Brexit Of Champions: If You Don't Set The Menu, You're On The Menu

Our poor British comrades, caught between nostalgia and exasperation, democracy and inequity (sound familiar?). The Brexit vote shows why politicians who call for these referendums try to avoid actually holding them: people tend to see it as a chance to punish the otherwise unaccountable political class. The new global normal of mass migrations, debt, low wages, stagnant economies and the steady hemorrhaging of the middle class might be easier for voters to bear if the pain was not accompanied by the greatest concentration of wealth in the history of capitalism.

The masses are pissed off.

Ever since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher teamed up to destroy our public sphere, liberals and conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have doggedly obeyed the neoliberal measures called for by the massive monopolies controlling the world's "free trade." This has earned politicians the distrust and disgust of most of the citizenry, pretty much everywhere. Far right parties are on the rise, offering up an intoxicating cocktail of bigotry and nationalism to blunt the hangover from a three decade binge on globalization. The day of the Brexit, Donald Trump channeled Europe's far-right discourse:

People want to take their country back. They want to have independence, in a sense. You see it with Europe, all over Europe. You're going to have more... many other cases where they want to take their borders back, they want to take their monetary back, they want to take a lot of things back. They want to be able to have a country again. So I think you're going to have this happen more and more... I think it's happening in the United States.

Trump supporters tend to see career politicians and big government as keeping America from being "great again." Those supporting Bernie Sanders see the entire plutocracy as the problem. Clinton's supporters are mostly scared of Trump.

What does all this mean for the food insecurity now affecting 1 in 7 people?

Because the root cause of hunger and food insecurity is poverty it means that the candidate that has the most coherent anti-poverty platform will do the most to end hunger in the richest, most productive country in the world. Of course, neither Trump, Bernie nor Hillary is campaigning on a pro-poverty platform. But how will their policies (or lack of them) affect the poor?

For a Trump presidency, the indicator is Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. Despite his bluster, it is very unlikely that Donald Trump has the congressional connections or political acumen to do anything structurally original once he's in the White House. Even if Trump actually does convince the Mexican government to pay for a Great Wall, the policy default will be Ryan, whose regressive views on welfare, healthcare and the poor are well known. Hillary has, well, a spotty record on these issues. While she is backing away now, her support for free trade agreements has done little to support local economies. It is unlikely she will advance a pro-poverty agenda if it means compromising her Wall Street connections. Bernie Sanders is clearly pro-poor and anti-rich. However, none of the candidates has specifically addressed the issue of hunger or food.

There is a campaign to address the plight of the US's food insecure called Plate of the Union that petitions the next president to ensure healthy food access to all people living in the US. While the petition does not indicate what specific food policies the president should pursue--nor does it indicate which policies are pro-poor--it is an important initiative because it calls for citizens to engage politically in the food system. Why is this important?

Because despite its stridence, the populism of the far right is essentially against politics--thus leaving our society open to even more manipulation by the plutocracy. If we want to end hunger, political engagement is essential. This is true for a Trump presidency (that will greatly increase the power of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan), or a Clinton presidency (that will require enormous pressure to keep her compass firmly on the poor rather than on Wall Street). Because Sanders is basically out of the running, his value is in politicizing the issues--especially poverty and food.

Unless we "set the menu" by engaging politically to change our food system, we will find ourselves on the menu of either the regressive politics of the far right or the neoliberal politics of the established Democratic party. Let the Brexit be a warning.