Verbum Ultimum: Lessons from Brexit

by THE DARTMOUTH SUMMER EDITORIAL BOARD | 6/30/16 6:00pm

Although the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union — “Brexit” — may feel far removed from our isolated lives in the Dartmouth bubble, its consequences for those of us on this side of the pond are clear. Since the British government held the referendum on June 23, global stock markets are plummeting, with a record $3 trillion wiped from global markets the Friday and Monday following Brexit.

The U.S. Dollar rising against the pound may be great for your fall term abroad, but it also means that CD and Bond yields are likely to fall. While Britain and Europe are shouldering most of the fallout from this decision, we still need to wake up and pay attention.

Perhaps the most important lesson Americans can draw from the Brexit vote is that we can’t be complacent in this year’s election. In many ways, supporters of the Leave campaign come from the same demographic and hold similar beliefs to Donald Trump’s base: both groups tend to be older and less educated. And their motivations are similar. Both campaigns rely heavily on xenophobic sentiment: the Leave campaign by generating fear of Syrian refugees and Trump’s campaign by fueling antagonistic attitudes toward both Hispanic and Muslim immigrants. Both are nationalist — and in many ways bigoted — movements that thrive on fear-mongering, drawing divisions among people and breeding hatred that translates in the polls to decisions that damn us all.

It’s clear that these two campaigns are similar, but what does that similarity mean for us? It’s simple: the rise of Trump and the victory of the Leave campaign are not so different. If it could happen there, it can happen here. And unlike many of our tea-drinking counterparts, we can’t shuffle our collective feet and act surprised and chagrined, saying we hadn’t realized this could happen, or we thought other people would vote the way we wanted and we didn’t have to, or in hindsight, we wish we had voted differently.

Brexit is a clear warning sign that if we don’t take a vote seriously, we probably won’t be happy with the outcome. During the primary, the media and many others believed fervently that Trump would never become the GOP’s candidate. It’s time to take responsibility for our vote and realize that President Trump is a very real possibility and, if that’s not an eventuality we want, we can’t wait for someone else to vote for the opposition for us. No more excuses about how difficult it is to vote or how your vote doesn’t matter. If you think you don’t know enough about Trump or Clinton’s campaigns, take some time to do research. Find out the candidates’ views and precedence about our nation’s pressing issues and consider the real change each person could affect over the next four years.

America, however, will not necessarily follow the lead of our friends across the pond. The Brexit vote suffered from a lack of voter turnout among young people, like us. 75 percent of young people who did turnout voted to remain in the EU. Yet, their votes comprised a small portion of the overall group of voters aged 18 and above. Approximately only 36 percent of people aged 18 to 24 voted in the EU referendum. Similarly, in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, only 45 percent of eligible voters aged 18 to 29 voted, which was a decrease of about 1.8 million voters in the same age group who voted in the 2008 election. In both voting scenarios, voters aged 65 and older dominated the polls, with 83 percent turnout for the EU referendum and 72 percent for the U.S. presidential election in 2012.

Brexit has not spelled out the conclusion of this year’s election, but we can certainly learn from it to make sure we — the youth of this country — are not apathetic and actually show up in November. Young, educated voters need to head out to the ballot box and make our voices heard or else, like many young Brits realized last week, the older generation will end up deciding our future for us.

The Dartmouth Summer Editorial Board is comrpised of the Editor-in-Chief, the Executive Editor, and the Opinion section of The Dartmouth.