Thursday, the voters of the United Kingdom (UK) voted to have their country leave the European Union. (EU). This was a sharp rebuke for the political elites of the UK as well as the many of the other 27 EU nations. For some reason, this has caused a lot of people in the U.S. to lose their minds. As a citizen of the United States, I had no opinion on whether the UK should stay or go. Nor did I think it is the place of any American to lecture Brits, Welsh, Scots, and the Irish as to what was the “correct” decision.
(which makes me wonder if Boris Johnson sent President Obama an Edible Arrangement as thanks for his ‘support’ for the Leave campaign. I believe this makes Obama 0-3 in trying to influence the elections in other countries.).
Watching from afar, it was been fascinating to observe the campaign of the “Leave” and “Remain” camps. The most important lesson was this: If you treat the voters with contempt, they won’t back you. I realize this seems like common sense, but apparently it’s not. One of the most striking things about the “Remain” campaign was the utter disdain they had for the average Brit. Over and over again, it appeared that the average citizen of England and Wales were concerned about issues involving immigration and onerous burden EU regulations were having on day to day life. Instead addressing these concerns of the electorate and explaining why staying in the EU was the best way to handle the issues, the Remain Campaign opted for the Strategy of portraying anyone who favored the Leave camp as nothing more than ignorant, xenophobic racists. This is not a strategy designed to win votes and influence people to your side.
Consider the “Battle of the Thames”: Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP led a flotilla of fishing boats down the Thames in support of the “Exit” Campaign. He was met by Bob Geldof, millionaire musician and other member of the hoi polloi. It would have been one thing for Geldof to simply lead a counter-protest and focus on Farage and his less than savory reputation. But Bob didn’t think that was the optimum way of convincing people to Remain. Instead, he believed mocking and swearing at the working class fisherman in the UKIP flotilla was the ticket to convincing them to join Geldof’s side.
Now in fairness to the “Remain” campaign, there were any number who realized this was a monumentally bad idea. As reported on LBC.co.uk’s website
[Bethany Pickering, a “Remain Supporter] said: “We didn’t expect it would be a billionaire being condescending to fishermen.
“And we didn’t expect that it would be as vicious as it was. There was a lot of negativity, which is not something I’ve found too often with the Remain campaign.
“I think potentially Bob Geldof did a lot of damage [to the Remain campaign], especially among the fishing communities that weren’t sure how they were going to vote.
It does appear that Ms. Pickering was wrong on one account. Negativity seemed to be the byword of the Leave campaign. From the Prime Minister on down, there was constant drum beat that Leaving would result in financial chaos and turn London from the 21st Century European Banking hub it is into the set from 28 Days Later. It was also a dumb idea to tell those in the government who supported the Remain Campaign that they could use government data to support their position but those in the Leave camp could not. That just smacks of trying to hide data that contradicts your position.
And the Geldof maneuver was not an isolated incident. During a debate in Westminster between the camps, the Remain campaign ‘champions’, instead of focusing on the issues and why the UK should stay, opted to attacked Boris Johnson and other “Exit”ers. If you don’t challenge the positions but focus on the people holding those views, it again creates the impression that you have no answer and are trying to change the subject.
At one point during the BBC’s coverage of election results, a “Remain” politician acknowledged, as it was becoming increasingly clear as the night wore on that “Exit” had won, that Remain hadn’t gone into neighborhoods and tried to convince people to stay whereas Exit had down a lot of ground level work for the hearts of the people. That tells you all you need to know about the mindset of the Remain-ers: “Vote to Remain Because We Say So.”
In fact, the BBC has not been overly subtle in backing the Remain Campaign. Look at its post about why Remain lost. All of the reasons articulated are couched in terms that suggest the voters were too stupid to know what was good for them. My favorite was when the panel of experts all sniffed disdainfully at Nigel Farage’s over the top victory statement. I mean, yes it was cheesy and clearly the man has spent the better part of the last 20 years waiting for the moment to release his inner Bill Pullman to declare that “Today we celebrate our Independence Day!” But the tut-tutting about how this was inappropriate was all a bit much
It was only after the votes had been cast that you had British politicians grudgingly concede that well, maybe they should have listened to the voters’ concerns about immigration and regulations and why the European Union needed and now they would have to do something.
That utter disdain of the average voter is common across the globe from those that claim to be “In the Know”. It has been part and parcel of the American left for a long time. It’s been in titles of books such as What’s Wrong with Kansas? (The answer is: nothing is wrong with Kansas, you are what’s wrong). But in the recent past, especially since 9/11, it has been part of the mantra of the Right that We, the People, don’t really know what we need and it is up to the government to protect us from every threat real or imagined. That’s why the government should be allowed to spy on us with impunity. Because it is for our own good.
As Cool Hand Luke observed: Wish you’d stop being so good to me, Captain.
This is why Donald Trump has been successful. This is why Hillary Clinton had so much trouble dispatching Bernie Sanders’s campaign. The self appointed ruling class has gotten so out of touch with what the average citizen wants and believes, that it has simply ignored the voters. Sanders and Trump were able to tap into this resentment. What we are now observing is the reckoning. It is Götterdämmerung. But instead of the twilight being for the gods, it is for the Political Elites.
Hilary will still probably win,(The Republican Party is stuck with Donald Trump) though it is by no means a lock. If she does, she will be the last of the old Elite. While the fissures in the GOP are widening and the party trying to determine its 21st Century identity, the Democrats are in just as bad shape, but they are ignoring the warning signs because Trump is the enemy. But once Trump is gone, the fissures on the Democrat side will split wide open.
That is the warning we must heed from the Brexit: Politicians must one again remember they are the servants and the voters are the rulers.