I was recently back in the U.K., to visit my daughter in Scotland. We hiked to a lovely loch in the highlands, but storm clouds were gathering, and we came back drenched. A metaphor for Brexit!
As an expatriate Brit who moved to the United States more than two decades ago, I have been trying to figure out the transformation that has overcome my native and adopted countries. Traditionally, we Anglo-Saxons have prided ourselves on our pragmatism and moderation. For decades, our systems of government were models for the rest of the world. Why have we suddenly become playgrounds for flag-waving nationalists, as exemplified by Donald Trump in the U.S. and Boris Johnson in Britain?
Part of the answer, I think, lies in our curious, first past-the-post voting systems which makes it possible for an unpopular leader to take power without majority support, as long as he faces a divided opposition. The bottom line is that we do not vote directly for our leaders, either in the U.S. or in the U.K. Instead we have an electoral college mechanism that rewards conviction politicians who are able to pile up votes in the right places, but does not necessarily reflect the wishes of the majority of the population.
I expand on these arguments in an op-ed piece that I wrote for The Washington Post, which you can find here.
Michael Dobbs is the author of seven books, including the best-selling One Minute to Midnight. His latest book, King Richard, is about Nixon and Watergate.