Remainers are paralysed by fear of leaving the EU. But it offers huge opportunities for change, on both left and right.
“Brexit will not happen.” It cannot actually happen. Parliament, we are told, will force the deluded people to come to their senses, aided by the judiciary and big business. If the people have made a mistake, then can they not be shown the latest economic forecasts and be obliged, somehow, to think again?
With respect to all involved, and – briefly – to adopt the demotic of Boris Johnson, this must be cobblers. If parliament asked the people of the UK to vote on a subject of such huge importance; and if, after exhaustive and exhausting debate, they made their decision, by a clear majority; and if they were then told that it wasn’t going to happen, or at least not without a second vote, the glossy fabric of British democracy would be ripped to shreds. Frankly, I dread to think what would follow.
Rather than being paralysed by fear, we ought to be on the lip of a great invigoration of our democracy. Yet hardly anyone seems to be talking about the new agendas that are opening up.
For all of us who believe in British democratic culture, there can be exciting times ahead. The winds of change can be invigorating, not simply bloody cold.
Here’s a couple from Brendan O’Neil….
If you want to know why Trump won, just look at the response to his winning. The lofty contempt for ‘low information’ Americans. The barely concealed disgust for the rednecks and cretins of ‘flyover’ America who are apparently racist and misogynistic and homophobic. The haughty sneering at the vulgar, moneyed American political system and how it has allowed a wealthy candidate to poison the little people’s mushy, malleable minds.
This response to Trump’s victory reveals why Trump was victorious. Because those who do politics these days — the political establishment, the media, the academy, the celeb set — are so contemptuous of ordinary people, so hateful of the herd, so convinced that the mass of society cannot be trusted to make political decisions, and now those ordinary people have given their response to such top-down sneering and prejudice.
This nasty, reactionary turn against democracy by so many of the well-educated both explains the victory of Trump, which neatly doubles up as a slap in the face of the establishment, and confirms why democracy is more important today than it has ever been.
After Brexit in June and now the victory of Donald Trump, everyone’s freaking out about the howling little people and their ripping-up of the political script.
2016 is the year of rage, commentators claim. Brexit was a “howl of rage”, says the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland. And now it’s been joined by the “anti-establishment anger” of those American voters who elevated Trump to the most powerful post on Earth. It was “rage, not reason” that made people go for Trump, says an American neuroscientist.
In fact, these ordinary people, because they live and work in the belly of society in a way that cut-off experts and observers usually don’t, can actually have a *better* understanding of what’s wrong with society and how it might be fixed.
Less jaundiced by power, more aware of where everyday society isn’t working properly, the masses often have a keener sensitivity to political and social problems and what might be done about them.
I would sooner entrust political decisions to the first 50 people I encounter on my walk through town than to 50 people with PhDs. Too much democracy? There isn’t enough.
So now we move onto the fun stuff…the mental collapse and meltdown of the liberal ‘elite’ in black and white. Who to start with? Hmmm…Parris is as good a place as any…a man who admits he’s a soap dodger who doesn’t wash anymore…perhaps his dear old mum should have washed potty-mouthed Parris’ mouth out with some soap and water when he was younger….
These last few months I’ve seen a Britain, specifically an England, that I simply do not like. I’ve seen a nasty side, and seen colleagues and friends pander to it in a way I never thought they would. It has made me feel lonely in my own country, and the experience has touched me irreparably.
The reliance of the leaders and opinion leaders of the Leave campaign upon resentment of foreigners, dislike of immigration and — in many cases — hatred of immigrants, has been absolutely disgraceful. It should be a stain upon our conscience.
Anti-immigrant feeling won it for Leave, and they know it. They used it, rode it and are complicit in it. I’ve been dismayed to see people I’ve respected descend to this. I never thought either that the reserves of xenophobia in England were so strong, nor that people who should know better would play upon them with such careless cynicism. I was doubly naive.
It won’t wash. [And nor do I] Not when you know why they want to take back control.
Over the last few months a poison has been seeping through our national life. My faith in my fellow English, in our democracy, and in those who serve it in high places led me wholly to underestimate its potency or its capacity to spread.
Parris again as he dismisses ‘the people’ and their right to have a voice in elections…suggesting it should be left to the elite and better educated…
It’s not just that it has produced results I profoundly dislike. It’s to do with the merging of crowd and mob
The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States may have signalled the death of the closest thing we have to a religion in politics. On both sides of the Atlantic, democracy risks being knocked from the high altar as an unmitigated and unquestioned good.
The man’s obviously a fool and a nasty fool too. The contest should have been a walkover for Hillary Clinton. But it wasn’t. What happened? Can we be sure any longer that democracy works? Is it really the reliable bulwark against political madness that we always supposed?
I am beginning to question democracy…..it is producing results I profoundly dislike.
I believed in the wisdom of crowds but not mobs. Democracy was of course about inviting the considered view of the crowd but it was just as much about keeping the mob from the gates. I knew public sentiment sloshes around, sometimes quite violently, and I knew huge numbers of voters could be horribly if temporarily misled by false prospectuses, by lies, by unreasonable hopes and by sudden fears and hatreds.
The crowd — ‘true democracy’ — could be wise where a mob might be foolish, because we weren’t governed by the mob, real or virtual. There was no internet, no Facebook, no Twitter, no social media.
‘The crowd’ was a collective noun for millions of individuals, often conferring but finally thinking alone. That was what elections — general, presidential — were for.
It has seemed that the crowd and the mob have begun to merge into each other. Now we can so easily discover what a ‘majority’ think they want at any one moment, and — worse — ignorant hooligans can discover with a click on a keyboard that there are millions like them out there — our faith in democracy, our faith in the ‘government by the people’ part of the trio, is being tested to its logical limit.
Unless we find procedures for distinguishing between the evanescent and the more considered manifestations of public opinion, the Trumps and Farages of our age will kill our faith in democracy.
Who next? Perhaps the man who funds so much of the liberal assault on democracy and national sovereignty (No complaints from Obama here)…George Soros….This smacks of a great deal of hypocrisy and wilful blindness…he attacks Trump for saying the same things about globalisation….he damns the EU’s political and economic record and the refugee crisis and yet backs the EU…he damns globalisation and yet he is at the heart of it and it is the project that the liberal elite all champion…except Trump of course…so Soros says one thing, on the EU and globalisation, but does the opposite himself….whilst claiming Trump is a dictator in the making, likening him to Hitler…
I find the current moment in history very painful. Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of closed societies — from fascist dictatorships to mafia states — are on the rise. How could this happen? The only explanation I can find is that elected leaders failed to meet voters’ legitimate expectations and aspirations and that this failure led electorates to become disenchanted with the prevailing versions of democracy and capitalism. Quite simply, many people felt that the elites had stolen their democracy.
Globalization has had far-reaching economic and political consequences. It has brought about some economic convergence between poor and rich countries; but it increased inequality within both poor and rich countries. In the developed world, the benefits accrued mainly to large owners of financial capital, who constitute less than 1% of the population. The lack of redistributive policies is the main source of the dissatisfaction that democracy’s opponents have exploited. But there were other contributing factors as well, particularly in Europe.
I was an avid supporter of the European Union from its inception. I regarded it as the embodiment of the idea of an open society: an association of democratic states willing to sacrifice part of their sovereignty for the common good. It started out at as a bold experiment in what Popper called “piecemeal social engineering.” The leaders set an attainable objective and a fixed timeline and mobilized the political will needed to meet it, knowing full well that each step would necessitate a further step forward. That is how the European Coal and Steel Community developed into the EU.
But then something went woefully wrong.
Germany emerged as the hegemonic power in Europe, but it failed to live up to the obligations that successful hegemons must fulfill, namely looking beyond their narrow self-interest to the interests of the people who depend on them. Compare the behavior of the US after WWII with Germany’s behavior after the crash of 2008: The US launched the Marshall Plan, which led to the development of the EU; Germany imposed an austerity program that served its narrow self-interest.
After the Crash of 2008, the EU and the eurozone became increasingly dysfunctional.
The eurozone became the victim of antiquated laws; much-needed reforms could be enacted only by finding loopholes in them. That is how institutions became increasingly complicated, and electorates became alienated.
The rise of anti-EU movements further impeded the functioning of institutions. And these forces of disintegration received a powerful boost in 2016, first from Brexit, then from the election of Trump in the US, and on December 4 from Italian voters’ rejection, by a wide margin, of constitutional reforms.
Democracy is now in crisis. Even the US, the world’s leading democracy, elected a con artist and would-be dictator as its president. Although Trump has toned down his rhetoric since he was elected, he has changed neither his behavior nor his advisers. His Cabinet comprises incompetent extremists and retired generals.
I am particularly worried about the fate of the EU, which is in danger of coming under the influence of Russian President Vladimir Putin…in a brilliant move, he exploited social-media companies’ business model to spread misinformation and fake news, disorienting electorates and destabilizing democracies. That is how he helped Trump get elected.
The same is likely to happen in the European election season in 2017 in the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. In France, the two leading contenders are close to Putin and eager to appease him. If either wins, Putin’s dominance of Europe will become a fait accompli.
With economic growth lagging and the refugee crisis out of control, the EU is on the verge of breakdown and is set to undergo an experience similar to that of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Those who believe that the EU needs to be saved in order to be reinvented must do whatever they can to bring about a better outcome.
Then we’ve got this piece of fantasy from Matthew D’Ancona in the Guardian…Brexit and Trump…due to bigotry and prejudice…did like this...’Have the courage to declare that worthwhile solutions are never easy.’.…that’ll be Brexit then…the worthwhile solution? Who’d have thought from this tract that D’Ancona was a fan?…
We can fight bigotry and prejudice if we’re prepared to challenge, probe and correct – relentlessly.
This is the biggest political scrap since the cold war: autocracy versus democratic institutions; liberalism versus traditionalism; wall-building versus openness. The alt-right, Ukip and Breitbart understand that. Do you?
Pluralism, women’s equality, ethnic diversity, our responsibility to refugees, internationalism, LGBT rights – all that is now under systematic attack.
Colonise your opponents’ language
The Brexiteers, alt-right and Breitbart gang have been expert in their vocabulary. “Take back control” was a great campaign slogan. But what does “control” mean? And why is centrist speech dismissed as “virtue signalling” while fiercely rightwing language is hailed as “plain speaking”? As for “liberal elite”, that has come to mean little more that “people in London I don’t like”. Again, point this out. You’ll find that the most sensitive “snowflake” of the lot is an alt-right tweeter called upon to define his terms.
Treat opinion polls as no more than partial snapshots of opinion rather than flawless oracles. Distrust those who invoke “the people”. There is no British Volk – one of the finest features of these heterogeneous islands.
Don’t give an inch to the protectionists and the border-closers.
Stand up for immigration
Not just as an economic necessity but as a cultural good. If there is such a thing as “Britishness”, it has cordial multiplicity at its heart. Stamp on the economically illiterate idea that immigration is a zero-sum game, and that newcomers are depriving Britons of work, housing, school places and healthcare.
Nick Cohen’s brain always gets set aside whenever he talks of Brexit…voted for by fools, those with no common sense and the gullible…not to mention the Nazis…..
Liberal opponents of Trump and Brexit face the same challenge as ever: how can we make the powerful pay for the untruths they feed the masses?
Instead of laughing at their transparent falsehoods or being insulted at being taken for fools, blocs of voters have handed them victory. Evidence could not shake them. Common sense could not reach them. Surely, their gullibility shows we have arrived in a new dystopia.
The British are experiencing their own version of Trumpish triumphalism. In our case, too, the answer to every hard question is a brute proclamation of power. Are you seriously going to take us out of the single market? Leave won. And the customs union? Leave won. What about EU citizens here? Leave won. And British citizens there? Leave won.
Fighting back should be easy – if you cannot expose charlatans such as Trump and Johnson, you should step aside a make way for people who can.
To pretend that we are living in a culture without historical precedent is to make modernity an excuse for the abnegation of political responsibility. The question for the Anglo-Saxon opposition is not how to cope with a world where truth has suddenly become as hard to find as Trump’s tax returns. It is the same question that has faced every opposition in the history of democracy: how can we make the powerful pay for the lies they have fed to the masses? [erm….vote Brexit and Trump…job done]
Here’s Stephen Bush in the New Statesman…seemingly failing to grasp the meaning of democracy….but making the obligatory mention of Der Führer…
Hitler, whose rise necessitated my family’s rebrand, seized power by democratic means. All four owed their rise to popular discontent with the ruling class, yet none was or is particularly inconvenienced by journalists attempting to hold them to account. That America’s terrifying new president is the victor in a free and fair election doesn’t change the fact he may signal the end of democracy at home and the collapse of the global order abroad.
The New Statesman also brings us the celebrated Laurie Penny…bizarrely her final thought is this as she sniffs out bullshit in everyday political life….’In the age of bullshit and rotten politics, it is often the case that he who smelt it, dealt it.’…..so if the below is written by one who ‘smelt’ the bullshit presumably she also dealt it…as indeed you might think reading this pile of execrable bull…..