Brexit ____ the unthinkable has happened. Britain has voted to leave the European Union, triggering both local and global astonishment. This result baffled even the closest followers of British politics, and the surprising responses are, in a way, understandable. What is not understandable, however, is the frenzy of rage or even mockery of the results. Such disdain about democracy, when it fails to provide a “desired outcome,” is a manifestation of the bankruptcy of progressive liberalism in the Western world and a good explanation of why many in Britain decided to “quietly” vote to leave the EU.
Following the announcement of the results, the main media outlets have opted to spin the outcome. The Independent posted a report of handpicked Leave voters regretting their decision because they did not think the UK “would actually leave.” The Guardian published a video highlighting how young voters supported the Remain Campaign. A piece in The Washington Post has opted for more sensationalism, painting an image of “ignorant Brits” by stating that the British were frantically Googling what the E.U. is just hours after voting to leave it. The New York Times has decided to vent its frustration by blaming British newspapers that “have thrown themselves shamelessly behind Brexit.” The commentary is all done as if the American newspapers, including the New York Times, are neutral and biased-free.
In fact, some Leave supporters did not think the UK would “actually leave,” but only because they believed the mainstream media and the political establishment that consistently told them that the Remain-Camp would win. This does not mean they made a misguided decision to Vote to leave, but it also indicates they felt like underdogs fighting to make their voices heard.
While it was true that most young Brits voted to remain in Europe, their turnout was low in areas with more young people. Thus, they have themselves to blame and no one else. Although this has been emphasized, it is also the case that a significant number of young people were openly pro-Leave.
At the moment, supporters of the Remain campaign have failed to accept and respect the will of the British public. Instead, they are bitterly criticizing the Brexit camp as the “undereducated, misinformed, xenophobic, stupid, old arseholes,” as one person wrote on Facebook. Many have even signed a petition, with signatories mainly from London, which was pro-remain, demanding a second referendum. The idea that Londoners and other Remain supporters think the rest of the country will change its mind in a second referendum shows some breathtaking lack of understanding of their fellow citizens.
A few days before the referendum, I wrote about how the Leave camp needs our empathy and not our disdain. The results of the referendum and the reactions after, however, have proven my worst fears. We live in an era of zero empathy. Such deficiency is the true reason behind the referendum results. Many native Brits fear backlash from the affluent, outspoken dominating minority that consistently labels opponents as backward and xenophobic. Such fear prohibited many from expressing their true views. Instead, Brexit Britain, as Radhika Sanghani put it, has opted to translate its beliefs to leave the EU quietly through ballot papers.
This fear, moreover, is also coupled with silent defiance and even respect of those who dared to articulate their rejection, even if their views are considered racist and xenophobic. Leaders of the Brexit camp, like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, are admired because of their daring defiance rather than their radical opinions.
Standing against the allegedly liberal progressive establishment has a growing appeal in the Western world. The more that so-called liberals act in an illiberal manner and denigrate those who dare to oppose them, the more the other camp will show defiance and rejection of globalization and other supposedly liberal Western values.
My friend Samuel Tadros reminded me of Edmond Burke’s reflections on the French revolution, when he wrote, “You will smile here at the consistency of those democratists who, when they are not on their guard, treat the humbler part of the community with the greatest contempt, whilst, at the same time, they pretend to make them the depositories of all power.” The rejection of the Brexit results indicates that Bruke’s reflection is still relevant and frankly alarming.
Toby Young is right, the Remain campaign has lost, and their supporters should stop “whining.” Although I voted to remain in the EU, the Remain campaign failed to engage and convince many British. Exposing “the lies” of the Brexit camp should have been done smartly before the referendum.
The more that the Remain side rejects the results of the referendum; the more they will alienate those on the central right. Many Brexit supporters are neither racists nor ignorant. Manufacturing a different reality will not work. It is time to start working towards healing the rift. A second referendum will only create more bitterness and divisions. Britain needs unity more than anytime before in its history.
“Such disdain about democracy, when it fails to provide a “desired outcome,” is a manifestation of the bankruptcy of progressive liberalism in the Western world and a good explanation of why many in Britain decided to “quietly” vote to leave the EU.”
Funny, I’m pretty sure Egypt had an election a few years ago and you weren’t exactly charitable with the result. In any case, should Donald Trump, who supports the Brexit campaign, win in November, will you churn out another post denigrating “the stubborn liberals of the Western world” as well? What’s next? Hailing his voters as courageous anti-racists, friends of immigrants and Muslims alike?
YES! I was unhappy with the results in Egypt, but I did not apply a petition just 48 HOURS after the results to kick him out of his job. Egypt gave Morsi a year. Needless to say, comparing a country that lived under dictatorship all its history with another one like Britain that for centuries is a bastion for democracy is breathtakingly disingenuous.
Finally, I am dual national British Egyptian, so I have a right to express my views about my native and adopted country. I am not American, but if Trump win, I will respect the will of the American people, but if they want to revolt against him, then that is their choice!
You do know how these referendums work, right? They are not like ordinary elections. Britain can’t just give the EU a year after they voted to leave it and then decide if they want to rejoin it. Scotland can’t just give Britain a year after they voted to leave it and then decide if they want to rejoin it. When it’s done, it’s done. Hence the urgency. Bastions of democracy are not immune to tyranny. Germany was one of the most enlightened countries in the West in the early 20th century, with well-educated population raised by renowned scientists, philosophers, and thinkers. And we all remember what happened, do we not? Or have we forgotten?
With respect, you are mixing many points. First: People agree to have a referendum. &2% turnout is a sign of agreed consent. Your point would be valid if the petition was about stopping the referendum in the first place. Second: Democracy is not a perfect system, but it is the bet available. What you suggest is autocracy of the enlightened elite, this will not solve the problem, but will lead to chaos as the common man will resent and revolt against it. I live in the heart of the No camp. People were not dumb or stupid. I debated with them a lot. They have valid reasons and they are willing to pay the price. And as I wrote in the piece, I voted to remain in the EU, but I respect the will of others. They will pay the price, but that is life!
Finally, referendums, as you clearly know, are Not binding, so this may end up as a storm in tea cup. The government are not obliged to push the depart button.
I’m sorry but you’re misreading me as well. I am not suggesting “autocracy of the enlightened elite” at all. What I am saying is that even people as well-educated as Weimar Germany’s were not impervious to wrong judgment of colossal proportions. What exactly do you think will happen in the next few years as economic conditions worsen, as they doubtless will? (Brussels will see to that if only to make an example of Britain so as to discourage other EU countries from following suit; even Obama has already vowed to make good on his threat about Britain going to the back of the queue with regard to trade deals, and Hillary will likely follow through if she wins.) Add that to the fact that concern over immigration was the primary motivation of most Brexit voters, whereas most of the pro-Brexit politicians were most concerned about the dissolution of sovereignty (Boris Johnson turned pro-Brexit out of sheer opportunism). Indeed Daniel Hannan has been attacked on twitter and the media for pointing out that immigration is unlikely to decrease after Brexit. This divide is a serious problem for the Brexit camp. How in God’s name will they balance the needs of the economy with the expectations of Brexit voters apropos immigration? And when they fail as they surely will — isolationism never works — who do you think will pay the price then? Provincial England or the (im)migrants in cosmopolitan London and Manchester and so on? Most of the people where you live or the people who look like you?
Fantastic read Nervana.
Shocking how undemocratic we’ve become in UK. I’ve shuddered in disbelief the last few days.
The treacherous labour party as you know by now have been walking out on their leader & electorate believing they are above & better than whatever the public thinks.
Good Riddance i say. Time for Corbyn to get a united labour party to work towards a positive future.
Many thanks Nigel. Try appreciate your feedback.
Excellent summary and spot on. Thank you for this blog.
Many thanks Joe.
I voted for Brexit. I’m not puzzled by the hullaballo, or the ‘shockwaves’ that the rock into the lake has, is and will cause. The referendum was on one question. One. Everyone is arguing about the background – but that was not the referendum. People in the UK are not very pro EU. They do not generally share anything like a supportive feel for a federal Europe. At best, they only wish to have some common rules and open trade. They don’t know who Tusk or Juncker, or Schmidt is, and when they do they have no liking for them whatsoever.
I wrote and posted an item yesterday in response to the outcome…
But beyond this, and at the core of the vote I believe there are core issues, and peripheral issues, and they vary by person and location.
For me, and for a lot of the older generation – the issue comes down to an unacceptable, constant, unsupported move by a very small minority of a political class to force a political union. The vote was years in coming, and many people waited since 75 to make their choice. And they meant it. If you think they would vote differently, you would be wrong.
Young people did not vote in the volume, or in the way that was needed by remain. But few seem to realise that young people are inexperienced, not stupid. They see an EU that is even more remote than most, and that has massive economic problems, and huge long term yough unemployment in far too much of europe. They also see a lack of jobs, or opportunity, of long term openings.
The protest vote is the grey area. But why anyone thought that the working class and salt of the earth types – who do not share a cosmopolitan, liberal outlook, would vote for an elite, ignorant, distant – and unelected bunch of companies, bankers, politicians. The modern Labour party detests the English or Union Jack waving working class. It’s lost its entire connection with them.
Immigration plays a part. As much as people might like the alice in wonderland myth’s peddled by people living entirely different lives, people do not like ‘outsiders’ who cause problems in their lives. The housing, the school places, the shops in their street, the doctors appointment, the jobs. As much as it may not affect other persons, the person affected sees it differently. And its totally counter productive to accuse them of *insert your own* insults.
What was not spoken about in nearly enough depth is the background – especially the migration based problems. And it really needed to be dealt with by the EU and Cameron during the negotiation. The core problem – is that the UK in comparitive terms, created jobs. And when you compare much of Europe, it has failed to do so. This means you get human rivers that are perfectly able to destroy like any flood. They can cause probolems for where they leave, they can cause problems for where they arrive. The ‘free movement’ of people is exactly that. But its a childish, stupid idea if you have a continent that is badly out of kilter, or if you make very ill thought out or ill considered choices with the generic global EU and Shengen borders. Cameron should perhaps not have argued about the movement of people, but more the dire failure of job creation and economic growth in the EU itself. And deep in the craw of this problem, is the fact that there is still no real job creation in the EU, and yes, @330,000 people+growth pouring into the UK EACH year.
The remain side presented no idea that I saw how they were going to – or be able to do so – provide room, the housing, transport, school placement, NHS care, pensions and social support – let alone massive job creation – all costing unmarked and hidden billions, or not if you prefer a simply worsening problem, to actually support this. Thus far, people pour in, and simply sink or overwhelm already stretched and limited systems – and people see this. They are not stupid, racist, or xenophobic for both seeing it and being on the recieving end of it. The people who think they should just shutup and sit silently at the back of the queue are the same who can’t today comprehend why they lost their vote.
Perhaps the EU needed to come up with many billions to assist in places suffering from ‘over heating’ in the case where ‘flooding’ occurs. But that is not the case. But in all cases, free movement of people can’t remain if you have flooding taking place because the EU is a job desert.
Had the referendum gone the other way. The ‘establishment’ would have got what it wanted, but a very serious set of problems – and democratic deficit and discontent would have been simply left as a growing boil.
I see nothing but a deal being made on both sides, wether the UK stays or leaves. And how good that deal is will have a specific impact on both UK and EU economy. Both sides have enormous losses mounting, and pragmatism is required.
But the Brits made it clear. Britain will not be sunk into a Federal state. That game ended. Forever.
A great article. I voted to Leave. I did so quietly. The Westminster bubble, much of the media and the latte drinking crowds may not get outside much but the result wasn’t a surprise to me. Neither options was perfect, I agonised for years over which way to vote. My wife is East European (married before EU accession), I have my own tourist company (btw every single European I’ve had in the last 6 months really wanted to leave the EU too), I have two degrees and I both love and am widely travelled across the Islamic world. Yet in the last 3 days I’ve been labelled, stupid, ignorant, racist, narrow-minded, xenophobic and just for one post on social media stating simply I was voting to Leave last thursday.
For what it is worth, I voted for reasons of Democracy almost solely in fact. I will be posting my experience and reasoning on Monday morning. It would be a pleasure to have you read it.
Many thanks for your insightful feedback. Your experience defies the media’s manufactured reality and confirmed my views about Brexit. Truly appreciate it.
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I never comment on blogs, but people like yourself need to know that your thoughtfulness, objectivity, and rationality are treasured, especially in times like these. Yours is one of the few intelligent commentaries on the Brexit vote that I’ve come across.
Recently, I read a fine book about US presidential management styles, written by someone at Harvard Business School and published in the late 1970’s. I’ve never been a fan of John F. Kennedy, but that changed when I learned about his management style. After a failure, Kennedy would sit down with his advisors–people he treated with tremendous respect–and, essentially, say, “We’re smart people and we failed. We’re better than this. What did *we* do wrong here, and what can we do differently so that we don’t fail again?”
Over the decades, and with striking consistency, I’ve seen the educated progressives of this world blame their failures on everyone but themselves. In fact, an entire mythology of left/progressive failure, reaching into the paranoid and the conspiratorial, has been flourishing. The Brexit, of course, failed because people are “stupid”–the classic responsibility-deflecting standby. I lost track of the number of times the word “stupid” appeared in social media and elsewhere after the voting results were announced. It was stunning and depressing.
I am truly humbled and honoured by your kind comment. It means a lot to me.
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