Brexit and Trump as Reactionary Fantasies

A confident, intelligent conservatism has been reduced to nihilist, mindless reaction.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Andrew Sullivan sees similarities between Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump. Both, he writes in New York magazine, are reactionary fantasies:

Brexit and Trump are the history of Thatcher and Reagan repeating as dangerous farce, a confident, intelligent conservatism reduced to nihilist, mindless reactionism.

Trump is the worst of the two. His absurd claims about the economy being a “disaster” before he took over and now posting record growth; his tough talk as substitute for foreign policy; his determination to reverse every one of Barack Obama’s policy accomplishments and his daily Twitter tirades are about as clear an escape from reality as one can imagine.

For the four in ten Americans who still support him, that is the point of Trump’s presidency: to pretend the modern world — with its changing climate and demographics, relaxed gender norms, declining religiosity, global supply chains and devaluation of manual labor — doesn’t exist.

End in tears

Brexit is little better. If Trump’s antics are “the unhinged fantasies of a 71-year-old Fox News viewer imagining he can reconstruct the late 1950s,” the United Kingdom is laboring under the illusion that it can unwind half of a century of integration with continental Europe in a year and reclaim the relative prosperity of the 1960s and 70s.

“No actual conservative can possibly believe that such radical, sudden change won’t end in tears,” writes Sullivan.