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Politics & Government

Parsing Anti-Establishment Sentiments In The U.S. And U.K.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President-elect Donald Trump is coming into the White House as a self-proclaimed Washington outsider, and that is one reason many people voted for him. That is the story here in the United States right now. But just months ago, in June, the United Kingdom had its own shakeup, when British voters decided to leave the European Union. Earlier this month, we reached out to NPR's senior political correspondent, Don Gonyea, and NPR international correspondent Frank Langfitt in London to talk about the similarities between the anti-establishment sentiments in both the U.K. and the United States. And now that the election here is over, we thought it was worth bringing them back together. Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning, guys.

GREENE: All right, Don, I'll start with you. You have been out talking to Trump supporters fresh off their big victory. What are they saying?

GONYEA: I'm in Trumble County, Ohio, David. It's in far north-eastern Ohio, sits on the Pennsylvania border. So this is a place that President Obama, in his two elections, won both times, each time by more than 20 points. On Tuesday, Trumbull County went for Donald Trump. And over the past 20 years, thousands of steel jobs here have disappeared. And people will tell you they feel betrayed by the government, they feel betrayed by trade deals like NAFTA. So yesterday, I caught up with 58-year-old Trump voter Dan Kisner (ph). He was at a local restaurant, and I asked how he's feeling after the election.

DAN KISNER: Excited, nervous and hopeful.

GONYEA: So I said to him, I get the excitement, I get the hopefulness, but why nervous?

KISNER: Well that he's not able to do things as quickly as he would like. He's got to have participation and a willingness to work with the other side, and they have to as well. So it's going to have to be a give and take.

GONYEA: So you can hear a little bit of, OK, let's see how this is going to work, in his voice. But Kisner says he can be patient. And he does say he would expect to start to see concrete results after a year or so.

GREENE: Well, Frank Langfitt, let me turn to you. I mean, throughout the presidential campaign here in the U.S., there were all these comparisons between the Brexit vote and a potential Donald Trump victory. Now you're a few months on from the Brexit vote. Are there lessons that seem relevant here?

LANGFITT: Well, they are, and the similarities sort of continue. You know, both campaigns tackled complicated issues with simple solutions, but few details. And one lesson, I think, so far is that putting radical change into action is just a lot more complicated than it looks. For instance, right here in the United Kingdom, the government thought it was going to have a free hand on Brexit. And Prime Minister Theresa May, she just recently lost a lawsuit, so she actually has to take Brexit to parliament.

Parliament isn't going to kill this, but there's probably going to be an attempt to amend her plans and kind of a tussle over exactly what leaving the EU is going to mean, so it could be pretty messy. The other one I think that's going to be very important to see in the U.S. and here is, you know, disengaging from the world carries a price. After the Brexit vote, the pound dropped about 20 percent. British friends of mine are talking about going overseas and really feeling the pain economically when they try to buy things.

Inflation is certainly coming. And foreign companies you now see in the U.K. are asking for special protection from Brexit or threatening to pull out. And, you know, as Trump thinks about killing these free trade pacts, he's also going to have to consider what the overall impact's going to be on the U.S. economy.

GREENE: Well, Don, I mean, Donald Trump would not say disengagement from the world, but he is talking about canceling free trade deals. He is talking about, you know, the United States spending less money. He's released his plan for the first 100 days, canceling executive actions that were ordered by President Obama, repealing Obamacare. I mean, are - are Trump voters talking specifics?

GONYEA: They're just geeked still about Trump winning, and they don't seem to be thinking too far ahead. But they do expect some quick action on those executive orders. And - and they know other stuff will take longer, if it happens at all. But at that same restaurant I was at, Trump supporter George Bakaras (ph) didn't try to suppress his expectations.

GEORGE BAKARAS: He'll do everything he said and then some, I feel, because he's - he's an egomaniac, and he wants to go down as one of the best presidents ever. And he's going to - I've got a feeling he's going to do it.

GONYEA: So you say he's an egomaniac. You mean that in the best way, I guess.

BAKARAS: Yeah, in a good way because he wants to do very well for the country.

GREENE: Egomaniac in the best way (laughter).

GONYEA: And so - so that answer almost - that answer almost makes it sound like it's all just a matter of will, even as this new president, who's never worked in government, will confront so many issues and complex problems and the unexpected in ways that no candidate does.

GREENE: Well, Frank, I mean, in terms of leaving the European Union, you said it's complicated, but has there been progress to make that happen?

LANGFITT: Not much, actually. It's interesting. May likes to say Brexit it means Brexit, but this has become a punch line because she actually refuses to define what it means. She wants to trigger leaving EU in March. But again, as I was mentioning, Parliament is probably going to pick over her plans. Also, leaving the EU is mind-bogglingly complicated.

When I talk to - to people who are experts in trade, their heads explode here. And there - remember, there was zero planning before Brexit. They didn't know how they were going to do this. So they have to find tons of trade expertise that doesn't exist in the U.K. And most people say that leaving the EU and rebuilding any good trade relationships are going to take, you know, up to a decade.

GREENE: We were chatting with NPR international correspondent Frank Langfitt and NPR senior political correspondent Don Gonyea. Thanks, guys.

GONYEA: It's a pleasure.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.