It struck in a flash.
Only hours after polls closed in the United Kingdom, a Prime Minister resigned, the British Pound dropped to its lowest level in 31 years and two trillion dollars in value instantly vaporized as financial markets around the world perilously plummeted with no easy end in sight.
By the relatively thin margin of 51.9% to 48.1%, U.K. voters determined it was time to leave The European Union - a politico-economic grouping of 28 member states with a total population exceeding 500 million. The EU was formed in the aftermath of World War II in an effort to create, in the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “a United States of Europe.” The U.K. has been a member for more than four decades.
Moments after final results were tallied, right-wing leader Nigel Farage joyously proclaimed. “June 23 will go down in history as our Independence Day.” This was before the bottom dropped out.
Farage had to admit only hours later that a key claim insisting that “leaving” would mean that “350 million pounds a week ($500 million US dollars) currently going to the European Union would go to National Health Service” was an outright lie.
When ITV’s Susanna Reid pressed him on this issue before an incredulous national TV audience, Farage admitted that allegation was “a mistake.” Reid hammered on, “You’re saying that 17 million people have voted to leave on the basis of that? That was a huge part of the propaganda – you’re now saying that was a mistake?” Deafening silence followed.
Then Google reported experiencing a major surge in U.K. searches not only relating to the ballot measure, but also with basic questions concerning implications of the vote, especially “what happens if we leave the U.K.?”
It now seems that many of those voting really had no idea what they were supporting other than displaying xenophobic concern over immigration, signaling deep personal discontent over economics and expressing general disappointment with the immediate status quo. They answered the siren call of a simple solution like petulant children – blindly striking out against perceived injury and neglect without a hint of proper understanding or meaningful reflection.
Donald Trump praised the outcome from his golf course in Scotland, boastfully stating that the same forces causing the U.K. to leave the European Union will elect him President in the fall. Trump bellowed, “I think I see a big parallel ... people here want to take their country back.” This ignored the fact that Scotland, itself, along with Northern Ireland, dramatically voted to remain in the EU. The outcome has also renewed cries in Scotland to again vote on independence from England, yet one more thread among thousands threatening to unravel in the wake of Thursday’s alarming - and until recently unexpected vote.
More than three million people have now signed a petition calling for a second referendum on the issue, already gaining far more than the 100,000 required to be considered by Parliament for debate, its website crashing several times due to high demand.
It seems entirely plausible that a more enlightened U.K. electorate may soon find an opportunity to overturn what might ultimately be regarded as an unfortunate, yet only temporarily inconvenient misunderstanding driven by nativist naivete - speedily resolved by concerned common consensus.
Our Constitutional Republic does not allow for quick second chances.
Barring impeachment and consequential removal from office, an event that has never transpired in our history, Nov. 8 will lock in a new American president for four years.
As valid analysis continues on the threat of uninformed populism around the globe, there is no assurance that tragic collective misjudgment, however inadvertent, can’t happen here.
Pray for clueless friends.
As we honor this nation’s history and celebrate our own Independence Day next Monday, there is much remaining unsettled.
Hounds of misfortune howl in the night.
Danger is at our door.
Donald Trump menaces us all.