Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

Brexit+Frexit+Texit = Ipse Dixit

Gawd, what a week:

The Trump for President campaign filed a financial report which was "highly disappointing" at best, "utterly disastrous" at worst. It showed that the Trump campaign hasn’t raised nearly enough money to run an effective presidential campaign, especially against a well-funded Democratic Party veteran like Hillary Clinton. The Trump campaign raised only $3 million in May, compared with $26 million for Clinton. Even worse, the report showed that heading into June, Trump had just $1.29 million in cash on hand, as compared to Secretary Clinton's $42 million.  The A.P. reported that Trump had a maximum of 30 full time paid on-the-group staffers across the country.  (By comparison, it takes more than 30 people to fully staff a single TGI Fridays. Heck, I attended a Clinton strategy session this past Friday that had more than 30 people in a single room.) 

The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows a precipitous drop in Trump's poll numbers: Trump trails Hillary Clinton by 12 points (51 percent to 39 percent) among likely general election voters. And the same survey, conducted after the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., found 64 percent of Americans don’t think Trump is qualified to be commander in chief. As a result of all this bad news the billionaire bullyboy fired his volcanic campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who was then hired by C.N.N. to become their newest political commentator, which in turn led to"a near internal revolt" at the cable network and snarky comments from the likes of Meagan Kelly.  Along these lines, the week ended with veteran conservative columnist George F. Will announcing that he had changed party affiliation and would urge Republicans not to vote for Donald Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refusing to say whether he believes his party's nominee is even qualified to be POTUS.

That's all on this side of "The Pond."  Crisscrossing over to Europe . . .

Voters in the U.K. decided to leave the European Union. Within hours, British P.M. David Cameron, who had campaigned vigorously for Britain to remain a part of the E. U., announced that he would resign his post by October. Almost immediately, speculation began to grow that former London Mayor Boris Johnson - a British version of Trump without the gelt - would become Britain's next P.M.  Global markets from Tokyo to Tunis tumbled; market analysts estimated that "The Brexit Panic" had wiped out upwards of $2 trillion in a single day. The Dow Jones 30 stock index fell 610.32 points - a 3.39% loss. The British pound tumbled to its lowest level in more than 30 years, leading more than one political wag to suggest it be renamed "the ounce." Donald Trump, who didn't have the slightest idea to what #Brexit referred on the first of June, interrupted his presidential bid to suddenly jet over to Scotland (which voted overwhelmingly to remain part of the E.U.)  in order to inspect "Turnberry," his newest golf course. In a single unscripted breath on the ninth tee of his golf course, he both took credit for the Brexit vote - if it turns out to be a  good thing - and blamed President Obama for the vote - if it turns out to be bad. (On the latter point, he said: "[Obama] is constantly dictating to the world what they should do. The world doesn't listen to him, obviously. You can see that from the vote. I actually think his recommendation…caused it to fail.")

 And, in a moment of utter tone-deafness, Trump said he was happy about this turn of events, because ". . . if the pound goes down, they're gonna do more business. . . .You know, when the pound goes down, more people are gonna come to Turnberry . . ." One wonders if Trump might be on the verge of changing his campaign slogan from "Make American Great Again!" to "Make America Great Britain Again!"  Then too, it should be noted that Trump endorser Sarah Palin added her discounted 2¢, concluding that "The Brexit referendum is akin to our own Declaration of Independence. May that refreshed spirit of sovereignty spread over the pond to America's shores! It is time to dissolve political bands that connect us to agendas not in our best interest; may UN shackles be next on the chopping block."

Humorously (shamelessly?) Trump told the world that he sees in Britain's vote to leave the E.U., validation for his campaign for POTUS: "I think there are great similarities between what happened here and my campaign. People want to see borders. They don’t necessarily want people pouring into their country — that they don’t know who they are and where they come from.’ "I think I see a big parallel," Trump said. "I think people really see a big parallel — a lot of people are talking about that. And not only the United States, but other countries. People want to take their country back." Of course, no one - save Mr. Trump - truly knows whether it was xenophobia, racism, economic disparity, paranoia, or a world-wide wave of nationalistic bravado that underlay the vote.  Then too, good old-fashioned political ignorance could have played a significant role; unbelievably, within moments of the polls closing, British voters began inundating the online search engine Google with two questions:

  1. "What is the E.U?" and
  2. "What does it mean to leave the E.U?"

Perhaps people in Britain are having a bit of "buyer's remorse."  A petition calling for another referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union has quickly received millions of signatures (more than 3 million as of 24 hours ago) — a level that means it must now be debated by British politicians. It was apparently so popular that the British Parliament's website, where the petition was hosted, briefly crashed.  Precisely what the vote means for the future of the U.K. - let alone the continent or the United States - is anyone's guess. 

Ever since the end of World War II, the world has become a smaller place.  Colonial entities rebelled against their masters, became impoverished countries and grew into powerful nations.  The wonders of technology further aided in the shrinking of a once vast planet, turning it into a series of markets.  Not surprisingly, these changes, while good and positive for many of the world's former have-nots, brought fear, uncertainty and a longing for "the good old days" to those who used to be on top. As such, the world has become a fertile breeding ground for demagogues; for those who are most adept at roiling already turbulent waters and lacing insecurity and uncertainty with the narcotic of fear.  hey prey on those whose knowledge of world affairs - of history, politics and economy - is slight and thus can be easily molded into an amen chorus.

 It is more than clear that what just happened in Britain is not an isolated case of political madness; it is a trend we've seen before.  As the world becomes increasingly intertwined by a network of markets and movements, a return to the political and psychological borders of yesteryear is insane.  Simply stated, tomorrow can never be like yesterday. The rise of Donald Trump is part of a nationalist trend we've seen whenever the challenges of the present make the past look like times of wine and roses by comparison. Today, there are hyper-nationalist movements galore on the continent - and even in the United States - all seriously pushing for disunion. Could this be the beginning of Frexit (France), Nexit (Netherlands), Gexit (Germany) , Dexit (Denmark), Swexit (Sweden), Grexit (Greece) and perhaps even Texit (Texas)?

Examples abound:

  • In France, Marine Le Pen, the virulently anti-Semitic leader of the Front National (FN) hailed Brexitas a clear boost for her presidential bid next spring, as well as a move that gave momentum to the party’s anti-Europe and anti-immigration line. “Victory for Freedom! As I have been asking for years, we must now have the same referendum in France and EU countries,” Le Pen wrote on Twitter.
  • In The Netherlands, MP , the far right Islamophobic demagogue Geert Wilders called for a referendum on Dutch membership of the EU. “I think it’s historic,” he told Dutch radio. “I think it could also have huge consequences for the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Now it’s our turn. I think the Dutch people must now be given the chance to have their say in a referendum.”
  • In Germany,  Beatrix von Storch, an MEP for the right wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland, welcomed the result: “The 23 of June is a historic day. It is Great Britain’s independence day. The people were asked – and they decided. The European Union as a political union has failed,” said Storch, who was recently expelled from the Tories’ party group in the European parliament after suggesting German police might be within their rights to shoot refugees trying to cross the border.
  • In Sweden, the far right Sweden Democrats, who hold the balance of power in Stockholm, tweeted “Congratulations to Britain’s people on choosing independence! Now we are waiting for a #swexit!”
  • In Denmark, the powerful far-right Danish People’s party congratulated the British people on their “bold” choice, which, it said, was a “stinging slap to the whole system.” The DPP’s spokesperson Kenneth Kristensen Berth told Danish media: “These European bureaucrats have been unusually adept at avoiding any possible confrontation with the massive popular opposition to the project. The [British] signal cannot be overheard.”
  • Back here at home, there is even a nascent "Texit" movement in Texas.  “The win for Brexit opens the door for Texit by establishing, concretely, that it is possible to have an adult conversation on independence and letting the people have the final say,” Daniel Miller, President of the Texas Nationalist Movement [TNM] said in a statement just hours after the British vote. Boasting 261,231 supporters on its website, TNM is calling for more Texans to join and bring pressure on Texas Governor Greg Abbott to allow a vote on independence from the US and its “sprawling Federal bureaucracy.” Failing to put its single issue on the ballot last year, and with the Brexit victory coming too late to rally support for a 2016 attempt, TNM will now aim for the 2018 mid-term election to convince voters to leave the US. The Lone Star State was the 28th to join the Union in 1845, following nine years of being an independent republic. And based on its present day $1.6 trillion economy, if it did become a separate nation, it would be among the 10 top economies in the world, Miller has repeatedly reminded his supporters. TNM 208,643 likes on Facebook, compared to 132,057 for the Texas Democratic Party anda mere 75,470 for the state’s GOP.

This is indeed scary stuff.

Donald Trump - along with the likes of Le Pen, Wilders, von Storch, Berth and Miller - are bent on turning the clock back to a time when white Europeans were in charge; on convincing their huddled masses that their very existence and future is in history's cross hairs and whatever they - the demagogues of nationalism - say is 100% true because . . . because . . . well, because they say it is. In Latin, this is called ipse dixit - literally "he himself said it."  Ever since the days of the Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero who first coined the term, it has referred to an arbitrary dogmatic statement which the speaker - who likely knows it not to be true - expects the listener to accept . . . merely because he says it. 

In other words, Brexit, Frexit, Grexit, Texit and Trump are all prime examples of ipse dixit, which is both highly contagious and potentially lethal . . .

Copyright ©2016 Kurt F. Stone