Farage drew parallels between British citizens’ vote to leave the European Union and some American citizens’ support for Donald Trump.
Donald Trump, left, listens to outgoing UKIP leader Nigel Farage speak during a campaign rally at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, Aug. 24, 2016. Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images
JACKSON, Mississippi — Taking the podium at an evening rally for Donald Trump here, Nigel Farage, the outgoing leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), recounted how he and his “people’s armies” successfully campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union.
“Anything is possible if enough decent people want to fight the establishment,” Farage said as he compared the anti-globalization, anti-immigration Brexit campaign he spearheaded with the Republican candidate’s campaign for the presidency.
Farage encouraged the rally’s audience to hit the pavement for Trump, emphasizing the importance door-knocking played in the Brexit outcome:
You have a fantastic opportunity here with this campaign. You can go out, you can beat the pollsters, you can beat the commentators, you can beat Washington. And you’ll do it by doing what we did for Brexit in Britain.
We had our own people’s armies of ordinary citizens who went out and delivered leaflets, who went to meet people where they worked and where they socialized, who convinced them to go out, and if it was the one and only time in their lives, to vote for change.
If you want change in this country, you better get your walking boots on. You better get out there campaigning.
The audience was receptive to the message, cheering especially when he said:
We reached those people who have never voted in their lives, but believed that by going out and voting for Brexit, they could take back their country, take back control of their borders, and get back their pride and self-respect.
Trump supporters at the rally largely expressed enthusiasm for the speech and its comparisons, though some said they were unfamiliar with the specifics of what had happened across the pond. Of those who said they had followed the EU referendum in June, most supported the British citizens who had voted to leave the EU and identified with their frustrations.
There are millions of ordinary Americans who have been let down, who have had a bad time, who feel the political class in Washington are detached from them, who feel so many of their representatives are politically-correct parts of that liberal media elite. They feel people aren’t standing up for them and they’ve actually, in many cases, given up on the whole electoral process.
The British politician, who announced he was stepping down as UKIP leader in the wake of the Brexit vote, said UK citizens voted to leave the EU despite the discouragement and predictions of “experts from all over the world, the International Monetary Fund, Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, global leaders, the commentariat, and the polling companies.”
“Everybody said we’d lose,” he said.
For his part, Trump focused in his speech on outreach to African-American and Hispanic voters, at one point calling Hillary Clinton a bigot and at another promising to rebuild the “inner cities.”
Farage stopped short of endorsing Trump, but said he “wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me.”
BuzzFeed News spoke with some who attended the rally about their thoughts on Farage and the rest of the event. Here’s what they had to say.
Sloan Gray, 23, and Ethan Westmoreland, 24, said the main reason they support Trump is his position on regulating immigration to the United States, which they see echoed in the Brexit story.
“In England, they had forgotten that government is for the people, by the people,” said Gray. “The vote demonstrated that that they should be caring about the people in their own country, not the illegal people pouring in.”
Westmoreland thought Trump’s “what do you have to lose?” appeal to African-American communities was a convincing pitch.
“A lot of those communities that have been run by Democrats for years have not blossomed,” he said.
Carmen and David Clifton, both Mississippi residents, said this was the first Trump rally they had attended and that Farage’s appearance was “icing on the cake.” Both said they saw parallels between Trump supporters and British citizens who voted for Brexit.
“The government has always been in charge, but people used to have a voice,” said David Clifton. “The main thing is getting back to how it used to be — America being America, a separate country, instead of one with open borders.”
Clifton, a quality manager in a Ridley, Mississippi, manufacturing plant that makes pump parts for oil wells, said he also appreciated Trump’s rhetoric about keeping jobs in MIssissippi.
Paul Clifton, 23, the couple’s son (not pictured), said Farage’s speech gave legitimacy to the idea that Trump could beat the odds to make it to the White House.
“Everyone in the media says he’s never going to win, so he brought a guest to say it’s possible,” he said.
Nancy and Eric Hasselbach, small-business owners from Brandon, Mississippi, said their support for Trump comes down to “borders, language, and culture.”
Sarah Altman, 18, and her father, David, 57, said they noticed that Trump’s speech had focused on African-American and Hispanic communities and they hoped it might increase his support from those voters.
“I thought Trump’s speech was very inclusive, and my hope is that the news media will portray that in the way he intended it,” said David Altman. “I don’t believe Trump has purposefully alienated those groups.”
Latoya Turner, 24, one of the few black people who attended the rally, said she supports Hillary Clinton and came to the event out of curiosity from Vicksburg, Mississippi, 45 minutes away.
“One woman here said, ‘Since you’re black, can my daughter take a picture with you?’” said Turner. “I guess she wanted to make it seem like Trump has black supporters. I took a picture for the little baby. There are three of us here from Vicksburg.”
Turner said she was not moved by Trump’s new outreach efforts to African-American voters.
Anthony Hawkins and Paige Higgins, both Trump supporters of Jackson, Mississipi, and among the only other people of color in the audience, said they appreciated Trump’s promise to focus on reducing unemployment. Both are currently looking for work.
“It’s extra motivation to support the jobs candidate,” said Higgins.
Hawkins said he had also noticed Trump speaking specifically about bringing jobs to black communities in recent speeches. “As a black voter, I appreciate his adjusting to the crowds,” he said.
Both said they believe that Farage’s appearance at the rally helped give Trump’s campaign more authority and credibility.
“You’ve got to have some weight to get someone like that to come out here,” said Hawkins. “It shows Trump is a heavyweight.”
“I did hear [Farage] was in retirement,” Higgins added, “so he had some time.”
Cora Lewis is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Lewis reports on labor.