In advance of the Brexit vote, Republican and conservative leaders chose their words carefully. It was easy to criticize President Obama for his unusual transatlantic campaigning in favor of Brexit; plenty of Republicans criticized him for saying Britain would head to "the back of the queue" in trade deals if it quit Europe.
Today, while stock markets careened and media coverage has asked whether British voters just sparked a "DIY recession," a few conservatives have embraced the vote. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), one of the critics of the president's remarks, told supporters on Facebook that Americans needed to heed Brexit.
"The results of the #Brexit referendum should serve as a wake-up call for internationalist bureaucrats from Brussels to Washington, D.C. that some free nations still wish to preserve their national sovereignty," Cruz wrote. "The British people have indicated that they will no longer outsource their future to the EU, and prefer to chart their own path forward. The United States can learn from the referendum and attend to the issues of security, immigration and economic autonomy that drove this historic vote."
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an occasional Cruz ally who has become the Senate's biggest booster of Donald Trump, had an even more supportive reaction.
"The people spoke from their hearts and with conviction," Sessions said in a statement. "They considered deep and critical issues never discussed by the international elites. Their strong vote arose not out of fear and pique but out of love for country and pride of place. Their experience with a distant government in Brussels was given a long and fair chance to succeed. In the end, however, they concluded that the costs outweighed the benefits."
Sessions compared the formation of the E.U. ("a seemingly benign economic agreement") to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal opposed by protectionist Republicans and by the pro-labor left.
"Often, Britain makes changes that precede U.S. action," Sessions said. "The Thatcher movement preceded the Reagan revolution. Both were victories for the people over outdated and corrupt forces. Both were achieved against powerful and determined establishment forces. Both resulted in historic and positive periods in their nation’s history."
The allusion to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was resonant, an attempt to align conservatives with Brexit's anti-free-trade and anti-immigration sentiment, and to supplant the laissez faire consensus of conservative elites in Britain and United States. DeMint, a former senator who has transformed the Heritage Foundation into an even more politically active think tank, declared a victory for nationalism in the most traditional way.