Britain's Conservative Party hit the accelerator as it hurtles toward the cliff known as Brexit, electing firebrand former foreign minister Boris Johnson as its next prime minister. Johnson pledges to force Britain's exit from the European Union within the next 100 days, deal or no deal and regardless of the ensuing economic upheaval. As a partner in reckless, consequences-be-damned leadership, President Donald Trump will have found his soulmate in Johnson.
Since 2016, the British and American electorates have worked weirdly in sync to elevate two leaders whose only real political qualifications were their willingness to lie and manipulate the public with a dangerous mix of populism and xenophobia. Although the two enjoy plenty of support from educated, staunch conservatives, the real source of Trump's and Johnson's power comes from the ranks of farmers and blue-collar workers easily swayed by us-versus-them fear-mongering.
For Trump, it's people with brown skin from south of the border, whom he stereotypes as drug traffickers and murderous gang members, along with minority members of Congress who pose an existential threat to America's greatness. "They" must go home, he says.
For Johnson, a former journalist, the problem comes from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. "They" are destroying Britain with open borders, foreign languages and burqas that make Muslim women look like "letter boxes," he says.
The biggest irony is that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, 55, was born in New York City to a family with the very foreign roots Johnson now derides. "For one so stereotypically English, his ancestry is surprisingly varied — a mixture of English Christians, Turkish Muslims and Eastern European Jews. His maternal great-grandfather was an Orthodox Lithuanian rabbi. His paternal great-grandfather was a Turkish political activist, Ali Kemal, who was apparently lynched after falling foul of the nationalists then in power," BBC deputy political editor John Pienaar wrote Tuesday.
Max Hastings, Johnson's former editor at Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, worries openly about the future of his country under Johnson. "His premiership will almost certainly reveal a contempt for rules, precedent, order and stability ... ," Hastings wrote in The Guardian last month. "Dignity still matters in public office, and Johnson will never have it. Yet his graver vice is cowardice, reflected in a willingness to tell any audience, whatever he thinks most likely to please, heedless of the inevitability of its contradiction an hour later."
As a journalist, Johnson poked merciless fun at the EU's obsessive overreach with rules and regulations. The truth wasn't allowed to stand in the way of a good story. Both he and Trump have flip-flopped on the major issues driving their politics — abortion for Trump, and Brexit for Johnson.
"His leadership will be unlike anything we've seen," the BBC's Pienaar wrote of Johnson. "But the consequences will be no joke."
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