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Waterloo Sunrise

eye on the news

Waterloo Sunrise

Brexit and the popular revolt against elites June 24, 2016
Economy, finance, and budgets

It’s not the economy, the price of gas, or war in the Middle East that has working- and middle-class people from Bangor, Maine to Bangor, Wales mad as hell. It’s immigration. They’re fed up being forced to accept unlimited numbers of migrants and refugees from cultures that in many cases don’t share Western democratic values. They’ve had it with the internationalist coalition of elite journalists, establishment politicians, and financial grandees telling them that if they oppose the principles of open borders and centralized decision-making, they are no better than white-sheet-wearing racists.

Whether in West Virginia or the West Midlands, people see and feel their culture changing, and see their leaders taking away their right to slow or blunt those changes. Brexit is one response. Donald Trump is another. It may be a backlash, it may be reactionary, but it’s a legitimate political expression of exhaustion, anger, and powerlessness.

For half a century, a politically cohesive Europe was the dream of the continent’s ruling classes. It would be run peacefully and efficiently by a cadre of highly educated experts—the best people, with the finest tastes and a clear vision of centralized authority that could one day provide the template for a successful world government. Of course, the Germans and the French and the British and the Dutch—being the best of the best—would do most of the decision-making. You don’t build a palace out of Baccarat crystal and then hand the keys to the Polish gardener.

With yesterday’s Brexit vote, the European dream could be coming undone, and the experts are rattled. Financial markets are tanking, and Euro-boosters with bruised egos are rooting for the British pound to bottom out. That’ll show those ignorant bastards, seems to be their thinking. A recession would be nice, too, especially if it fell hardest on those working- and middle-class Swindon slobs who voted in high numbers to leave.

It’s funny how unhinged the best people become when they don’t get what they want. You’d think that manners, breeding, and higher education would dictate that they keep their decorum at all times. It never seems to work that way. The loudest shrieks and the shrillest commentary come from the halls of academia and the urban salons. Patriotism befuddles them. Why should you take pride in being a Briton—or a Texan, for that matter—when you could be one of us?

Politics is persuasion, and the cosmopolitans in the “remain” camp—based largely in and around London—failed to make their case. They lost, which in itself isn’t surprising. What’s surprising is the pouting that journalists, establishment politicians, and financial masters of the universe engage in when the people don’t behave as they are supposed to.

Leaving the European Union may or may not be in the U.K.’s long-term interest, but respect for the democratic process and its occasionally suboptimal outcomes surely is. Democracy is a system, as Winston Churchill observed, only marginally better than the alternatives. That’s all that counts.

It used to be said that the sun never set on the British Empire, so vast and geographically dispersed were its territorial holdings. The end of empire was thought by some to be a fatal blow to the British character. Rest assured that, in Europe or out of it, Great Britain will see the sun rise tomorrow—and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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