from the editors at National Review, Reflections on the Shock of Brexit

If most of the expected shocks haven’t materialized, what about the shock that has? As several commentators, from Megan McArdle in The Atlantic to Rupert Darwall in National Review, have noticed, many liberal journalists, representing elites throughout the advanced world, have reacted with indignation to the fact that 52 percent of U.K. voters (many without degrees) have rejected the EU system of supranational government of which the elites approve. Naturally, these journalistic spokesmen argue, the common people could not possibly have good reasons for such an act of multinational vandalism. So they must be inspired by, er, racism, xenophobia, fear of globalization, and related other thought-crimes.

One aspect of it, however, is ideologically fascinating. Among the central arguments of those favoring Brexit was that the Brussels system was dangerously undemocratic and that British voters and MPs had lost the power to propose, amend, or repeal failed or oppressive laws. This was a passionate concern among English people who had grown up in a self-governing democracy, who may have fought for it in wars, and who simply couldn’t understand why the loss of their democratic rights didn’t worry their opponents. Yet again and again liberal journalists treated this passionate belief as either abstract or a cover for more primitive emotions and bigotries. Democracy as such was rarely given weight in Remain or liberal debates on the cost/benefit analysis of Brexit. They treat multinational political institutions as such unalloyed goods that it would be impolite to raise questions about such defects as a democratic deficit. Has the knowledge class/meritocracy/cognitive elite/nowhere people/etc., etc. developed not only an intellectual snobbery towards the rest of society, but even an impatient, dismissive contempt for democracy that cannot be openly avowed but that does influence its other political attitudes?