Is democracy going wrong? We had a Brexit vote won on fear and hate. We have Donald Trump elected using the same strategy. The liberal elite struggling to cope with ordinary peoples anguish that we are no longer a meritocracy but a functioning state for multi nationals and the wealthy.
As a liberal we have lost focus and direction because we assumed we had won the arguments over the direction of policy in this country. All the main political parties seemed to occupy the centre ground and that was fine. So how did UKIP and the Daily Mail instill such fear in the British public that they voted for Brexit.
In this country we have had a falling number of people voting in elections. People were disengaged with politics because it does not seem to affect them anymore. It doesn’t matter how often we complain about housing, transport, a lack of funding in the NHS, fundamental change to peoples lives does not happen. All rhetoric and no action make the people ignore the politicians and what they say. This may not be a big issue when all that happens is that the incumbent at number 10 changes. When it then comes to a fundamental decision like leaving the EU, the groups who seem to speak for the people and can quantify their fears become effective and can win the argument. Liberals just assumed the ‘ignorant’ masses would not vote, when in fact they came out en masse because they have been ignored so long.
In the US there is a similar feeling that the Washington politicians don’t listen and are only there for there own interests. Donald Trump tapped into this and liberal complacency allowed him to shout down his opponents and make fanciful claims that people bought into because there was no other narrative.
This is why we need change. Politicians are now behaving in this way because it is seen as the only way to win the arguments. When ‘expert’ opinion is ignored because it doesn’t tell us what we want. We should no longer assume that liberalism has won and we should go out and argue the case for why a liberal country is so good. We should argue that immigration allows a country to thrive economically and socially and back this up with statistics. We should never assume that we cannot reach the people who never vote but actively engage with them and look at their fears and anxieties and address them in a way that does not have to agree with them, but to persuade them of the alternative. Democracy may not give us the parties or people that we want, but it does give the opportunity to reassess what is fundamentally important and to make that a way of life that enriches everyone.