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Voting with the heart

14 June 2016

This is a year of three important elections (possibly more, but these are the three that I truly care about): the Brexit vote in the UK on June 23rd; the Spanish general election on June 26th; and the US presidential election in November. All three votes have something in common: a large proportion of the voters will decide their vote based on emotions, and in all three cases the results will be disastrous.

In the UK referendum, it seems this morning, with just over a week to go, that the LEAVE side might win. The people who vote this way do so for a variety of reasons, of course: some genuinely dislike the EU, rail against the “Brussels bureaucracy” and really think that the UK would be better off on its own. This is a fantasy. Still others (and I believe this is the majority among the LEAVE camp) are voting based on a vague fear of globalisation, of foreigners, of immigration–even if those things have little or nothing to do with the EU. The end result might well be that the UK votes to leave the EU, with grave economic and geopolitical consequences for itself (including a likely breakup of the UK as Scotland will surely hold another referendum on independence) and for the rest of Europe. Because regardless of this vote, geography will not change, and however much the Little Englanders dislike it, the UK is part of Europe.

Then the Spanish election three days later. Again, large numbers of people will vote for the new left-wing Podemos party, probably pushing the social democrats PSOE into third place. The people voting for Podemos have the idea that the two big parties on the left will then come together to form a governing coalition. This is another fantasy. In this scenario, the PSOE should accept that the larger partner, Podemos, gets the prime minister post. They will never accept it; nor can PSOE ever accept the Podemos line on Catalan independence. So the most likely result of the many Podemos votes will be that PSOE will abstain in the vote on government formation, allowing Rajoy and his reactionary and corrupt Partido Popular to continue governing. Surely this is not the outcome the Podemos voters want, but this is what they will get.

And finally, the US presidential election. Here, once again, we have millions of people who support Bernie Sanders in his hopeless quest to become the Democratic nominee. In the past I have had a lot of sympathy for Sanders. I certainly agree with many of his policies, much more so than with those of the other candidates. But sadly, Sanders is unelectable–he is simply too far to the left for most Americans (as opposed to Democratic primary voters). By continuing his campaign as long as he has, Sanders has accomplished only one thing: he has damaged his party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton, to such an extent that what used to be a comfortable lead for her over Donald Trump has now become a dead heat. So once again, by voting with their hearts rather than their heads, the Sanders supporters have probably accomplished only this: Donald Trump is the next president of the US. Surely this is not what you intended, my friends??

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