Bernie-or-busters, weigh Brexit-and-busted

How protest votes can change the course of a country

The author, a Chico resident, is a former editor-in-chief of the CN&R.

For the United Kingdom’s referendum on the European Union, precisely 1,269,501 voters out of nearly 34 million—in a population of 65 million—made a decision that shook not only a continent, but also the world.

Just news of the UK’s pending exit sank the value of the fifth-largest global economy. By EU departure time, two years hence, there may not be much of a kingdom still united: Only England—which voted to Leave—could remain, as Scotland and Northern Ireland—both favoring Remain—have leave-the-UK moves afoot.

Oh, there’s this: One major Leave campaign promise was, in local parlance, balderdash. Money no longer EU-bound probably isn’t going into the National Health System. Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party, ate crow for that codswallop, hours after crowing, “June 23 will go down in history as our independence day!”

Four million Britons are petitioning for a mulligan, a do-over, with more than a million Leave voters expressing regrets. Some, irked with the status quo, had cast protest votes. Others didn’t consider or know the ramifications. Hardly any thought the majority would vote as they did.

June 24—a day late and a pound short—Google experienced a spike of UK searches on the EU, Brexit and “What happens if we leave the EU?”

The U.S. has a politician like Farage. He happened to be in the UK during the Brexit vote and aftermath. Opening his new golf resort, Trump Turnberry, he praised the turn toward independence. Or isolationism, depending on your view. Since he was speaking in Scotland, guess which view carried the day?

Donald Trump, dissembling his way to the Republican presidential nomination, has mined gold from the same vein as Leave with campaign themes of immigration and nationalism. Standing between him and the White House is Hillary Clinton. Even her primary rival, Bernie Sanders, has put aside his personal preference for the Democrats’ nominee, focusing his campaign on values propositions.

Voting your conscience is fine. Go Green if you support Jill Stein. But factor Brexit; factor Bush versus Gore versus Nader. Protest votes can leave a lot more to protest.