This week the Harvard Republican Club wrote a letter about failing to endorse Donald Trump. It started as follows:

Dear Members and Alumni,

In every presidential election since 1888, the members and Executive Board of the Harvard Republican Club have gathered to discuss, debate, and eventually endorse the standard-bearer of our party. But for the first time in 128 years, we, the oldest College Republicans chapter in the nation, will not be endorsing the Republican nominee.

Dear Harvard Republican Club,

Sorry to break it to you, but if for 128 years your meetings have always come to the same pre-ordained conclusion, then you haven’t been taking part in intellectual debate. If you literally always ended up endorsing the nominee the party had already chosen, then you weren’t really discussing anything that mattered. If I were you, I’d be a bit embarrassed to admit that.

Still, congratulations on demonstrating that you won’t endorse someone who you say is “eschewing basic human decency”. Onward and upward!

Moral Foundations Theory holds that people have 6 fundamental principles (or “foundations”) which they use to support their moral beliefs:

  1. Care for others
  2. Fairness
  3. Liberty
  4. Loyalty to your group
  5. Obedience to authority
  6. Moral sanctity or purity

Conservatives tend to believe in all 5 pillars, but are particularly strong in their belief in loyalty, obedience and moral purity. Liberals (like me) tend to have little or no belief in obedience or sanctity, and very little concern for loyalty. So in a way, conservatives are right when they see us as the morally defective ones. This leads to many unproductive conversations, where one side is literally unable to understand what the other side is even talking about.

Now, new research suggests that strong belief in loyalty, obedience and purity — known as the “binding values” — is associated with a tendency to blame the victim. And counterintuitively, the more you talk about events from the victim’s point of view, the more proponents of binding values are likely to blame the victim

For my American friends and neighbors, my brief summary of this whole “brexit” mess.

What happened

Nigel Farage, a stockbroker’s son educated at an expensive private school, managed to portray himself in the media as a man of the people. His party, UKIP, engaged in racist campaigning, along with the usual far-right homophobia and rants about women.

The BBC gave disproportionate coverage to UKIP, and initially they were treated as a joke. Later, the UK press took a blatantly pro-brexit position.

Many right-wing members of the ruling Conservative Party got friendly with Farage. As his popularity rose, unprincipled Tory opportunists like Boris Johnson decided to join him.

Faced with defecting Tories, Prime Minister David Cameron decided to hold a referendum on leaving the EU. He didn’t need to, but his cunning plan was that the nation would vote overwhelmingly to stay, and UKIP would no longer be a threat to his perceived leadership of the right.

Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson claimed that leaving the EU would save Britain £350 million a week. Farage claimed that he would funnel that money into the National Health Service to save it. Pretty much every fact-based source said the figure was complete fantasy, but people who wanted to leave the EU kept repeating it.

The campaign against the EU became openly racist. Both sides indulged in toxic campaigning styles.

Conservative Minister Andrea Leadsom assured voters that there was absolutely no economic danger to the UK from leaving the EU.

In the last few days before the referendum, a crazed man shot a pro-EU MP dead, while screaming “Britain First”, the name of a violent far-right group. In court, he gave his name as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain“.

And then 79% of eligible people voted.

How the vote went down

Old people voted to leave the EU. Young people overwhelmingly voted to stay.

The most educated were the most likely to vote to stay.

People in areas with lots of immigrants tended to vote in favor of staying. People with very few immigrants were the most likely to vote to leave in order to keep it that way.

Areas most economically dependent on the EU were the most likely to vote to leave.

Scotland overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU. Northern Ireland also voted to stay.

What happened the day after

Nigel Farage gave a victory speech in which he gloated that he had won “without a bullet being fired”, which was no doubt news to the family of MP Jo Cox. But that thing he said about £350m a week for the NHS? Oops, that was a mistake. And the idea that there would no more immigration from the EU? People are “going to be disappointed“.

The pound crashed against the dollar to its lowest level since 1985. The FTSE 250 stock index of UK companies dropped 12.3%, then rallied slightly to end up down 7.3%.

Shares in UK banks dropped up to 21%. Shares in some construction companies dropped 30-40%.

Standard & Poor and the other ratings agencies downgraded the UK’s credit rating.

Areas of the UK dependent on EU funding started to worry.

People who voted to leave were interviewed by the media, and many said they had meant it to be a protest vote and didn’t think the UK would actually vote leave. Tens of thousands asked for a do-over.

What happens next

The UK government is not legally obligated to obey the results of the referendum. However, Prime Minister Cameron has already resigned, and businesses aren’t waiting around to see if his replacement decides to ignore the vote.

Many multinational businesses based in the US have a major presence in the UK, because it was a convenient English-speaking base country for trading access to the EU. For companies based in other EU countries, the UK has been a convenient place to locate offices and trade with the USA. For multinational corporations, the EU was fantastic — uniform trading laws, no international barriers, and so on. It is strongly in their interests to preserve the EU at all costs. That means they’re motivated to leave the UK as soon as possible. They don’t want to get stuck on a sinking ship with their business crippled by trade barriers, but more than that it’s in their interests to see the newly independent UK fail, so that other countries will be dissuaded from leaving the EU. So, expect a string of major layoffs and UK offices closing.

As Charlie Stross points out, London is the global #1 market for derivatives trading in Euros. That must end if the UK leaves the EU. You can therefore expect most of the big banks in the City of London to move elsewhere.

Scotland’s Green Party and SNP will collaborate to force another referendum on Scottish independence, which will probably pass this time, so that they can remain in the EU.

Northern Ireland is pushing for a referendum on Irish unification.

Right-wing parties across Europe are all hoping to repeat UKIP’s successful strategy in their own nations.

Applying the lessons of the above to the Donald Trump phenomenon is left as a depressing exercise for the reader.

Michael Heseltine is apparently shocked to discover that the Tory party is engaging in racist fearmongering about immigration:

The Brexit case relies on fanning fears about immigration. I am amazed that someone like you now marches to the drum of Farage, Trump and Le Pen – a generation of demagogues spawned by a global recession and the fallout from internecine conflict among Muslims.

Maybe he’s getting forgetful in his old age. Here’s what Margaret Thatcher said in a World in Action TV interview, just before getting elected and appointing him as a Minister:

… I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture and, you know, the British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in.

So, if you want good race relations, you have got to allay peoples’ fears on numbers. Now, the key to this was not what Keith Speed said just a couple of weeks ago. It really was what Willie Whitelaw said at the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton, where he said we must hold out the clear prospect of an end to immigration because at the moment it is about between 45,000 and 50,000 people coming in a year. Now, I was brought up in a small town, 25,000. That would be two new towns a year and that is quite a lot. So, we do have to hold out the prospect of an end to immigration except, of course, for compassionate cases. Therefore, we have got to look at the numbers who have a right to come in. There are a number of United Kingdom passport holders—for example, in East Africa—and what Keith and his committee are trying to do is to find out exactly how we are going to do it; who must come in; how you deal with the compassionate cases, but nevertheless, holding out the prospect of an end to immigration.

For perspective, that figure of 50,000 immigrants per year that Thatcher said was risking Britain being “swamped”? Less than a tenth of the current immigration figures.

Not that Thatcher actually ended immigration, of course, but pandering was enough to collapse BNP support and get her elected.