The divide of the Atlantic Ocean is no match for the divide of the generations.
In an international “me first” move reminiscent of America’s generational warfare, 60 percent of older citizens of the United Kingdom, defined in this case as those 65 and older, voted to leave the European Union while 67.5 percent of younger voters, those 18-34 years old, overwhelmingly voted to stay.
The leave vote, which also was joined by 57 percent of voters aged 55 to 64 and 56 percent of those aged 45 to 54, was driven by a nativist streak and stoked by nationalist spokespeople who railed against a Europe overrun by Middle Eastern migrants and regulatory burdens placed on them my nameless and faceless bureaucrats at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
It would be wrong to claim those arguments are without merit. There has undoubtedly been an influx of migrants from countries south, and regulations are aplenty in the 28-country bloc. However, the long-term economic consequences of the Brexit are what will hurt young people the most — and what their older friends and relatives won’t have to deal with themselves.
We have unfortunately seen this movie here in the Unites States over and over again. The most jarring example is the fight over reforming the nearly bankrupt Social Security system. Action fails us because those who are currently cashing the checks fall for political scare tactics meant to embolden the status quo. Younger voters, however, those who will actually have to live with the consequences of today’s decisions for years longer than anyone else, are left with a system that cannot sustain itself financially and is likely to go belly up in the near future.
As I’ve said before, the true establishment is not ideological. It is generational. And now that generational establishment has traveled across the vast Atlantic Ocean and infected one of our closest and most important allies with its selfish ways.
Knowing the likely consequences of last week’s ill-informed and, did I mention, selfish decision, I have to ask, why is it so hard for those who claim to have our best interests at heart to actually prove it at the ballot box? What will it take to put their votes where their mouths are?
Plummeting markets across the globe in the immediate aftermath, the pound sterling in free fall, slowing economic growth, a likely recession in the United Kingdom — those are but the tip of the iceberg, according to analysts.
Europe could find itself in complete turmoil because of a single vote. And if all that happens, if it gets worse in five, 10 or 20 years, the culpable won’t even be around to take the blame.
Must be nice.
This column originally appeared in the Northwest Indiana Times.