Brexiteers and Trumplanders have a low level of education
Amol Rajan in The Independent
At the same time, and for similar reasons, many Western democracies are tearing apart. It’s too neat to say they’re splitting in half, but the Brexit vote and America’s bipolar political system make it impossible to avoid this temptation.
Like several other writers, including Danny Finkelstein of The Times, I like to give these different countries a name. Britain is splitting in two: between those who voted Leave – the residents of Leaveland – and those who voted Remain – the residents of Remainia. Similarly, America is splitting in two: what I call Trumpland and Clintonia.
As David Runciman argued in a seminal recent essay forTheGuardian, the single biggest thing driving those who voted Leave, and those who are likely to vote Trump, is their low level of education. Among non-college educated white men, Trump leads Clinton by nearly 60 percentage points. This is an astonishing gulf.
Meanwhile in Britain, as Runciman’s brilliant analysis made clear, the Remain vote was often an island of resistance amid a sea of Leave: Norwich, Cardiff, Bristol, Nottingham, Brighton, Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter, Warwick and Reading all voted to stay in the EU. They are all places with good universities.
People with a good education are more confident of being able to survive the hyper-mobility that is the essential quality of a globalised economy, where automation and high levels of migration cause massive displacement. Those who voted to Leave the EU, like those who will vote for Trump, tend to be those who reject cosmopolitanism and the liberal values – especially tolerance of minorities – that come with it. They are much more rooted in a place called home, and much less likely to look upon industrial upheaval and innovation as an opportunity.
The year 2016, in which I became a father, will be remembered as the year that we moved into a post-liberal world. Though it lags the financial crisis by several years, the ruptures that are evident this year have been widened by that seismic event. Economic and social liberalism, which has governed the world for around four decades, is going out of fashion, and I have to say that I feel pessimistic as a result.
Not because I am wedded to liberalism, which has inherent faults and contradictions. Rather, because if you look at the economic, social, political, demographic and – perhaps above all – educational trends driving apart the people of Clintonia and Trumpland, and Remainia and Leaveland, it seems clear to me things are going to get worse before they get better.
Places like Great Yarmouth and Boston, which tend to sway strongly toward Ukip, are the regional centres of Leaveland. If any of the above argument is remotely coherent, it cannot be overstated just how essential it is that the government of the day radically improve levels of education in such places. The alternative, frankly speaking, is too grim to contemplate.