“Remember, remember the 5th of November…” is the opening line of an old English poem commemorating the capture of Catholic revolutionaries who were attempting, in 1605, to overthrow the British political establishment. Today, that moment is heralded as a great victory for Britain, to the chagrin of some.
I scarcely “remember, remember” what I was doing on Nov 5th 2016, but as one of only two people (that I’m aware of) who were in both the Brexit and Trump victory parties, the November 8th is a night I won’t be forgetting in a while.
I arrived at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan pretty down beat, if I’m honest. But it was the same feeling I had on the morning of June 23rd, when we Brits confounded the domestic and indeed European political, corporate, and media establishments to lead the UK to an “Out” vote. The atmospheres in both circumstances were similar as the nights wore on: sore feet, sore heads, and glances of disbelief at friends and acquaintances.
Not a word had to be exchanged in those moments. As eyes locked, both parties quizzically but clearly conveyed the voiceless words: “Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Am I going crazy? Have we actually done this?”
Much as some of us weren’t ready to accept victory on the eve of Brexit, the Trump campaign had put together a much smaller ballroom and event in Manhattan than the hubristic Clinton campaign, replete with its (cancelled) firework show and “shattering glass ceiling”.
Instead, a small gaggle of us huddled around a cash bar (yes, a cash bar!) in the Hilton, grabbing campaign paraphernalia for posterity, exchanging pleasantries about work, and wondering what our lives would look like under President Clinton.
It was — at first — the same doubt that spread through the kitchen of my friend and colleague Chris Bruni Lowe, as Nigel Farage, a handful of his staff, and a few others pondered how long we would have to wait until we could mount another campaign to lead Britain out of the European Union just a few months earlier.
If we lost — in June or in November — surely it would have been described as a repudiation of nationalism, controlled borders, and the very idea of a nation state. In both instances, it was nothing short of globalism versus the patriotic citizenry.
Could the latter have happened without the former? I’m not sure, actually. I think I doubt it.
When I saw President-Elect two days after the election in his Manhattan penthouse, he seemed to express the same sentiment. He actually couldn’t believe he had won.
“What does this mean?” He asked a group of five of us, perched on his extra-long couch in his gaudy living room.
“So much,” I thought. “So, so much”.
None of us replied in any detail. We — including the President-Elect — sort of trailed off into more rhetorical, corollary questions.
But winning the war was almost the easy part. Between the sneering of the pro-European Union ‘Remain’ campaign and the hate-filled diatribes of the “most qualified” but least like-able candidate in Hillary Clinton, both Brexit and Trump victories were as much handed to us by our opponents as they were earned by the campaigners behind the scenes.
The hard part will be winning the peace.
It’s been 18 months since Brexit, and we’re no closer to getting what the British public voted for. It’s one year since the election of President Trump — though slightly less in terms of timed governed — and we’ve yet to see a major legislative victory for our side. For the ‘Deplorables’.
So yes, I will “remember, remember” the 8th of November, for the confused glory of it all, for breaking out into song (“Do you hear the people sing?”) and even on a personal level, for the fact that that night I both gained and lost friends.
But much like the next line of the English poem… I see no reason… why November 8th, should ever be forgot.
We have a lot of work to do.
Raheem Kassam is the editor in chief of Breitbart London