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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 20, 2018

The good, the bad and the Brexit vote

What we can learn from the UK’s Brexit
By Karyn Spory, MPN editor | Jul 01, 2016

Just when I thought American politics was the circus the Internet loves to mock, I stumbled upon an article about British political parties and their shenanigans leading up to the Brexit vote.

In case you haven’t heard, Brexit (British exit from the European Union) was a referendum that asked United Kingdom voters whether the country should remain a member of the European Union (EU) or leave.

Those in the “leave” camp, led by Michael Gove, the justice minister, and Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, and including nearly half the Conservative members of Parliament, stated the bureaucracy of the EU had become too big and reached too far, thus “diminishing British influence and sovereignty,” Steven Erlanger writes for the New York Times.

In earlier campaigns, those wishing to leave said the pricey membership fee could be put towards health care. When that strategy began to stall, those hoping for a Brexit began pushing an anti-immigration campaign.

Sound familiar to anyone?

The Labor Party, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party headed up the “remain” camp, which flew a simple white flag with the word “IN” in bold, black letters. Those flying the “IN” flag felt leaving the EU would cause economic turmoil and not belonging to a larger union would weaken the UK’s influence and security within the world.

But what really caught my attention about the Brexit vote was a water fight between the two parties on the Thames Estuary, the river that runs through the middle of London.

Supporters from both sides took to boats and began spraying each other with hoses, while flashing rude hand gestures at one another.

It seemed silly and a bit ludicrous that a referendum could be reduced to a water fight, but I’m sure 17 Republicans piling into a clown car seemed like the perfect metaphor for the circus that is American politics to those around the world.

As we prepare to celebrate our own Brexit, I can’t help but compare the UK’s vote to our decision in November.

I’ve heard many people call Nov. 8, as the day we choose the lesser of two evils. While that may be true – I wrote during the caucus that I wasn’t too jazzed about any of the candidates – I still hope come November those of voting age are at the polls. It’s presumed this election will be historic no matter how the votes are cast down – we’ll either elect our country’s first female president or someone not from a political background. But maybe we can make this election historic for another reason – voter turnout. Let’s have the largest voter turnout in modern history.

Don’t go into November with the mindset that your vote doesn’t matter; it does. Just look at Brexit. The vote was decided on a 52 percent (17,410,742) to 48 percent (16,141,241) margin, with 72.16 percent turnout. Which, according to the BBC, was the highest UK voter turnout since the 1992 general election, with an estimated 30 million people.

If you look even closer at the vote, the baby boomers tended to cast the “get out” vote, while those 35 and under overwhelmingly voted to stay.

If we can learn anything from our friends across the pond it’s the importance of getting out and voting.

I implore you to not only vote in the presidential election, but to make sure you’re voting in local elections as well. Legislation enacted at the city, county and state level has just as much impact on our lives as ones decided by someone you’d probably never meet sitting in the Oval Office.

If you’re looking at this election as picking the lesser of two evils, remember, change often happens from the ground up. Our elected leaders are supposed to represent the populist, the voice of the people. Don’t waste your vote or voice on someone you haven’t researched or an election you don’t really care about because it’s just city council, county commissioner or state representative. They all matter.

Be heard. Take an active role in your country and your future.

And remember, if you choose to write-in a candidate, Mickey Mouse isn’t a viable option. “Oh boy!” isn’t really the best response when it comes to international diplomacy.


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