Clinton Has Empowered Same Populist Elements Responsible For Brexit
In a statement released this morning Hillary Clinton said that the vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union created a “time of uncertainty.” The former Secretary of State went on to say that the Brexit vote “underscores the need for us to pull together… not tear each other down.” Yet Clinton’s critical words concerning Brexit glide past the fact that she subscribed to a similar populism that powered the pro-Brexit to overcome Bernie Sanders’ primary challenge.
It is an undisputed fact that during the Democratic primary Clinton flip-flopped on numerous positions, from free trade to immigration, in order to appeal to the growing populist fury within the Democratic party:
“Clinton’s rhetoric on economic policy has been under the microscope all year as the Democratic base increasingly rallies behind politicians like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who emphasize inequality and corporate malfeasance in stark terms. Today’s speech suggested Clinton is working on offering her own variation on the theme, one that mixes her work representing the country abroad into a tough critique of the economy at home.”
Voters in the United Kingdom saw a similar shift from politicians like former London mayor Boris Johnson. In order to win their referendum, the Leave campaign relied on populist rhetoric for their message. Boris Johnson, “the populist figurehead of the Leave campaign,” flip-flopped, like Clinton, on positions to lead the Leave campaign.
No issue better highlights the similar populist shifts of Clinton and Johnson then free trade. Both have shifted on free trade to better appeal to the populist elements they wished to lead.
Famously, Clinton as Secretary of State called the Trans-Pacific Partnership the “gold standard” of trade deals. Yet during the Democratic primary Clinton announced that she was now opposed to TPP, in the face of Bernie Sanders strong challenge.
During the Brexit campaign, Johnson also made a free trade flip-flop. Back in 2014, Johnson called TTIP “great project”. Yet during the heat of the campaign, Johnson turned against the trade deal:
“The speech by Johnson, who has written a biography of Churchill, lampooned the TTIP process. “As for the argument that we need the muscle of EU membership if we are to do trade deals – well, as I say, at the results after 42 years of membership, the EU has done trade deals with the Palestinian Authority and San Marino. Bravo. But it has failed to conclude agreements with India, China or even America,” he said. ‘Why? Because negotiating on behalf of the EU is like trying to ride a vast pantomime horse, with 28 people blindly pulling in different directions.’”
Another similarity between Clinton and Johnson is that both have used misleading monetary figures to strike a more populist chord. Just this week Clinton made a populist turn when she promised significantly increased infrastructure spending, without declaring how she was going to pay for it. Similarly, Johnson used untrue rhetoric when he claimed that the money sent to the EU would be spent be spent on the NHS instead.
Boris Johnson unleashed a populist fury in the United Kingdom and we are now seeing the devastating results to the financial markets today. Will Clinton’s embrace of the Sanders-Warren populist liberalism have the same result?