Yours truly has lived on four continents.
Of all the voters I have met, the Britons stood out for how perceptive and knowledgeable they were as voters albeit in an understated manner. Americans on the other hand can be shockingly insular to the rest of the world, as well as ignorant about their own country, and the majority of Ugandan voters are unschooled basket cases who cannot find their way out of a wet paper bag without being being bribed with a bar of soap or a tin of cooking oil.
Not the Britons. The Brexit ‘Leave’ vote, which caught me totally by surprise, too, wasn’t an accident, and it wasn’t impetuous. Anyone who suggests so is ill-informed about the Brits. Fiercely independent, they have never really wanted to be in Europe, and they are prepared for whatever comes in order to wrest control back from the morass that is Europe’s governance.
Many will claim this was a mistake. Others are going as far as suggesting that the British voters are trying to find out what they voted for after the fact. That is patronizing bunkum and balderdash! The Brits who voted to leave knew exactly what they were doing.
So, what exactly led to the vote? Hindsight is 20/20 but yours truly feels it is now clear.
Politicians, supported by a compliant press corp, have been telling voters that votes must be cast based on economics, we must all get along as one big happy global family, and that it’s idiotic, sentimental, racist to vote against the mainstream. The voters are now saying to themselves … hang on a minute, why can’t I vote with my heart and let the politicians sort globalization out in their endless G7s, 20s and EU talking shops? The politicians don’t really have a good answer to that because there isn’t one. It’s happened in Britain, it happened in Russia when Putin’s popularity went through the roof after he annexed Crimea, it might happen in America if Trump’s continued march is any indicator.
For too long the press reveled in its power to direct voters to eschew their visceral emotions from their voting choices for the common good. But emotions are legitimate in political decisions we make else there would be no point in having political parties or countries for that matter. If the politicians (and the press) fail to make us overlook our emotions, they have to live with their failure, as Britain’s David Cameron is going to have to. But it’s silly to argue that sentiment has no place in a democracy. Voters are realizing this and taking action about it at the ballot box which is really where their power lies.
It’s now fairly apparent to any discerning observer that politicians have no ability to control what 500m people in 28 different European countries want. They resort rather too easily to throwing taxpayers’ money at complex problems, when they are not doing grubby deals with leaders they were sneering at days before in order to save their own political legacies. Grexit and Turkey’s role in Europe’s migration crisis are a good example of this.
Nation states must thus be preserved so that national leaders bite off only what they can chew. Globalization is also not in the control of politicians despite their endless summits. If it was we wouldn’t have the crises we see in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Turkey, Greece and so on – crises that American and European politicians have created. Yet they continue to pretend that they’re in charge of world events, have solutions for the Arab world, antidotes for poverty and hunger in Africa. The evidence shows otherwise.
So, it’s okay for voters to ignore these lofty politicians’ pronouncements from their incessant international meetings in exotic locations, and try to use the ballot box to dictate local solutions to local problems. It will be a muddle here and there but at least it will be a localized muddle – far better than a problem that starts in Syria and ends up in England by way of Greece thanks to actions by politicians and technocrats the English cannot vote out of office.
It is the reason Donald Trump, who is crude, impolitic, bungling on the key talking points, is still showing respectable traction against a veteran politician like Hillary Clinton. Trump is saying what many voters feel, what the media has put a lot of stock into making sure they pretend not to feel: if one feels that immigrants irritate him/her, they should vote to limit or exclude them; if one feels that they should be welcomed with open arms in their millions let them vote for that. Differing views, however emotionally-driven they may be, should be aired and debated.
The Brexit result is reflective of the tussle between voters, the politicians and their media bed-fellows in Western Europe. The media has been used to telling voters what’s good for them, giving newspaper and television editors astonishing power over the outcome of election results. But now the voters are ignoring them, having finally realized that career politicians, newspaper columnists and television pundits were also largely guessing and really had no idea about what’s best in today’s world.
People are thus voting as they please, ignoring erstwhile “respectable” media stalwarts like Fox News, Washington Post, New York Times etc., who are in turn resorting to tabloid-like, adjective-laden, exhortations in order to maintain what’s left of their influence.
The battle royal between the traditional political establishments, the media and voters for who decides national elections in the Western world is truly on.