SOME THOUGHTS ON THE BREXIT.
We will have extended comments on the Brexit and its place in the global scheme over the next several weeks. For the time being, though, we would just like to make a few brief comments.
First, this – or something like it has been building for a long time. If the Brits had voted to stay, they would have voted to leave later. Or the Scots would have voted to leave the UK. Or . . . well . . . something would have happened. This is hardly an isolated incident. It is part of a much, much broader atmosphere of discontent throughout much of the English-speaking (and formerly free) world. Nearly two years ago, we wrote the following:
The past ten or eleven years in America have been consistently and depressingly discordant. The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent military response were initially sources of cohesion and American unity. But, beginning with the invasion of Iraq, that unity soon collapsed, and it has never been rebuilt, or even slightly repaired.
If anything, the ongoing and persistent disintegration and balkanization of the once well integrated American nation has been the one constant in society over the last decade. The American people are dividing up, picking sides, turning on one another in an explicit and unrestrained way. And the hostility between the various factions is greater now than at any time since the Vietnam War….
As we’ve said, we believe that America’s ongoing social tensions are leading to a denouement, a point at which the tension simply must be resolved. We suspect that this point will be disruptive and ugly, to say the least, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that most of the tension is poorly defined, while the proposed remedies to the tension are even more poorly designed. In short, the problems are misunderstood and the remedies are useless, which is to say that the bubbling gases of social unrest may eventually explode, but that explosion will not rectify the situation. The unrest will continue.
The good news in all of this, we think, is that after the denouement, after the proverbial explosion, there will be nothing left to try except to rebuild society along the lines envisioned by the Founders. Freedom, liberty, and equality under the law would go a long way toward diffusing the current tension. But short of that, which is unlikely, they can also go a long way toward rebuilding a society and a governing ethos better suited for the 21st century. Walter Russell Mead, who has long cataloged the original virtues of American liberalism, has argued that contemporary “liberalism” needs to be refashioned to fit the challenges of the current era, just as the classical liberalism of the Founders was refashioned to meet the needs of the 20th century. We tend to think that he is right and to hope that this is ultimately, possible. Unfortunately, we doubt that we, as a society, can get to that point, without having to undergo the trial first.
Now, we know that the Brits aren’t the Americans, and the Americans aren’t the Brits, but for any number of reasons, there are some significant similarities between the two nations and their current conditions. Here in the states, the election of Donald Trump would be a gamble. He is largely an unknown quantity – at least politically. What is known, is that Hillary would be a disaster. Likewise, the consequences of leaving the EU are unknown. What is known is that stay would assuredly lead to a disaster when the entire thing breaks up. Which it will.
The thing about the two unknowns is that they could – just could – bring on the rebirth of Western Civilization, if the United States and Great Britain managed to cut taxes, cut regulation, adopt a pro-growth tax system, and rebuild our respective militaries. After all, while it is true that both the United States and Great Britain face some difficult problems, it is also true that China, Russian, most of South America, and the entire Middle East are potential disaster areas no matter what they do.
As for the impact of this vote on our own pending election, we’ve seen a number of people predicting that the Brexit augurs well for Donald Trump. We don’t disagree. At the same time, we recommend caution. Almost exactly a year ago, we put it this way:
[T]ime has a way of shrinking when one has enemies such as this. Just seventeen months ago Barack called the Islamic State the “JV team” of Islamism. Today, that JV team controls some $2 billion in assets and has established itself as one of the strongest, fiercest, and most troubling forces in the perpetually volatile Middle East.
The liberal media celebrates the growing acceptability of gay marriages. It goes gaga over the transformation of a man into a woman. It is excited over the spread of political correctness in campuses across America. The liberal dream is coming true, they say. All the while, ordinary Americans see a president who seems totally unaware that every day the world is becoming more dangerous militarily, more shaky economically, and more unstable socially.
Surprises are no longer surprising in such a world. Anything is possible. Will there be a war with Iran…or Russia…or China? Will the stock market tank? Will the economy go into a recession? Will protesters burn down St. Louis or Milwaukee? Will food prices continue to go through the roof? Will the local mall get shot up by terrorists? Is it safe to fly? Will anyone do anything about any of this? Does anyone care?…
In short, while Hillary and the many Republican candidates are running on the assumption that not much is going to change between now and November 2016, this seems unlikely. The bad news is that this is bad. The good news – if you can call it that – is that this will likely hurt Hillary more politically than it will the eventual Republican candidate. Hillary is, like it or not, running for the “third Obama term.” She is the candidate of the status quo. All of which means that she is the candidate who will be forced to defend the past and the present, the latter of which is likely to look even scarier in 17 months than it does today.
The title of that piece was “Seventeen Months is a Long Time.” Well . . . five months is also a long time. Heck, as we’ve seen over the last couple of days, seventeen hours can be a long time in this political and economic milieu. Hold on tight, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen. It’s going to be a long and bumpy ride for the next few months – and years.
Finally, we’d like to close with the first thing that popped into our mind when we saw that the “leave” side had won this contentious election, namely the great poem by the even greater GK Chesterton, “The Secret People.”
Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget;
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.
There is many a fat farmer that drinks less cheerfully,
There is many a free French peasant who is richer and sadder than we.
There are no folk in the whole world so helpless or so wise.
There is hunger in our bellies, there is laughter in our eyes;
You laugh at us and love us, both mugs and eyes are wet:
Only you do not know us. For we have not spoken yet.
The fine French kings came over in a flutter of flags and dames.
We liked their smiles and battles, but we never could say their names.
The blood ran red to Bosworth and the high French lords went down;
There was naught but a naked people under a naked crown.
And the eyes of the King’s Servants turned terribly every way,
And the gold of the King’s Servants rose higher every day.
They burnt the homes of the shaven men, that had been quaint and kind,
Till there was no bed in a monk’s house, nor food that man could find.
The inns of God where no man paid, that were the wall of the weak.
The King’s Servants ate them all. And still we did not speak.
And the face of the King’s Servants grew greater than the King:
He tricked them, and they trapped him, and stood round him in a ring.
The new grave lords closed round him, that had eaten the abbey’s fruits,
And the men of the new religion, with their bibles in their boots,
We saw their shoulders moving, to menace or discuss,
And some were pure and some were vile; but none took heed of us.
We saw the King as they killed him, and his face was proud and pale;
And a few men talked of freedom, while England talked of ale.
A war that we understood not came over the world and woke
Americans, Frenchmen, Irish; but we knew not the things they spoke.
They talked about rights and nature and peace and the people’s reign:
And the squires, our masters, bade us fight; and scorned us never again.
Weak if we be for ever, could none condemn us then;
Men called us serfs and drudges; men knew that we were men.
In foam and flame at Trafalgar, on Albuera plains,
We did and died like lions, to keep ourselves in chains,
We lay in living ruins; firing and fearing not
The strange fierce face of the Frenchmen who knew for what they fought,
And the man who seemed to be more than a man we strained against and broke;
And we broke our own rights with him. And still we never spoke.
Our patch of glory ended; we never heard guns again.
But the squire seemed struck in the saddle; he was foolish, as if in pain,
He leaned on a staggering lawyer, he clutched a cringing Jew,
He was stricken; it may be, after all, he was stricken at Waterloo.
Or perhaps the shades of the shaven men, whose spoil is in his house,
Come back in shining shapes at last to spoil his last carouse:
We only know the last sad squires rode slowly towards the sea,
And a new people takes the land: and still it is not we.
They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger or honour, who dare not carry their swords.
They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.
We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
Our wrath come after Russia’s wrath and our wrath be the worst.
It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
God’s scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.