Donald Trump said Friday the British vote to leave the European Union was a triumph for his brand of bootstrap politics. Hillary Clinton warned of economic upheaval and political division from the sudden upset to the old order.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist whose persistent populist challenge to Clinton captured a powerful current of anti-establishment angst, suggested the vote confirms his worldview of an economy of haves and have-nots.
“I think it’s a great thing that happened,” Trump said in Scotland, site of two Trump-branded golf courses. “People are angry, all over the world. People, they’re angry.”
He also mused that a drop in the value of the British pound could help him make money at the Trump Turnberry resort.
“Pathological self-congratulation,” sniffed Clinton’s chief policy adviser and former top State Department aide Jake Sullivan.
The responses reflect the restive mood in American politics and pointed up the common social, political and economic currents motivating voters in both Britain and the United States.
That mood may be doubly worrisome for Democrats now that Clinton, the insider, establishment candidate, has become the de facto nominee. As in Britain ahead of the Brexit vote, fears about immigration and frustration over government bureaucracy fueled the rise of outsider candidates in the United States this cycle.
Several conservative U.S. politicians, meanwhile, cheered the vote. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), one of the critics of the president’s opposition to Brexit, told supporters on Facebook that Americans needed to heed it.
“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 Trump, had an even more supportive reaction.
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.
Clinton’s new Trump-specific campaign slogan, “stronger together,” was the same appeal British Prime Minister David Cameron made to keep Britain in the union, and earlier, to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. Cameron, a longtime politician well known to Clinton, announced his resignation upon the failure of his “remain” side Friday.
A statement issued by the Clinton campaign in her name Friday morning essentially sought to make a virtue out of her potential weakness as a candidate of the status quo.
She appealed for calm after the surprise success of the campaign to leave the European common market and said the first priority for the United States should be to contain any economic fallout.
Her campaign also issued an ad on the Internet mocking Trump’s promotion of his business properties during an appearance in Scotland the morning after the vote. And she tweeted: “Hours after the #BrexitVote, Donald Trump was in the U.K. Talking about how he, personally, would benefit.”
Clinton later sought to raise campaign money by warning supporters not to “make the same mistake” of complacency she said was made by those who assumed that a British exit vote was unthinkable.
“No matter what the collective wisdom of our political punditry has to say between now and November, Donald Trump has a real chance of winning this election,” a fundraising email to supporters read.
“Together, we have to wrap our minds around that fact -- and resolve to act on it.”
U.S. markets fell on news of the British vote.
Clinton withstood a strong populist challenge from Sanders (Vt.) in the Democratic primary this year, emerging from that clash between establishment and anti-establishment politics to face the populist outsider Trump.
Clinton is campaigning against Trump as the voice of experience and reason, while casting him as reckless, ill-informed and bigoted.
Clinton had backed the option of Britain remaining in the E.U., as did President Obama. Her statement Friday said nothing about the merits of the decision to leave and echoed Obama’s own statement on the matter.
“We respect the choice the people of the United Kingdom have made,” Clinton said. “Our first task has to be to make sure that the economic uncertainty created by these events does not hurt working families here in America.”
Sounding very much as she did when she served as Obama’s first-term secretary of state, Clinton then spoke of the storied alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom, the “special relationship” that has made Britain America’s strongest ally.
“We also have to make clear America’s steadfast commitment to the special relationship with Britain and the transatlantic alliance with Europe,” she said.
She made an implicit comparison of her own leadership with that of Republican opponent Trump, one that campaign aides took much farther later Friday, in a call with reporters.
“This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House to protect Americans’ pocketbooks and livelihoods, to support our friends and allies, to stand up to our adversaries, and to defend our interests,” Clinton said.
Trump’s response, Sullivan said, is part of an emerging “playbook” of how Trump responds to crises or events outside his control.
The businessman starts by relating whatever has happened to himself — his role in shaping it or how it would affect him personally, Sullivan said.
“Rather than consult with people who might know something about what’s happening, especially given the stakes for American families, he consults only with himself,” Sullivan continued. “Rather than think about or talk about what’s good for the American people, he thinks about and then talks about what’s good for himself,” Sullivan said.
“He said that running a golf course is just like running a country. The American people need a steady hand at the wheel in a time of uncertainty and not a reckless and erratic egomaniac who could easily drive us off a cliff.”
Sanders, who has not formally conceded defeat or endorsed Clinton, said he was concerned about “the breaking down of international cooperation,” that the vote may signify.
But in an interview on MSNBC, Sanders quickly added this:
“On the other hand, I think what this vote is about is an indication that the global economy is not working for everybody. It’s not working in the United States for everybody and it’s not working in the U.K. for everybody.”
David Weigel reported from Syracuse, N.Y.