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.