Picture from here (somehow the Twitter embedding didn’t work).
So, Brexit. A democracy has spoken. The will of the people being sovereign, or so says the theory which all love and cherish, the decision made by The People is therefore good and true. And it is good and true because what is desired by The People defines the good and the true.
Thus those who disagree with Brexit are therefore bad and hold to what is now known to be false. Thus opponents are either evil or ignorant. They are on the wrong side of history. They are also anti-Democratic. Opponents are nothing better than populists.
Brexit is the Law of the Land, and therefore it cannot be questioned. Questioning it is tantamount to hate speech. And since many who voted for Brexit were people of color and women, questioning this sovereign decision is racist and sexist.
Yet since there are so many malcontented Britons and, yes, Americans, displeased by the result of election, it must be that they are oblivious to their gross and manifest sins against Democracy. Or we are right to wonder if these folks truly love Democracy as they claim.
Here is the curious thing. Remain voters wanted to use Democracy to force Britain to be placed under the rule of the EU, a non-democratically elected body of rulers, regulators, and bureaucrats and an organization that could not be appealed (easily) to by ordinary democratic means. Essentially, then, Remains wanted to use majority rule to cause a usurpation of The People and install an complete authoritative government—its completeness perhaps one that eventuated not immediately but in the near future—a government that would bar The People from electing to escape their bonds.
Why? Remains, on the whole, are distrustful of The People and worry The People will blunder on matters of fundamental importance. This is why Remains use words like “populism” and “nationalism” to describe their enemies, and why they engage in ridiculous fallacies like the Wrong Side of History. Yet “populism” is by definition Democracy, the sovereign popular Will of The People. And it is Democracy Remains claim to love. But this love is proved false, as we saw above. Well, it was always obvious that what was loved was not The People, not the popular will, but the goal, the destination.
The Remains are not wrong to distrust The People; they are only wrong in considering they are somehow removed and above them. Defining the true and good by simple majority vote is, as the Remains fear, bound to lead to grief. Not always, of course. Even monkeys throwing darts can pick a winning stock. But eventually. A mere glance at popular culture and the elevated place it holds in our lives, or at the constituents of Parliament or Congress, is enough to confirm this.
In Brexiting, The People did make the right choice. Not in choosing Democracy, but in choosing to flee authoritarianism. This was a soft, distant, and motherly authoritarianism, true, but what caused the most pain was that it was anti-Tradition and anti-Spiritual, a system whose only real goal was the system itself.
There is another connotation of “populism”, besides the one of intemperance and the weakness of mob rule, and that is love of Tradition, a love which often leads to love of country, or “nationalism”. That’s the connotation opponents of Brexit had in mind when casting aspersions, and it is this definition which is as ironic as it is funny.
Why? Democracy, again by definition, is impermanence. Democracy is the acknowledgement that whim rules. What was good and true yesterday is bad and false today, but which might be good and true again some day in the future, depending on which way the vote goes.
So what we see here in the reaction to the Brexit vote is a felt and unacknowledged understanding that Democracy itself is the problem. Leavers wanted to return to the permanence of Tradition; Remainers sought to be embraced more strongly by the permanence of authoritarianism. Both sides want the voting to stop. Though the Leavers scored a minor victory, since nothing fundamental has changed, impermanence is still with us. Since Democracy itself was left in place, since the Highest Authority that can be imagined is still the impermanent volatile changeable People, the vote tomorrow, whatever it is, will once again change everything.