Sorry, Britain, we win. And believe me, I’m sorrier about that than I can say.
Because from where I sit, our criminal president, Cheeto Benito Trump, has got your dissembling, cheating Boris Johnson beat by a corrupt mile. Or corrupt kilometer, depending on the country.
Yes, your Brexit crisis is completely miserable and soul-desiccating, no question about it, but as immobilizing and awful as it has been for the last three-and-a-half years, your current prime minister’s colossal wrongheadedness ultimately can’t compare with the corruption that has overwhelmed the United States with the virulence of Ebola.
I write this after a recent two-week trip to the United Kingdom visiting anti-Brexit friends who are adamant in opposition to their nation’s withdrawal from the European Union and the utter chaos it will create.
In his new espionage novel, Agent Running in the Field, the great John Le Carré describes Brexit as an “act of self-immolation… the British public is being marched over a cliff by a bunch of rich, elitist carpetbaggers posing as men of the people.” And so it is. As they have tried to rush into a potentially catastrophic decision, those leaders who support Brexit seem at every level to have failed to seriously consider the consequences for their country, while hoping that their efforts somehow will turn Britain into its own little offshore tax haven.
The implications of withdrawal are as major as they are uncertain, from the possibility of food and medicine shortages to an independent Scotland, which in 2016 voted to remain in the EU, and a united Ireland. Customs and tariffs, trade standards—nothing has been determined.
The British Sunday newspaper The Observer editorialized, “The government has refused to publish an evaluation of the deal’s economic impact. But independent forecasts estimate that it would come at a huge cost in growth, jobs and wages. The government’s own estimates show that new free trade deals with other countries cannot compensate for more than a fraction of the economic cost of leaving the single market and customs union. Free trade agreements generally cover only goods, yet services make up 80% of the UK economy. And signing an agreement with countries such as the US would likely force the UK into becoming a rule-taker from economies far more deregulated than our own.”
The dismay of my British friends extends beyond Brexit to the Conservative Party’s budget and regulation slashing, campaign finance skullduggery, including money laundering, and race and religion-baiting. Sound familiar?
Like Trump, Johnson, too, has cozied up to Russians, and is surrounded by a retinue of obsequious toadies, including one especially repellent adviser, Dominic Cummings, who gives our own Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller a run for the money. He even postponed necessary surgery so he could keep whispering in Johnson’s ear. Former Prime Minister David Cameron described Cummings as a “career psychopath.”
But it was uplifting to see a million protesters flood into central London on Saturday, October 19, the day the House of Commons held a special session. The crowd demanded a second Brexit referendum as Commons scuttled Johnson’s plan to leave the EU on October 31. (It was even somewhat heartening to see a helmet-wearing Johnson arrive at the session on a bicycle, because, can you imagine Donald Trump… oh, never mind…)
Cheering, too, was the leather-lunged chap standing each night on a sidewalk outside Parliament who, while newscasters tried to describe the latest, would overpower them with his bellows of “NOOOO… BREXITTTT!” (What’s more, to a Yank’s worn out ears, it was a blessing that some nights an entire half-hour of TV news would go by without Trump’s name even being mentioned)
There are other differences between us, of course. With the deadline for Brexit extended until January 31, Boris Johnson has welcomed a new election on December 12 (although not a second Brexit referendum), while Trump is doing his best to delegitimize the 2020 elections before a single ballot is cast.
Johnson and many others believe little will change after the election—his party probably will retain control of Parliament because the opposition is disorganized and the Labour Party so enfeebled by Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of leadership and unwillingness to step aside (despite several qualified candidates who ably could replace him).
But Trump, for all his braggadocio, is terrified he will lose re-election. He has taken prevarication and cheating to new depths and his party has abandoned principle to embrace his perfidy. It’s win-at-any-cost with all traces of integrity swept aside.
So sorry, UK, we have it worse. Trump and his gang are millipedes and every day, another ten shoes drop. The latest: Purple Heart recipient Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, an expert on Ukraine with the National Security Council, who confirmed before Congress last Tuesday that Trump had extorted the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as a phony 2016 election conspiracy, in exchange for freeing up military aid. Vindman also testified that the White House report of a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had omitted incriminating evidence.
The Trump GOP gang’s response? Smear Vindman’s reputation, claim that he’s a spy with dual loyalty to the United States and Ukraine.
There’s not a scruple among them. As Trump called real and imagined opponents “human scum,” last week, former acting attorney general Matthew Whittaker told Laura Ingraham, “Abuse of power is not a crime,” a sentiment that seems to afflict this administration. And pig-ignorant, arrogant Republican House members, led by the noxious Rep. Matthew Gaetz of Florida, protesting what they claimed were unfair and secret impeachment hearings, barged into a secured area with mobile phones aloft, devices so easily tapped the hearing room needed subsequent extra security checks for bugging.
“In effect,” The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb wrote, “they were trying to stop a hearing that was in compliance with rules set in 2015 by the House—which at the time had a Republican majority—and which a number of them, as members of the committees involved, were already free to attend. In essence, the stunt was a high-profile display of fealty to Trump, who measures loyalty by a willingness to commit acts of self-abasement on his behalf.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, The Daily Beast reported this week that Derek Harvey, an aide to Trump sycophant Rep. Devin Nunes, ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has been trying to expose the name of the whistleblower who first revealed the Ukraine scandal, blowing that person’s anonymity and potentially placing them—and their family—in danger. All in the name of proving some imagined, deep dark conspiracy against the president and giving him cover for his wrongdoing.
No tactic is too low. You are all enablers, you are all accessories, you are all accomplices. You are elected representatives who scorn and betray your oath of office. Or you are men and women in business who think you’ve done nothing wrong because when you have committed crimes before you have always gotten your way with little punishment beyond a nominal fine or a slap on the wrist. Rarely, if ever, have you come near a prison cell.
The witch hunt is you. The conspiracy is you, and your immoral, ruthless goal is nothing less than the destruction of the republic in the name of power and profit.
Just as this same elite equate equality with tyranny, you now are shocked—shocked!—that there are those of us who stand in resistance, who try to wield the force of legitimate governance to beat back your trampling of truth, justice and the law. We’re not going away.
In fact, here’s an important shared value between the thinking people of Britain and America. The other day, as those million protesters made their way to Parliament, among them was Martyn Cattermole, a retired management accountant marching with his two young sons. He told a reporter: “We are trying to teach them that democracy doesn’t just happen or exist—you have to keep trying to fight for it.”
And so we must and shall.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer forMoyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and immediate past president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.