Politics in the Atlantic world seem to breaking apart, as old parties lose support and new ones rise. The language used makes the current political campaigns sound like apocalyptic fantasy novels. Doom is predicted. Demonic forces of hatred and badthink are abroad in the land. If I saw a headline tomorrow asking ‘Can Democratic Republican government survive?’, I wouldn’t be in the least shocked. And it seems as if nothing can be done.
I came across an interesting example of this today. In nine days, in Britain, there’s going to be a referendum on whether the United Kingdom Britain leaves or stays in the European Union. The Labour Party leadership is all for staying, (“Labour’s In”) and since Labour is the biggest British political party, you’d think “Remain” would have a good chance of victory. But the polls show “Leave” headed for victory.
This attitude reduces on Polly Toynbee to a state near to despair. In an article in the Gruniad, where the proofreading is as shaky as the leftism is solid, Ms. Toynbee is afraid for the future. She was calling known Labour supporters, to tell them why they should vote “Stay”, only to find they were solidly for “Leave.”
“Try arguing with facts and you get nowhere,” she laments. Would face-to-face contact help? No.
“Every week in Barking the MP Margaret Hodge invites a whole ward for coffee and biscuits to air whatever’s on their minds. . . . The room bristled with antagonism. ‘Do you want to be governed by Brussels?’ one shouted out. ‘You’re being sold a false prospectus, a bunch of lies,’ [Hodge] said, to no avail. One said: ‘When I get out at the station, I think I’m in another country. Labour opened the floodgates.’
“They like her, a well-respected, diligent MP, but they weren’t listening.” But neither is Ms. Toynbee, or MP Hodge. Toynbee writes:
“Their neighbourhoods have changed beyond recognition, without them being asked. . . . high-status Ford jobs are swapped for low-paid warehouse work . . .”
The future she sees is grim. “Leave” will triumph, things will get worse, and then:
“That moment is fertile for some yet-worse demagogue who calls for throwing out migrants already here. Expect the volume to be raised against “elites” – anti-parliament, anti-politics, bored of democracy itself. Ignite hatred against Europe, blame Brussels for deliberately impoverishing us in revenge, stirring centuries-old enmities.
“Blend all that with a little nationalistic leftish populism, not all of it bad: nationalise our utilities and rail, eject foreign owners from key industries and property, pump up armed forces and national pride. These are potent ingredients for militant majoritarianism, blaming minorities and minority opinions. The Human Rights Act is abolished and the BBC absorbed into government. National socialism will no doubt carry a new name – but it’s there in the making.”
Wow. Can democracy be saved? It seems unlikely to Toynbee:
“If remain scrapes in, David Cameron may urge the other 27 EU members towards some brakes on migration. After our near-death experience, with France’s Front National leader Marine Le Pen advancing, Poles and Hungarians screeching right and even worse threatened, some change looks necessary. Social democratic values, sharing within a community, both are threatened by an entirely open door.”
I agree with Toynbee that democratic government is in grave danger, but the problem isn’t what might happen in the future. It’s what has already taken place. Britain’s three main political parties have already conspired to kill democratic government. So have the parties of other EU members. Ditto Democrats and Republicans in the U.S.
It would sound like bad fiction, if it wasn’t there on the page, if it wasn’t everywhere in politics today. The voters think there has been far too much immigration in recent years. The leaders of every long-established party disagree, and try to cram even more “migrants” down their throats. In any genuine democracy, the establishments would have come out with proposals to limit immigration decades ago. The debate would be about how much to limit it, and how.
Instead, the people are told transparent lies. The Labourites, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats are determined to stay on course, even though they see the waves breaking on the reef ahead. Better to drown, then to change course.
This is the real threat to democracy. This is why secession is necessary.