There is another article on this site which is expressing disapproval at the “political class” and how it is they who have delivered us Brexit. The writer claims not to blame the voters who chose Brexit but all manner of other socio-economic factors which have left them in a position where Brexit appears a fair choice. While this analysis is fair and a darn sight more considered than much that has been produced in response to the result I am going to take this opportunity to express my own concern and my own take on the response to Brexit from a vocal number of remain supporters.
With a turnout of 72%, the highest in a national poll in over two decades, and more votes cast than at any other point in our history the EU referendum was a democratic exercise of – so far – unique proportions. With it being the most important electoral decision of our generation the fallout from the Leave result has been unsurprisingly mixed, yet the prevalence and support for anti-democratic sentiments appear to be at an all time high. The display of contempt towards not only the vote itself, the democratic process itself but indeed the electorate itself is one some members of my generation ought to be ashamed of themselves over.
The pathos of, unfortunately, a vocal number of younger remain supporters has personally made me embarrassed. To log onto social media and be greeted by (supposedly) smart and decent people expressing the utmost disapproval of not only the result but those who voted differently to them does make one wonder as to how healthy the belief in democracy is amongst my generation. This campaign has, as many remain supporters would be quick to point out in response to what I have said so far, featured a worrying level of xenophobic attitudes and the fact that there have been a number of cases of out and out xenophobic action following the leave is also deeply regrettable and those responsible ought to be ashamed. Yet, it is now difficult to ask some younger remain supporters to recognise that uncontrollably and aggressively lashing out at: the result, the democratic process and 17 million citizens (myself included) does not in any way serve to address the deep divisions that have emerged onto centre stage throughout this debate. The excuse of: I’m upset and angry at “old people stealing my future” does not put you into a position where the terms of our democracy are to be determined by YOU. Sure, be angry, express what you wish, just be under no illusion that someone such as I will not come along and point out how you are no friend of democracy, you have the absolute right to free expression including the right to offend…and I have the right to hold up a mirror and show that it is you who poses the greatest threat to our confidence in our democracy.
What is it that I mean by this? Sir Roger Scruton, possibly the greatest living conservative philosopher, once spoke of how his father – a solid working class Labour bloke – would express disappointment and regret at a Tory electoral victory but would recognise that this is the way we must live and move on in a democratic society. He did not start a petition demanding the result be retrospectively change as per his wishes (albeit the petition was done before the vote by a probrexit member of the English democrats), he did not bemoan the Tory voters as being disgusting, ignorant, racist and stealing his son’s future, he did not proclaim from on high with much sanctimony and much moral gusto that it is he who knows what future we ought to abide by and that democracy only works when it produces that future’s results. No, moving to try and change the course of democracy upon this isle as per the route that suits you will serve to undermine the very democracy that the Chartists fought for – regardless of the reasons why you give as to why a free and full democratic process is one you lay particular claim to change: don’t.
The attitude shown towards the 17 million people who voted in this country in favour of Leave has been both ironic and deeply troubling. Those who make the claim that the victory of leave is a victory of the racists and xenophobes – people who such critics claim unfairly paint with a broad brush a negative version of a whole group – seem unaware of their blinding irony. Did racists, nationalists and fascists vote for Leave? yes, did I? yes, do I believe in a free market including the right and freedom of movement of labour and people? yes, am I to be labelled by many of (at least were) my friends and fellow students a racist, ignorant, bigot? apparently so. Why is this clearly expressed contempt for a large portion of and particular segments of the electorate deeply troubling? Because it threatens, and this threat is now greatest from younger left of centre remain supporters, to send the widespread attitude towards democracy back a century. Both through public posts and private discussions a deeply anti-egalitarian view of to whom the right to decide upon a people’s ‘self determination’ belongs to is being explicitly expressed and also through calls to effectively remove the demos from the democratic process because it would be “too dangerous” and they’re “dumb fuck flag fondlers”, they’re stupid and been conned, they’re “small minded and ignorant of fact” and so on.
There has also been an attempt to essentially remove agency from Brexit voters of certain demographics, by taking – albeit, what may be nothing more than a veneer – a more considered approach one can attempt to say it is not your fault you voted wrong but it is your socio-economic circumstances that have made you do this. While it is not an unreasonable approach there is still a bit of an underlying tone that it is only once we have removed agency from you that you are now acceptable, how patronising: you can’t think for yourself and because of the manner in which you live that is why you have voted for Brexit. Well, as a Brexiter: yeaaahhhh…no. There is another article on this site questioning the argument of sovereignty, I disagree with it and may in due course provide a response but for the sake of space all I say is this: it essentially makes the pooling and trading of sovereignty argument, that the opportunities and freedoms that can be gained by trading out a degree of your nation’s sovereignty is the sensible utilitarian thing to do and that is a fair argument to make. However, A. I’m not a utilitarian so the very terms of the argument are up for discussion but even so B. the kind of relationship that we have/had with the EU on this point makes me sceptical, the future direction of the EU is such that there will be an ever encroaching restriction on our domestic sovereignty and a bearing down on how supreme the decision of parliament really is. As such: I voted out as a federalised EU future is not the one I wish to see for many reasons, not least that we need to maintain a dynamic capacity to adjust our economy (which is different in make-up and its comparative advantages to those on the continent to varying degrees) which we must sacrifice in order to be in the EU club (to put this into perspective, Juncker – an EPP member – valued our pro-market membership, the EU may from now on take a less pro-market direction with our exit).
But while those are somewhat sensible criticisms of either Brexit voters or a Brexit argument it doesn’t change the response of many others. We are now, as a generation, sliding quickly and apparently irreversibly towards a society of rage, where your anger and upset is sufficient to override a democratic decision because the other side was less than honest and there were features of xenophobia. Calling leave voters, including A LOT of working class and Labour voters, Racist and Bigots and Idiots will do nothing to win their vote, this sneering attitude is completely counter-productive. You all act like the better, morally superior and more intelligent people, so how about you act like it? Put yourself above name calling and this deeply technocratic bullying attitude and be the better person. Until you learn to do so I, and others, will identify you as you are: demagogues, just this time the demagogue isn’t resting upon a racist prejudice as you accuse me and the other side of but upon an elitist prejudice of all those you oppose being somehow morally or intellectually bankrupt. One of, if not the, demagogue of the latter half of the 20th century was Joseph McCarthy, and right now it seems increasingly difficult to put a cigarette paper between you and him.
So, please, carry on with your anger and upset channelled through this deeply corrosive and contemptible medium of condemning those with whom you disagree and attempts to reverse a democratic decision because “Tyranny of the majority”. Carry on doing so and I’ll continue calling you what you are: “Generation D: No friends of Democracy