This will come as no surprise, but here's the fundamental reason that Brexit won:

The younger the voter, the more strongly they voted to remain in the EU. The older the voter, the more likely they were to actually get out and vote. Eventually the kids are going to figure out how badly their elders are screwing them, and maybe then they'll finally muster the energy to cast a ballot. I wonder what it's going to take to make that happen?

(Preference via YouGov. Turnout via SkyData.)

James Fallows is in western Kansas around Dodge City, where many of the cities are majority Latino and full of immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba, and more recently Somalia and Sudan. Here's what he says:

I can’t let this day end without noting the black-versus-white, night-versus-day contrast between the way immigration, especially from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, is discussed in this part of the country where it is actually happening, versus its role in this moment’s national political discussion.

....Every single person we have spoken with — Anglo and Latino and other, old and young, native-born and immigrant, and so on down the list — every one of them has said: We need each other! There is work in this community that we all need to do. We can choose to embrace the world, or we can fade and die. And we choose to embrace it.

I don't have actual data on this, but my sense from both the US and Britain is that the most fervent opposition to immigration—legal or otherwise—comes precisely from the regions where it's had the least impact. Here in the US, for example, immigration from Latin America has been heaviest in the southern sun belt states of California, Texas, Arizona, and a few others. And yet Donald Trump's "build a wall" narrative played well in places like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, all of which have relatively small Latino populations. Similarly, Brexit did best in the small towns and rural areas of England, the places that have the fewest immigrants and that depend the most on EU trade.

That's not to say that opposition to immigration is absent in places like London or San Diego. It's not. But these places mostly seem to have adapted to it and figured out that it's not really all that bad. It's everywhere else, where immigration is mostly a fear, that anti-immigrant sentiment has the strongest purchase. And that's why peddling fear is so effective.

Let Us Now Figure Out Who to Blame for Brexit

Brexit has passed, and now it's time to find someone to blame. Sure, you can go with the pack and blame David Cameron or Nigel Farage, but that's not much fun. Here are four plausible but not entirely obvious choices:

Ed Miliband

In order to keep peace within his own party, Prime Minister David Cameron promised a vote on Brexit in 2013. It seemed fairly harmless at the time: Cameron's Conservative Party was about 20 seats short of an outright majority in Parliament, so he was governing in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems opposed the referendum, and as long as they remained in the coalition, there would most likely have been no vote. To maintain this status quo, neither the Lib Dems nor the opposition Labor Party even had to gain any seats in the 2015 election. They just had to hold their own.

But Ed Miliband proved to be such a hapless leader of the Labor Party that he lost 26 seats in the election. This was just enough to give the Tories a bare majority, and that paved the way for Brexit.

Alternatively, you could blame Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who managed his party's coalition with Cameron poorly and lost an astounding 49 of its 57 seats in the 2015 election. But Labor was the primary opposition party and should have been able to pick up most of those seats, so let's stick with Miliband on this one.

Angela Merkel

For all the praise she gets, Angela Merkel has been one of the most disastrous European leaders in my lifetime. She's as responsible for Brexit as anyone I can think of, thanks to two catastrophic decisions she made.

The first was her insistence on punishing Greece following its collapse after the Great Recession. There's plenty of blame to go around on all sides for the Greece debacle, but as the continent's economic leader Germany held most of the high cards during negotiations over Greece's fate. Merkel had a choice: (a) punish Greece for running up unsustainable debts and lying about them, or (b) accept that Germany bore much of the blame itself for the crisis and that Greece had no way of rescuing itself thanks to the straitjacket of the common currency. The former was a crowd pleaser. The latter was unpopular and would have required sustained, iron-spined leadership. In the event, Merkel chose to play to the crowds, and Greece has been a basket case ever since—with no end in sight. It hardly went unnoticed in Britain how Europe treated a country that was too entangled with the EU to either fight back or exit, and it made Britain's decision to forego the common currency look prescient. And if that had been a good choice, maybe all the rest of "ever closer union" wasn't such a great idea either.

Merkel's second bad decision was more recent. Here is David Frum: "If any one person drove the United Kingdom out of the European Union, it was Angela Merkel, and her impulsive solo decision in the summer of 2015 to throw open Germany—and then all Europe—to 1.1 million Middle Eastern and North African migrants, with uncountable millions more to come." It's hard to fault Merkel for this on a humanitarian basis, but on a political basis it was a disaster. The barely-controlled wave of refugees Merkel encouraged has caused resentment and more all over Europe, and it unquestionably played a big role in the immigrant backlash in Britain that powered the Leave vote.

Paul Dacre

Paul Dacre is the longtime editor of the Daily Mail, and he's standing in here for the entire conservative tabloid press, which has spent decades lying about the EU and scaring the hell out of its readership about every grisly murder ever committed by an immigrant. In a journalistic style pioneered by Boris Johnson—who we'll get to next—the Mail and other tabloids have run hundreds of sensational stories about allegedly idiotic EU regulations and how they're destroying not just Britain's way of life, but its very sovereignty as well. These stories range from deliberately exaggerated to outright false, and they're so relentless that the EU has an entire website dedicated to debunking British tabloid myths from A (abattoirs) to Z (zoos). The chart below, from the Economist, tots up all the lies, and the Mail is the clear leader.

The EU is hardly a finely-tuned watch when it comes to regulations, but the vast majority of the outrage over its rulings is based almost literally on nothing. Nonetheless, the outrage is real, and it was fueled largely by Dacre's Daily Mail and its fellow tabloids.

Boris Johnson

Why Boris? After all, it was Nigel Farage, the odious leader of the openly xenophobic UKIP party, who led the charge to leave the EU. This is, perhaps, a judgment call, but I've long had a stronger disgust for those who tolerate racism than for the open racists themselves. The latter are always going to be around, and sometimes I even have a little sympathy for them. They've often spent their entire lives marinating in racist communities and are as much a victim of their upbringing as any of us.

But then there are those who should know better, and Boris Johnson is very much one of them. The usual caveat is in order here: I can't look into Johnson's heart and know what he really thinks. But he's had a long journalistic career, and an equally long history of tolerating racist sentiments. As a longtime Euroskeptic—though probably more an opportunistic one rather than a true believer—it's no surprise that he campaigned for Brexit, but in doing so he knowingly joined hands with Farage and his UKIP zealots, providing them with a respectability they wouldn't have had without him. He knew perfectly well that the Leave campaign would be based primarily on exploiting fear of immigrants, but he joined up anyway.

Johnson is hardly the only British politician to act this way, of course. But he's the most prominent one, so he gets to stand in for all of them.

Friday Cat Blogging - 24 June 2016

Here are the cultural references in this morning's four blog posts:

And here is Hilbert, one of the primary cultural references for Friday catblogging. How could you possibly walk by this and not give him a tummy rub?

Sure, Donald Trump Could Win. Here's How.

Paul Waldman asks: "In Britain, cultural resentments won out over stability. Can Donald Trump create the same result here?"

Sure. The odds may be against it, but of course Trump can win in November. Let's set the stage with the observation that both candidates start with about 45 percent support. Like it or not, that's where we are right now. Republicans could nominate Donald Duck and he'd start off with 45 percent support. Ditto for Democrats. That said, here's the most likely path to a Trump victory:

  1. Trump gets smart and dials back the cretinism a bit. It wouldn't take long for the #NeverTrumpers to fall in line. The key tells would be statements like "He seems to be finally growing into his role," or "He's right that we can't afford three or four Hillary nominees to the Supreme Court." A few weeks after you hear stuff like this, #NeverTrump will be relegated to the ash heap of history.
  2. Bernie Sanders remains bitter and fails to rally his troops, who remain convinced that Hillary Clinton is a corrupt, corporate shill. So they stay home in a funk instead of working to defeat Trump.
  3. The media continues its practice of giving Trump air time to spread wild lies whenever he wants. This is fairly likely since they still haven't internalized the corollary to the Lesley Stahl lesson: fact checks don't matter. Only the loud, confident assertion matters.
  4. Hillary's email troubles don't get resolved and continue to dog her throughout the campaign.

None of this relies on any kind of big external event, like a terrorist attack or an economic plunge. It just relies on Trump getting a little smarter and then a few things going his way. It could happen here.

It Was Immigration Wot Won It

Josh Marshall today:

The UK always had one foot in and one foot out of the EU. (This is the main reason departure seemed such folly; the UK had already opted out of the worst parts of EU membership.)

I've seen a lot of people making similar comments. Britain wasn't part of the euro. They aren't part of Schengen. They're not fully part of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. They've retained a case-by-case opt-out in Justice and Home Affairs issues. They get a special rebate on contributions to the EU budget. And earlier this year, David Cameron negotiated a further package of British opt-outs.

So what's the deal? What more did the British want?

The answer is simple: an end to immigration. That's it. Elderly Brits didn't vote to leave because of EU laws over the shape of bananas. They voted to leave because they had reached their "breaking point" over the flow of immigrants. They didn't want any more Poles or any more Muslims or any more Pakistanis.

It's pretty simple: 52 percent of the electorate voted to keep Britain white. Let's not overthink this.

EU to Britain: Drop Dead

The folks who were opposed to Brexit want Britain to get the hell out as soon as possible:

The EU’s top leaders have said they expect the UK to act on its momentous vote to leave the union “as soon as possible, however painful that process may be” and that there will be “no renegotiation”....The German MEP Elmar Brok, who chairs the European parliament’s committee on foreign affairs, told the Guardian...“They will have to negotiate from the position of a third country, not as a member state. If Britain wants to have a similar status to Switzerland and Norway, then it will also have to pay into EU structural funds like those countries do. The British public will find out what that means.

But Brexit's biggest supporter suddenly wants to go slow:

Boris Johnson has said Britain should not immediately trigger article 50 to start exit negotiations with the EU after the momentous referendum verdict. In sombre tones and accompanied by fellow Brexit campaigners Gisela Stuart and Michael Gove, the former mayor of London said there was “no need for haste” and “nothing will change in the short term” in his first press conference since the vote.

....The downbeat press conference reflected a decision by the victorious Vote Leave campaign to try to calm the collapse of the financial markets as the magnitude of the political and economic repercussions unfold.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump says the plummeting pound is great news for his golf course in Turnberry, so it's all good.

Blue Cross Pulling Out of Minnesota

See update below.

This is some genuine bad news for Obamacare:

Minnesota's largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has decided to stop selling health plans to individuals and families in Minnesota starting next year. The insurer explained extraordinary financial losses drove the decision. "Based on current medical claim trends, Blue Cross is projecting a total loss of more than $500 million in the individual [health plan] segment over three years," BCBSM said in a statement.

....The decision will have far-reaching implications. Blue Cross and Blue Shield says the change will affect about, "103,000 Minnesotans [who] have purchased Blue Cross coverage on their own, through an agent or broker, or on MNsure."

When United Healthcare closed up shop, it wasn't that big a deal. UH is a huge insurer, but not a major Obamacare player. Blue Cross is different. It's a huge insurer and a major player in the individual health care market.

If this is just a problem with Minnesota, it's not too big a deal. If it's a sign of broader Blue Cross problems nationwide—and Blue Cross has previously announced losses in Illinois, Michigan, and other states—then it's a big deal indeed. Fasten your seat belts.

UPDATE: Apparently Blue Cross isn't actually pulling out of Minnesota completely:

In a sign of continuing tumult in the health insurance industry, the state’s largest insurer said Thursday it will no longer offer its traditional suite of flexible and broad-reaching policies for those consumers who don’t get coverage through the workplace. Instead, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will sell only health plans with a narrow network, which limits patient coverage to specific doctors, hospitals and prescription drug benefits.

....“It’s a very difficult decision for us,” said Michael Guyette, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, who described the move as a “refocusing of our portfolio” rather than an all-out exit from the individual market.

So Blue Cross is staying in the individual market, but offering only narrow network plans. That's still bad news for Obamacare, but not nearly as bad as Blue Cross leaving the market entirely.

Brexit Wins

British voters have voted to leave the EU. What a waste. I'm skeptical that this will cause economic Armageddon, but I doubt that it will do Britain any good either. Now they'll spend the next three or four years up to their gills in rancorous negotiations on the terms for exit, and all to accomplish next to nothing.

In the short term, however, everyone is going to freak out. Financial markets are already throwing a fit, with the pound absolutely cratering. It had strengthened earlier in the week as it looked like Brexit would lose, but earlier tonight, as the first results started trickling in, it dropped like a stone. It lost more than 10 percent of its value in just a few hours, and is now trading at it lowest level against the dollar in 30 years.

I don't have any personal axe to grind on Brexit. Except for one: I am sick and tired of watching folks like Boris Johnson, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, and others appeal to the worst racial instincts of our species, only to be shushed by folks telling me that it's not really racism driving their popularity. It's economic angst. It's regular folks tired of being spurned by out-of-touch elites. It's a natural anxiety over rapid cultural change.

Maybe it's all those things. But at its core, it's the last stand of old people who have been frightened to death by cynical right-wing media empires and the demagogues who enable them—all of whom have based their appeals on racism as overt as anything we've seen in decades. It's loathsome beyond belief, and not something I thought I'd ever see in my lifetime. But that's where we are.

Jamelle Bouie makes a seemingly indisputable point about Donald Trump:

Let's dispute this anyway. Bouie is referring to an interview by Lester Holt that's airing tonight on the NBC Nightly News. Here's a slightly cleaned up version of the portion he's talking about:

LESTER HOLT: You also made the claim that [Hillary Clinton's] e-mail, personal e-mail server, had been hacked, probably by foreign governments, suggesting that...she would be compromised as president. What evidence do you have?

DONALD TRUMP: Well first of all, she shouldn't have had a personal server, okay? She shouldn't have had it. It's illegal. What she did is illegal. Now she might not be judging that way because, you know, we — we have a rigged system. But what she did is illegal. She shouldn't have had a personal server —

HOLT: But is there any evidence that it was hacked other than routine fishing attacks?

TRUMP: I think I read that and I heard it and somebody —

HOLT: Where?

TRUMP: — that also gave me that information. I will report back to you. I'll give it to you.

HOLT: But you just said it with such certainty yesterday.

TRUMP: I don't know if certainty. Probably she was hacked. You know, you can be hacked and not know it, but she probably was hacked. The fact is she should not have it, she should not have had a personal server.

"I will report back to you." How lame! But before you scoff too much, think about what happened during this brief exchange:

  1. Holt repeated the claim that Hillary Clinton's email server had been hacked, "probably by foreign governments."
  2. Trump made a little speech about her personal server being illegal
  3. Holt repeated the claim, using the words "hacked" and "fishing attacks."
  4. Trump says he read that somewhere and he'll get back to Holt with the evidence.

To folks like us, who follow this stuff obsessively, this seems obviously ridiculous. But to the average viewer it's exactly the opposite. Trump has managed to maneuver Holt into spending 40 seconds of his evening newscast repeating damaging charges against Hillary Clinton. Between the two of them, in the space of that 40 seconds, you hear the words personal server four times, hacked five times, illegal three times, and compromised, rigged, and fishing attacks once each. When it's over, Trump promises to produce evidence backing this up. "I will get it to you," he says, in a tone that very much suggests he will indeed get it to us. (Click the link and listen to Trump if you don't believe me about this.)

This is the farthest thing from lame. It is an awesome display of media manipulation. The average person will come away from this with one and only one impression: Hillary Clinton probably used an illegal email server that was hacked by foreign governments. Period. Holt's skepticism doesn't even come through because he's too worried about trying to sound professional—and Trump took advantage of that to make Holt into yet another of his unwitting media dupes. This entire interview was nothing but a huge win for Trump. Holt served up every single thing he wanted on a silver peacock feather.

If you don't want to give Trump air time to make baseless charges, then you should refuse to air his baseless charges. This whole section of the interview should have been left on the cutting room floor. If everyone did that, eventually Trump would learn that making wild accusations won't get him precious exposure. But TV news loves wild accusations and pretends that airing them is OK as long as they follow up with a knowing, eyes-raised pronouncement that "no evidence was forthcoming from the Trump campaign." Haha. All of us who are in the know understand what that means.

This should stop. Period. Everyone is playing Trump's game, and it's way past time to knock it off.