President Barack Obama has a poor record when it comes to intervening in foreign elections. His clumsy attempt in April to encourage British voters to choose to remain in the European Union may have backfired, after Obama threatened that Britain would be sent to the “back of the queue” in trade relations with the U.S. if it chose Brexit. He repeated the mistakes of his effort to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s 2015 elections, which likewise delivered a poll-defying rebuke.
Obama was not as explicit in encouraging Israelis to vote for the left, but his administration made its preference clear, and his campaign allies were enlisted in the service of Netanyahu’s opponents. In both countries, Obama presented himself as the emissary of world opinion, taking on a nationalistic, populist base with views he characterized as retrograde and dangerous. And in both countries, conservative voters were under-polled, perhaps because they had been cast as old-fashioned bigots.
But however much Obama and his administration may mock what Secretary of State John Kerry called, in another context, “19th-century rules,” nations exist and have different — often urgent — interests. Both Israel and Britain face threats from radical Islam, even though the British foreign policy elite prefers, falsely, to see Israel’s vulnerability as a unique problem of its own creation. The threat of radical Islam, linked to the problem of unchecked immigration, was a major factor in Brexit.
Left-wing Americans, and left-leaning observers in other parts of the world, have reacted to the unexpected result of the Brexit vote by characterizing “Leave” voters as “old xenophobic uneducated white people.” That reaction shows how little they understand — and it is guaranteed to drive more voters rightwards, in quiet waves that are becoming harder for pollsters to measure. Obama would do well to study British Prime Minister David Cameron’s humble example, and learn from defeat.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, will be published by Regnery on July 25 and is available for pre-order through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.