But on Monday, adding to an unreal atmosphere in Washington, Trump had to take the extraordinary step of saying he was not working for Russia. Populist in chief Trumps enlistment of rural, conservative voters against metropolitan elites echoes the arguments of leaders orchestrating Britains exit from Europe. Now, in both nations, the unwillingness of rebels to dilute the purity of their goals is causing gridlock and resistance in Congress and in Parliament. In the United States, Trump is mounting a defiant stand on his border wall, which triggered the partial government shutdown. Its just as important for Trump to keep faith with voters with whom he bonded over the wall as it is for Brexiteers to honor the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU. This is the case even though both aspirations, which have taken on mystical properties, are becoming more elusive. With the US President not bending and with Democrats adamant they wont fold, 800,000 government workers could be without pay for days to come, and halfhearted attempts to break the partisan deadlock have failed. Britain, meanwhile, is mired in the worst political crisis since World War II. While a slim majority voted to leave the EU, there is no consensus on how to do it, and about half the country still wants to stay in the bloc. The voluble Trump and the plodding May could not be more different in personality and political style. The Prime Minister is a creature of the Conservative Party establishment and spent years climbing to the top. Trump never went native in Washington. Hes still the ringleader of a populist movement that sent him to power in a stunning political upset. But they are both leaders who once set on a course are loath to turn back, and often speak in slogans like “Build the wall” and “Brexit means Brexit,” which sound good but dont help them follow through on their goals. While persistence can be a strength, it can also backfire. Trump has been saying the same thing for days that Democrats are soft on the border and need to capitulate. But hes failed to rally a coalition of Americans behind his border wall. Effectively hes led the Republican Party into a political dead end. May repeatedly insists that her rejected deal is the only way to honor the 2016 referendum, right up until its massive defeat. But she has failed to build public support for her approach. If anything, shes more locked into a failed political position than Trump is on the shutdown. And the deeper the trans Atlantic dysfunction gets, the better it is for Putin.