Wednesday, July 13, 2016

And Some Criticisms of Brexit Cheer Leaders

Clearly, then, I am more sympathetic to the Brexit than most people on my side of the aisle.  But that does not mean that I am an unqualified cheerleader for it, or that I look with approval on other cheerleaders. Obviously, the anger over immigration and tendency to scapegoat immigrants bothers me.  What bothers me more (speaking as an American, and focusing mostly on my fellow Americans) is the way cheerleaders for the Brexit portray it as an uprising of regular folks against a handful of out-of-touch liberal elitists, almost at the 99% rising up against the 1%.  In particular, there is a sort of glee over the extent to which supporters of "Remain" misjudged the degree of support for "Leave" and how that shows just out out of touch those liberal elitists are.  Comparison is often made to Pauline Kael, who said she never knew foresaw that Nixon would win because everyone she knew was voting for McGovern.

Look, Nixon won by essentially a two-to-one margin, so anyone who didn't see that sort of landslide coming was seriously out of touch.  The Brexit vote, on the other hand, was closer to 52-48 -- decisive, yes, but hardly a landslide let alone an uprising by the 99%.  If only a handful of liberal elitists backed "Remain," then nearly half the British population consists of out-of-touch liberal elitists, which is an odd definition for either "out-of-touch" or "elite."

Yes, I know.  The margin was overwhelming if you count only authentic, real Englishmen.  In the case of the US, authentic real Americans are roughly speaking what might be described as the Greater Appalachian culture, with all other American sub-cultures being less than authentic and not quite really American.  In the case of Britain, it would appear that authentic, real Britons are first and foremost ethnically English, with immigrants not counting at all and Scots, Irish and even Welsh counting for less than Englishmen, and they live outside of London, which is hopelessly cosmopolitan.  So I suppose that if you count only voters who are ethnically English and live outside of London, the "Leave" really did win by a landslide.

But I am a liberal.  I value social breadth more than social depth.  And I am not willing to say, as do so many Brexit cheerleaders, that only authentic real Englishmen morally "count," and that other people's vote carries no moral weight, or at least less moral weight than the authentic voters.  So here, as in other cases, we are seeing a coalition of elites and ethnic minorities (including Scots and Irish) against the non-elite (and predominantly non-urban) dominant ethnic group.

Or, put differently, we may be seeing the clash between electoral democracy and liberal autocracy.  That clash is growing and spreading all across Europe.  With Donald Trump, we are seeing its return in the United States.  To plenty of right wing populists, the choice is an obvious no-brainer.  They prefer electoral democracy to liberal autocracy because ultimately they prefer electoral democracy to liberal democracy.  To those of us who favor liberal democracy, it is looking less and less like a viable option.  And in the end, we may have to choose between the electoral democracy and liberal autocracy.  I do not look forward to it.

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