In Parliament, lawmakers are mired in gridlock over Britain’s departure from the European Union, with no clear path forward. In Washington, President Trump stormed out of a meeting with congressional leaders who oppose his border wall, hardening a standoff that has shut down much of the government for longer than ever before.
Two governments paralyzed. Two populist projects stalled. Two venerable democracies in crisis.
Rarely have British and American politics seemed quite so synchronized as they do in the chilly dawn of 2019, three years after the victories of Brexit and Donald J. Trump upended the two nations’ political establishments. The countries seem subject to a single ideological weather system — one that pits pro-globalization elites against a left-behind hinterland.
The trans-Atlantic dysfunction has far-reaching ramifications, given the role the United States and Britain, pillars of the NATO alliance, play in counterterrorism operations, intelligence sharing, sanctions enforcement, and dealing with conflict zones like Syria.
With both countries also turning away from multilateral trade agreements, China has the opportunity to step in and play an even bigger role in the global economy. And Russia has seen an opening to expand its influence in Europe, where rising nationalism has threatened to fracture the European Union.
Mr. Trump and the Brexiteers have ridden a nationalist tide in their countries as well, using a potent anti-immigration message to appeal to mostly white voters who yearn for a more homogeneous society that no longer exists.
If the two countries are both vulnerable to gridlock, that is partly for historic reasons. As two of the world’s oldest democracies, they spring from the same, centuries-old model: the electoral system known as first-past-the post or winner-take-all. Democracies that developed later, like Sweden and Finland, introduced proportional representation, which allows for smaller parties to enter Parliament.
In Washington, Mr. Trump may break the impasse by declaring his emergency — a risky assertion of executive power that would be challenged in the courts but would enable the government to reopen. Either way, the fate of the United States will not hang in the balance.
In London, where the political and economic consequences of a chaotic departure from Europe are far more profound, “it is much more difficult to compromise,” Mr. Lind said. “The side that loses is really, really going to lose.”