Brexit, Colombia, Trump, and the threat of the unexpected

This year pre-Brexit, polls in Britain were equivocal. Would Britain continue as a member of the European Community? Nobody knew. However, in the weeks before the referendum, the late polls indicated Remain winning. The polls seduced voters into believing that the country would continue as a member of the EU. Many voters just didn’t feel the need to vote.

The results of the referendum were shocking for many of voters and non-voters alike.The morning after the British population voted for separation from the EU disorientated millions of Brits. Many woke up and went about their day in a dazed state. Months later, many still do. What happened?

Seemingly contrary to common logic, the majority of British voters decided to opt out of the European Community. And many didn’t feel the need to vote. Brexit won the day.

In the US, at a distance, we wondered what was going on. But in the U.S., we are far away. We shrugged. We moved on. The other side of the pond! The polls? Who knows what gives, what gave with that?

On our side of the world, the government of Colombia, a country convulsed by guerrilla violence for more than 50 years, spent the last 4 of those years negotiating the nitty-gritty details of a peace agreement with the country’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC. The going was tough – to put it mildly, but an accord was agreed upon.farcno

The deal needed the approval by plebiscite of the people of Colombia. The question proposed to Colombians on October 2, 2016 was this: “Do you support the Final Agreement to end the conflict and build a stable and long-lasting peace? Citizens were offered a simplified Yes or No vote as their contribution to the process of peace in their country.

In Colombia, the polls resoundingly predicted the majority of Colombians voting Yes. Many, perhaps again seduced by polls, didn’t feel the need to vote. For those who did vote, the question of justice came to the fore at the moment of casting their ballot. Many felt that the peace accords did not offer due process for their suffering.The majority of Colombians voted No to the plebiscite. The polls again proved an uncertain guide.

In the US, at a distance again, many Americans may have shrugged and thought, those South Americans. What’s with them? Get it together!

Here in the US, we have Trump versus Hillary. We have our own stuff going on. Indeed we do.We have our sides. And this year, Hillary was ahead.  Until this past weekend, the polls were showing a pretty good margin of victory for Hillary.

Enter the unknowable. Enter Weiner from New York. Enter Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s long-time personal aide. Enter the F.B.I. Director, James B. Comey. Enter uncertainty.Enter, again, the definition of honesty in politics. Enter, again, the definition of honesty in politics. Trump, in a poll released this week, is now seen as more trustworthy than Clinton.


And yet, suddenly “Hillary wins!” is not quite as convincing as it seemed only a week ago.

The question arises: what comes to the fore at our moment of voting. Are we willing to put democracy at risk and put pwer in the hands of a would-be dictator, setting the US on a dangerous and unprecedented course, with an unknowable and perhaps disastrous end? Or do we decide to vote at all?

28% of eligible voters in Britain and 62% of eligible Colombians chose for reasons of their own not to vote on  matters essential to their nation’s future. In recent presidential elections here in the US, about 40% of eligible Americans have decided that voting wasn’t worth the bother.

Are we willing to be shocked when we wake up on the morning of November 9th to this headline: “Polls upended. Trump Wins by a Stunning Majority!’

The unexpected has happened before–twice this year, in fact, in Britain and Colombia.

Let’s go out and vote! Everybody’s  vote counts. And let’s cast our vote based on our convictions.

Later on, for the rest of our lives, nobody can rattle us, question us on what happened in the presidential race of 2016 – not even ourselves – no matter what the morning headlines say on November 9th.