June 28, 2016

What the reaction to Brexit reveals about the controversy

Rolling Stone

 Matt Taibbi - Because the [Brexit] vote was viewed as having been driven by the same racist passions that are fueling the campaign of Donald Trump, a wide swath of commentators suggested that democracy erred, and the vote should perhaps be canceled, for the Britons' own good.

... Were I British, I'd probably have voted to Remain. But it's not hard to understand being pissed off at being subject to unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels. Nor is it hard to imagine the post-Brexit backlash confirming every suspicion you might have about the people who run the EU.

Imagine having pundits and professors suggest you should have your voting rights curtailed because you voted Leave. Now imagine these same people are calling voters like you "children," and castigating you for being insufficiently appreciative of, say, the joys of submitting to a European Supreme Court that claims primacy over the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.

The overall message in every case is the same: Let us handle things.

But whatever, let's assume that the Brexit voters, like Trump voters, are wrong, ignorant, dangerous and unjustified.

Even stipulating to that, the reaction to both Brexit and Trump reveals a problem potentially more serious than either Brexit or the Trump campaign. It's become perilously fashionable all over the Western world to reach for non-democratic solutions whenever society drifts in a direction people don't like. Here in America the problem is snowballing on both the right and the left.

Whether it's Andrew Sullivan calling for Republican insiders to rig the nomination process to derail Trump's candidacy, or Democratic Party lifers like Peter Orszag arguing that Republican intransigence in Congress means we should turn more power over to "depoliticized commissions," the instinct to act by diktat surfaces quite a lot these days.

"Too much democracy" used to be an argument we reserved for foreign peoples who tried to do things like vote to demand control over their own oil supplies.

... Democracy appears to have become so denuded and corrupted in America that a generation of people has grown up without any faith in its principles.
What's particularly concerning about the reaction both to Brexit and to the rise of Trump is the way these episodes are framed as requiring exceptions to the usual democratic rule. They're called threats so monstrous that we must abrogate the democratic process to combat them.



Strelnikov said...

"Maybe the slide started with 9/11, after which huge pluralities of
people were suddenly OK with summary executions, torture, warrantless
surveillance and the blithe disposal of concepts like habeas corpus."

No, I think the start of the death of democracy in America was the Cold War, with it's warping effect on the presidential branch, with the CIA, the secret legislation that would only come into effect if America was at nuclear war, and all the other authoritarian jazz we allegedly needed to survive the 1950s. All the pro-torture, population spying, and summary execution talk from the Bush administration was just recycling the CIA's ideas for population control in Vietnam that evolved from Cong Tac 4/ICEX/the Phoenix Program (1966-1975), which was literally a Gestapo to deal with Vietcong cadre leaders, but had been turned into a way to terrify the South Vietnamese population into supporting the crappy government the US backed.

Britain voted for Brexit because the EU pretty much pushes austerity as the only way to deal with economic problems, and austerity does not work. This was an "FU buddy" retaliation vote from the British working class and the lower end of the middle class, who have seen everything dry up under the EU.

Strelnikov said...

That previous comment was taken from one posted by me to the Rolling Stone Disqus thread. It was quickly removed, then removed again, possibly because I had cut-and-pasted the Taibbi quote into the comment.

Anonymous said...

Mindless reactionary fascism by these groupthink victims...once you get past all the propaganda slogans, the Pro-EU arguments are banal...and only serve the elite. Anti-Austerity is just one aspect of this movement. And it is spreading like wildfire as people are beginning to wake up from their slumber.

Strelnikov said...

I tried it again, and it still was yanked, probably by a machine that thought I was spamming.

wellbasically said...

The EU has made member states alter their laws to be more socially liberal, and has also forced them into more left-wing standards on workers, environment, etc.