'THE SAME BACKLASH IS COMING TO NORTH AMERICA'
So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough
Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road
~ Elton John
So what went wrong with the European Union?
As so often happens when everyone is trudging along the same path, swaying to the same tune, confirmation bias set in and rumblings were ignored. In the context of European integration, after decades of producing politicians dedicated to the integration thesis, a self-proving feedback loop developed within European political culture. The mythologies of integration became a granite TRVTH in the minds of the leaders of the western world, with as strong a hold on their political ideations as the mythologies of "Christendom" once had on the minds of early mediaeval elites, or Reformist teachings on the early Modern religious mind. And once that happens, once a set of mythologies becomes a self-evident fact in the minds of its proponents, any opposition to it becomes unfathomable, even despicable.
And so, when Eurosceptics in Britain and across Europe began to push back with economic, cultural, and national concerns against the integration project, they were simply dismissed as "racists" and "xenophobes" and accused of being members of fringe groups on the wrong side of history. And in fairness, it has to be said that for some people political integration did work. As David French puts it, "It was a system that worked remarkably well for the international upper class. Men and women dedicated to commerce enjoyed unprecedented access to international markets. Activists dedicated to social justice could engineer their societies without ever truly facing the accountability of the ballot box. The logic of the system was self-proving. It would triumph through the sheer force of its virtue."
But each time a new existential crisis loomed, the voices of discontent grew louder.
Even as the cosmopolitan classes and their young acolytes grew more confident in the rightness of their worldview, they became ever less able to see what so many of their citizens were seeing. The golden highway to European integration had become, to a growing number of people, something of a boggy track to nowhere. Wracked by economic difficulties, crippled by intrusive regulation of everything from the environment to culture, and largely defenceless against the predations of a resurgent Russia, the European Union will probably not last long in its present iteration once the United States pulls out of the role of global hegemon anyway, but now, faced with what amounts to an invasion of mostly male, mostly uneducated immigrants unable and apparently unwilling to assimilate, even the ersatz social fabric of the EU is crumbling. From the point of view of many in Britain and across Europe it would be frankly insane NOT to baulk at the EU in its present state of economic, political, cultural and social disarray. The Eurobromides and shrill accusations of bigotry that once kept the Eurosceptics on the defensive no longer seem to work.
Brexit is in some ways the beginning of the end of the European Union, and in other ways an anticlimax to an inevitability. The European Union has developed into a political entity run by technocrats attempting to subsume national democracies and cultural mores into a structure that's politically undemocratic, culturally atomistic, militarily defenceless, administratively unwieldy, and in its soft totalitarianism more reminiscent of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire than the cutting edge 21st century superstate its leaders perceive it to be. It worked, sort of, as an economic union, but as a political union it is as profound a failure as the former Soviet Union.
And yet even now, in the wake of Brexit, amidst a deluge of Euroscepticism and a dangerous rise in cultural animosities, the enlightened ones are still blind to it. Instead of trying to understand and accommodate the phenomenon sweeping across Europe and the western world, Western political leaders prefer to mock it, like Charles I faced with Parliamentary revolt, secure in the conviction of their own rightness. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault epitomised this haughty intransigence when he opined in the wake of Brexit, "We have to give a new sense to Europe otherwise populism will fill the gap." The problem to him wasn't the EU itself, but rather the marketing of it that needed fixing. Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn put it more directly: "I believe you can destroy the European Union with referenda."
These glimpses into the intellectual heart of the integration programme underscore an embedded disdain for the will of the people and indeed for democracy itself... if the Brexit vote had been "Remain" they would have heralded it as a triumph of democracy and applauded the wisdom of the people, but God forbid that the great unwashed should have a say if their say is going to be "Piss off."
Be prepared. The same backlash is coming to North America. In the United States it's already here. The enlightened ones will mock it and call its prophets fools and knaves, but it behoves the rest of us to try to understand it. Perhaps even, after much thought, join it?
— Scott Anderson is a freelance writer. His academic background is in International Relations, Strategic Studies, Philosophy, and poking progressives with rhetorical sticks until they explode.