While it’s too soon to tell what effect Brexit will have on the U.S. election in November, it’ll undoubtedly act as a shot in the arm for a resurgent far-right. Trump’s campaign has already energized the once-struggling white nationalist movement. Brexit—living proof that virulently nativist politics can find their way into the mainstream and can deal a severe blow to the global order within the confines of the democratic process—can only embolden them.
America’s younger white nationalists have embraced the European far-right as a model for their own movement. The American alt-right—a term devised by National Policy Institute director and noted white nationalist, Richard Spencer—has strong European connections, largely through its embrace of “identitarianism.” The term, borrowed from the French Nouvelle Droit (“New Right”), places race at the center of any political calculus. Racial calculations here tend to be broader than those of some long-standing white power groups; “whiteness” can encompass groups, such as Eastern Europeans, once scorned by, say, the Nazis or the KKK.
The alt-right has rallied, with varying enthusiasm, around Trump, citing his focus on non-white immigration. (See “White Power Meets Business Casual,” WS, May 2, 2016.) That’s not to say that American white nationalists and their fellow travelers are uniformly pro-Brexit or, for that matter, care deeply about an “independent Britain.” Spencer, in a podcast several days prior to the referendum, said he’s a “euro-skeptic skeptic”—after all, “being pro-EU and being ethnonationalist is not a contradiction.”
In other words, Europe can be united against a racialized “other.” “Internal immigration within the European Union—the so-called Polish plumber—is arguably a real instance of cultural enrichment,” Spencer said in a video shortly after the vote. A unified Europe isn’t necessarily off the table. But as James Lawrence, writing at Alternative Right, argues, efforts toward “true and positive” European unity would have to wait until “after the anti-European political establishments oppressing us have suffered death by a thousand cuts.” In some respects, it’s not a far cry from Nigel Farage’s call for a Europe consisting of “sovereign states” that trade together, do business with one another—all while (somehow) insisting that freedom of movement must come to an end.
Still, Spencer emphasized, “The Brexit referendum is a kind of metaphor for nationalism and identity.” It’s, as Farage proclaimed in his ludicrous victory speech in the early hours of June 23, a victory for “the real people, for the ordinary people, for the decent people”—a victory, that is, for those who fit comfortably into the confines of British nationalism.
Others, such as The Occidental Observer—a publication edited by Kevin MacDonald, a former professor of psychology whose research focused largely on Judaism from an “evolutionary perspective”—noted that “the fault lines in British society are now in clear view and undeniable.”
The anti-Brexit blowback from the “elites” offers a convenient rallying cry, even across the pond. Those white nationalists determined to fight the scourge of so-called globalism (i.e., the ideology bolstering those leftist minions of “empire-building . . . corporations” who advocate for “multiculturalism and diversity, and that is killing the white race”) have already embraced Brexit as evidence their agenda can catch on. The fact that popular agitation—framed as a grassroots struggle against an “incursion” of non-white immigrants—could have such a profound effect on the global economy is offered as evidence that the shakedown is working.
“Nothing can shake the arrogant complacency of our globalist ruling class,” wrote Peter Brimlow on VDARE.com, an anti-immigration publication once designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “But, as the Brexit vote shows, they can be broken. And the immigration issue is playing a key role in that breaking.”
Trump—whose half-assed attempts to distance himself from the racists of the far-right has had little effect on his race-baiting rhetoric—praised England’s vote along similar lines. “Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence,” he said in a Facebook statement. “They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by and for the people.”
There are those who have lambasted Brexit—and Trump, for that matter—as the result of a society that’s become “too democratic.” “I do believe that the Brexit vote raises and puts front and center the entire question of the role of referenda in democratic societies,” Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haas said on a media call the day after the vote, echoing a sentiment that has proliferated rapidly among policy elites. But while Cameron’s idea that EU membership should be put up to a vote was nothing short of absurd, blaming the democratic process is disingenuous. British elites have been engaging in dog-whistle politics for years. And with the United States going down a similar road, it may be high time we learned from the mistakes of our friends across the pond.