The Arena: From across the pond

2/7/16 – Medford/Somerville, MA – Aren Torikian poses for a headshot on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

If you have been following my Instagram lately, you will have noticed that I am studying abroad in the United Kingdom this year. To be honest, it’s a bit of a bummer to miss out on the last month of the presidential campaign. It’s even more of a bummer having to wake up at 2 a.m. to watch a debate (or whatever last Monday’s events were). But being abroad has given me perspective. Not on life (like every other student abroad says), but on our elections.

I’ve met a lot of people in my first few weeks here at Oxford, and it seems like my conversations always move toward the same question: “What do you think about Donald Trump?” One person just asked me how much I had been asked about Trump and then — you guessed it — asked me about Trump. While talking with students here, it became apparent that there exists an interesting parallel between this election and the Brexit vote.

Nobody thought Britain would vote to leave the European Union. Polls showed the Remain side ahead by a few points throughout the spring and early summer. But on the day of the election, the Leave side won by almost four points. One person I met told me they had not known a single person voting Leave other than her batty old neighbor.

Here in the United States, many were under the impression that Trump would not win a primary. Or survive through February. Or March. Or get the nomination. Then, many thought he wouldn’t be able to last against Hillary Clinton. Time and time again, we have been wrong. Sure, Trump is six points behind as of now, but the man has gone through enough scandals in these last two weeks to end several political careers.

Both the Leave and Trump campaigns have found success tapping into similar fears. The Leave campaign argued that Britain could make better trade deals alone as opposed to as part of the EU. It also drummed up fears of refugees making their way into Britain. Replace a few of those words and you’ve got yourself a Trump speech.

Trump has called NAFTA — a trade deal between America, Canada and Mexico — “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere.” As you are well aware, he even wants to build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants out of the United States.

The result came about with a demographic split. Of England’s nine regions, only one — the rich and urban London — voted Remain. The less educated and older voting blocs drove the Leave vote; exit polls showed 61 percent of those over 65 (and just 25 percent of those under 25) voting for Brexit. We’ll see what exit polls show for the elections in America, but polling seems to indicate a similar split in the United States.

With just three weeks left until the elections, and Clinton showing potential victories even in some traditional red states like Arizona, it can be easy to assume checkmate. Brexit and Trump are reminders that anything can happen in a ballot booth. No matter whom you are voting for, go out and register or get an absentee ballot or vote early — whatever it takes. Vote in your local elections, too. If the Americans here in England can do it from an ocean away, so can you guys in the colonies.


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