Over at Salon, Andrew O’Hehir views Brexit and Trump as a similar threat and a similar opportunity.
So if I squinted my eyes, swung my arms around and sang “The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music” and bathed myself in sunny optimism, I use this kind of moment to take myself back to how I felt when the airplanes smashed into the twin towers: has this opened a crack in the world?
We know where the world actually went after those aircraft struck, and there’s ample opportunity for the world to do the same this time. To rage and to let that rage hold forth.
But. Let’s turn the page.
Brexit could be the clarion call to democratic reflexiveness that starts to reverse the gradual decline in voting participation in both the U.K. and the U.S.
It would take graceful, generous politicians who could embrace multiple raging opinions and chart courses of local and citizen-scale access to power to do it. Really well-funded and long term democratic revival.
Not just leftie tent revivals like Sanders or bogan boilovers like Trump and Farage. It would need, I don’t know how, to appeal to the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the city and the country. Like MMP did here.
It’s sounding harder the more I write sentences on it. But there’s been no closer moment than this for a while.
Brexit could be a moment to stop talking about economics, and stop talking about life as money. To be citizens. Where, if you wanted to, you could read a draft policy and send your vote to your EU MP, and bind them to the majority of that collective view. If you were interested. And of course, to tell those MPs that they were stupid and would be fired, if they ever tried to regulate the curve of a banana again.
Brexit could become the code for revival of a positive regionalism, which renegotiates the balance between internal sovereignty and international bloc power. I’ve never understood the need for individual EU nations to have their own standing armed forces when they have increasingly one international foreign policy. The remaining E.U. really could become a United States. There’s little doubt that the remaining E.U. will tighten its borders to itself and become more its own singular organism. The E.U., and Britain, must use this moment as positively as possible.
The E.U. could reflect not on its failures, but on its original impulses and original purpose. One task was to suppress the kinds of nationalism that had pretty much wrecked it for a century beforehand. But stability is just inadequate. The people want and need more. In my family, there’s a family of four who are moving from Turin to Auckland next month because there are simply no opportunities there any more. The E.U. could do worse than be a common wealth of redistribution, and recall what kind of plan made Europe great again after World War Two.
Perversely, this requires statesmen, and stateswomen. Not demagogues, low-rent populists, plan-free politicians, and professional black hats. Not sad little ‘Buy Britain’ programmes or other regionalist knee-jerks. Something of worth that lasts for citizens.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, and after 9/11, much of the world had the opportunity to chart an entirely new compact across dozens of nations at once. It didn’t. Brexit is of course far smaller a moment than either of those. But it’s a crack in the world. It can be opened, for good. Some simply like to revel in the chaos. Others, as we are seeing on the left in Spain at the moment, simply don’t have the maturity to work together, and prefer to retreat into self-identity politics.
Andrew O’Hehir of course believes that Hillary Clinton is precisely the wrong person to take advantage of such a post-Sanders and anti-Trump dynamic. One in his words that “now stands facing the incoming tide, like King Canute in a teal pantsuit”. Andrew is due a lesson in political leadership.
It will come down to a matter of historical luck, because the moment that has opened a crack in the world, can only be guided into a reality if there are leaders who can hold those fearsome cliffs apart to let something light and fresh air come in. That is rare, and damn hard.
I wish it so.