Originally Posted by Janet Albrechtsen
In the final days of a long election campaign, we should celebrate the messy, vexed, complicated, glorious business of our democracy. To be sure, we have our own problems. But they are piddling compared to the political, economic and cultural ructions shaking the US, Europe and, most recently, the United Kingdom.
If we want to avoid the same strife, we should look and learn from this most recent political earthquake, and vote with care on Saturday.
As tempting as it is to buttonhole the Brexit vote into a single cause, there were myriad reasons why 17.4 million people decided Britain should leave the European Union. Many voters rejected outright an EU that morphed from a common market under the Treaty of Rome in 1957 into a supranational political behemoth that has treated the voters of nation states with disdain. Many cast their votes in particular against the EU’s dreadful mishandling of immigration, a crisis caused by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foolhardy decision last year to welcome more than a million asylum- seekers from the Middle East.
Others saw the EU as the hapless driver, rather than the reformer, of Europe’s deeply flawed social democratic project: big ticket welfare, higher taxes, multiculturalism run so rife that cultural relativism replaced moral judgments. Just as the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the fall of communism, the monumental Brexit vote represents the removal of sizeable bricks from Europe’s conceited supranational castle in Brussels.
The common thread of the Brexit vote is profound disillusionment with elites who will say anything to get power and to keep it. The Eurocrats’ rule of thumb: tell voters to trust us because we know better, but don’t trust the voters. The June 23 vote confirms the growing political divide about how politics should be practised, who should participate and for whom political structures exist.
It was, after all, Jean Claude Juncker, now President of the European Commission, who in July 2007 described the effect on Britain of the Lisbon Treaty signed in December that year: “Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty. But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?”
Juncker isn’t an outlier. The entire EU project has been built on a edifice of tricking voters, treating them as too stupid to know what’s good for them and, when votes don’t go the way of the European project, to seek 1another vote until the lumpen proletariats get it right.
Happily, voters aren’t stupid. British voters rejected the EU con job and punished Britain’s Remain camp, led by Prime Minister David Cameron. Remain pitched Brexit Armageddon, insulting the intelligence of the people, claiming criminals, killers and paedophiles would be the winners of Brexit, that holidays and phone bills would cost more, the economy would tank, and worse.
For a nation that over hundreds of years fought off invaders, ruled large swaths of the world, took power away from its monarchs and delivered parliamentary sovereignty, the suggestion that Britain uncuffed from Eurocrats in Brussels cannot prosper is, frankly, a slur against Britain’s history and its future.
Disbelief in the Remain camp at the Brexit vote turned into the same toxic brew of elite snootiness and cluelessness that led to the Brexit result. First, malign the voters as stupid, old and racist and, second, demand a new vote. The BBC led the way analysing the Brexit vote as Little Englanders hankering for lost customs and heritage. Not a mention of people reclaiming democracy and sovereignty. Overcome with scorn, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour has been desperate to depict the result as a vote for UKIP’s Nigel Farage. Never mind that Farage won only 12.7 per cent of the vote at the last British election, yet 52 per cent of voters said no to the EU.
Amanpour is the new Pauline Kael. Kael, The New Yorker’s film critic, famously commented after Richard Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972: “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theatre I can feel them.”
Befuddlement overcame many at our ABC, with News Radio’s Paul Quinn suggesting that many who voted to leave the EU didn’t know what they were voting for or didn’t think it would happen. News Radio’s Sandy Aloisi seemed certain it had repercussions for peace in Ireland and was keen to explore Bregret, the sense that many now regret their vote.
Again, no analysis or intellectual curiosity about Brits wanting to bolster their democracy.
The reaction from Remainders shows that, far from being cosmopolitans of the world, these post-democrats suffer from their own provincialism. The delicious smell of people seeking grassroots freedom, parliamentary sovereignty and national identity are so foreign to them, the post-democrats can’t figure it out. They grabbed hold of their usual explanatory tools, deriding voters for daring to ignore the so-called experts, the Prime Minister, the Bank of England boss, MI5, corporate titans, economists and even pop stars and soccer players. The day after, Peter Sutherland, special UN representative on international migration tweeted this: “The younger generation in UK has been sacrificed all because of distortion of facts & consequences. Somehow this result must be overturned.”
Against this backdrop of acute disillusionment, Australia is fortunate. Under Bob Hawke and John Howard, our government understood how to run the economy, delivering unprecedented growth, rising wages and higher living standards. Turning Hansonism fire into fizz, Howard understood that successful immigration depends on a government controlling who comes to the country and having respectful conversations with voters rather than reaching condescending conclusions about those who raise questions about immigration.
Wanting something new, rather than raising baseball bats, voters chose Kevin Rudd who soon squandered our budget surplus, opened the borders to appease empty chants of compassion from his own party and ushered in seven years of internal Labor dysfunction.
The same issues that have shielded Australia from the deep political disconnect in other parts of the Western world are the same issues Labor cannot be trusted on: the economy and immigration. Bill Shorten is embracing the same flawed social democratic model falling apart in Europe: the deadening cost of increased spending, a $16.5 billion budget blowout, higher taxes and a Johnny-come-lately promise about understanding immigration. Scandalous Medicare lies add insult to injury.
Disheartened by both sides, voters contemplating a vote for minor parties or independents ought to measure their disillusionment against events in other countries. Will feeling good on Saturday by registering a protest vote genuinely alleviate their disillusionment or lead to greater long-term disgust at politics when a messy, motley Senate entrenches further paralysis in Canberra?