degrade women, people of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ community. This shows without a doubt that he is a lot less politically correct than most candidates before him and certainly those that ran against him in the campaign. With many people who voted for Trump being relatively privileged (1), it can be inferred that this was a push back against the increasingly politically correct society that is forming in the US (2). As the world is becoming more tolerant, we see more and more stories of privileged people in the US being called out for their privilege, and those who are better off might feel that they are being treated unfairly - Trump could then be seen as a good candidate to show their distaste for politically correct culture. One quote collected from a Trump supporter said, “you all can defeat Trump next time, but not if you keep mocking us, refusing to listen to us, and cutting us out. It's Republicans, not Democrats, who will take Trump down." (2). In this article referenced, there are a lot of mentions of Americans being viewed first and that Trump puts America before the rest of the world, a point I will return to shortly.
Before the election, Martin Schulz (president of the European Parliament) stated that the possibility of a Trump presidency was a “protest vote similar to Brexit” (2), and in regards to the Brexit vote, it has been proved that many people were uninformed when they made their vote. Statistics show that only 28% of people want the Brexit vote to be honoured however only 11% of voters who voted ‘leave’ expressed regret (4). One of the reasons for this comes down to basic social psychology: people don’t like to be wrong and they don’t like to think that they have been tricked. People claim that their vote was a protest vote because they wanted things to change and in some cases, specifically with immigration policy, they didn’t know another way to make these changes happen. This argument also comes across in local economies: while London has been booming in terms of business growth and average household income, other regions of the country have been falling and this is where a lot of the votes for leave were (5). People wanted economic change; they wanted something to be done and this was the only way that individual people could make an impact.
Now, three years after these votes, what is the state of these two countries? As established previously, there is lots of evidence to suggest that the votes were indeed protest votes. In order to answer the initially posed question, we need to look more at the consequences of these votes.
In the US, Trump has had devastating effects on the environment. After pulling out of the Paris agreement and reopening coal mines, as well as denying the climate change exists at all, it’s safe to say that under his presidency, significant negative long term implications for the planet have been put into action. As well as this, he blocked national healthcare in the US. This means that 4 million people have lost their health insurance (6), making health care extremely difficult for middle and low economic households.
Switching views over to Brexit, it has long been established that leaving the EU will be an economic nightmare, as well as the issues facing British people in terms of imports and exports. 12% of NHS workers are non-British and many other aspects of public service have high levels of non-British workers as well. This puts that workforce at risk as well as our economic safety and trade agreements.
Protest votes ￼are a form of drastic protest and they should be prevented from having lasting consequences on our societies. Whether this comes from having more public votes (for example: the US having a vote regarding the reopening of coal mines) or attempting to improve the information given out to voters prior to the elections. Looking at Brexit specifically, there was a lot of scaremongering taking place, which means that the vote therefore becomes less objective and more of an emotional decision. In order for this problem to truly be resolved, each of these cases would need to be looked at individually in order to find the best way of solving them as, in most cases, voting is the only way of allowing the public a voice and allowing them to have a say over the society that they live in. This is the only way they know how to elicit change – even if it is through extreme actions.