Much like a struggling sitcom, the Trump campaign ran a crossover episode yesterday, bringing former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage up onstage at a rally in Jackson, Mississippi. Farage, one of the major architects of Brexit, stepped down as head of the U.K.’s nationalist, anti-immigration party following Britain’s divisive vote to leave the E.U. in June.
While Farage has so far declined to officially endorse Trump, he made his feelings pretty clear on Wednesday: “If I was an American citizen, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me. I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if she paid me.”
Having a foreign politician campaign for a U.S. presidential candidate is unusual, but the move makes sense as part of Trump’s recent initiative to re-brand himself as Mr. Brexit, or as he put it in a tweet last week: “MR. BREXIT!”
The Trump campaign and the Brexit movement do have a lot in common. Both resonated strongly with uneducated middle- and lower-class whites who felt that they had become disenfranchised, both played on fears of immigration and faced criticism for being racist, and both shocked the political Establishment with their success.
Still, Trump’s reinvention of himself as Mr. Brexit represents quite the transformation. As late as June, Trump apparently had no idea what Brexit was — though he supported it.
And, after the U.K. voted to leave the E.U., which he described as “one of the big votes in the history of Europe, and Scotland, and everywhere,” he still managed to enrage citizens there, tweeting in Scotland — where he was visiting one of his golf courses — the day after the referendum that the “place is going wild over the vote,” despite the fact that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain.
Even if Trump doesn’t fully understand Mr. Farage’s politics, he is certainly impressed with his ability to get out the vote and confound pollsters’ expectations. Using his experience with Brexit — which most analysts and even major British politicians believed could never pass — as a touchstone, Farage called on Trump supporters to not be swayed by the dark prognostications of pollsters but to, in effect, get out the vote.
Standing in front of the crowds in Mississippi, Farage said he was bringing a “message of hope and optimism” and called on Trump voters to” get your walking boots on and “get out there campaigning.”
“And remember,” said Farage, “anything is possible if enough decent people are prepared to stand up against the Establishment.”