The Problem with Brexit Is the Leaders, Not the Voter

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION

Extrait de: The Problem with Brexit Is the Leaders, Not the Voter , KURT VOLKER

Elites have pushed policies that go against the basic sense of identity, security, common sense, and morality of many citizens.

Markets are plunging, pundits are wailing, government elites are fearing the collapse of their decades-long dream of the political and economic union of Europe. Now is a great time to buy.

Because as much as there is merit to some of the arguments about the economic dislocations that will ensue due to Brexit, most of these arguments are exaggerated. Elites employed them to scare the public into voting their way. That effort failed. The reality is far less dire.

Most nations in the world are not members of the EU, and many—like the United States, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and Japan, to name a few—are just fine. The United Kingdom was not a member before joining the European Community in 1973, and it will be fine again as a non-member. Of course there will be changes and adjustments due to Brexit. But nothing so dramatic as the morning-after reactions predict.

Moreover, our basic democratic, market-economic system is by far the best means people have ever devised for creating stability, justice, prosperity, and security. Countries can be successful democracies in the world, even if they are not part of a super-government structure.

Brexit will take at least two years to negotiate. Businesses, governments and publics alike have an interest in a stable transition. Instead of putting the United Kingdom at the “back of the queue,” as President Obama threatened the British people, the United States will swiftly move to sew up any needed ties with the UK because our shared interests are simply too great. The same will be true with Berlin, Paris, Brussels and London, although emotions there will likely be more prickly.

What is more significant—and more worrying about the Brexit vote—is that it demonstrates just how deep the gulf has become that separates governing elites and the people they are meant to govern.

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Whether in Europe or the United States, our ruling elites have pushed policies—political, economic and social—that go beyond what sits well with the basic sense of identity, security, common sense, and morality of many citizens.

·       Failure to control immigration? Amnesty?

·       Social benefits for non-citizens when citizens are suffering?

·       Nation-building wars abroad instead of nation-building at home?

·       Massive debt?

·       Failures to confront terrorism effectively?

·       Businesses moving jobs overseas?

·       Recession in the countryside while the capital prospers?

·       Rapid changes in gender politics?

·       Bizarre contortions of politically correct speech, which shout down what many see as common sense?

It has left many in the electorate angry and disenfranchised. And when those in the public who feel this way have objected or resisted, elites have doubled-down, rather than listen and adjust.

The rulers of the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States—take your pick—are so convinced that they know better than the masses, and that they are building a better world, that even in defeat, they are bemoaning how wrongly the masses have voted. And that is the looming danger for the future that the Brexit vote foreshadows: that elites will still not address the concerns of a large proportion of their own citizens.

To be fair, the vast majority of policies and arguments put forward by the elites about the global economy, integration, foreign policy, and more are substantively compelling. Most of the social policies are aimed at creating a more tolerant and inclusive society that benefits all, not just the majority. That should be a good thing. Overall, we are all better off with free trade, immigration, and dealing with foreign policy and global security problems before they get worse.

But leaders need to lead by listening and serving. If they continue to fail to address the genuine concerns of their own publics—and push this gulf even deeper—more “Brexits” will happen, whether than means the election of populist nationalist leaders, the rise of the far Right, or the departure of more countries from the European Union.

·       We need better leaders—ones who are true to core values of freedom, democracy, market economics, the rule of law, and human rights.

·       We need leaders who can listen to those with whom they disagree, and find compromises and solutions.

·       We need leaders who worry more about governing than about sound bites and elections.

·       We need leaders who truly mean it when they say they are “serving,” rather than ruling for the pleasure of exercising power in pursuit of their own agendas.

The current money-raising, lack-of-privacy, “gotcha” style of politics today has discouraged some of the most capable and well-grounded people from ever wanting to run for public office. But with the choices our country faces in our upcoming election—and the warning shot fired by the British people at their own leaders—perhaps some better leaders for the United States and for Europe will begin to step forward.

Kurt Volker is a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, and currently executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, a part of Arizona State University.