It may be pure coincidence that Donald Trump flew to Scotland on the day that British voters decided to leave the European Union. But in striking ways, the forces fueling Thursday’s historic referendum here were similar to those that have shaken U.S. politics to its core in the past year.
On both sides of the Atlantic, political establishments and the elites have found themselves on the defensive. Rising resentment over the fallout from globalization and the effects of the financial collapse of 2008, which has widened the gap between the rich and everyone else, has divided voters in Britain and the United States.
Added to that are emotional issues of national and cultural identity at a time of growing demographic diversity, highlighted in both countries by often-angry debates over immigration. Both Trump and those pushing for Britain to leave the European Union have found the immigration issue to be their most potent political weapon.
Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” could easily have been adapted to the messaging of those in the “leave” campaign across the pond. Here, that desire for a return to an earlier time — to make Britain great again — is expressed through the issue of control.