Apparently, people are startled and horrified that the UK will be leaving the EU even though they voted to Leave … especially since they found out within hours that the promises the Leave camp had made were a tissue of lies and propaganda. Now they are full of regret. Then why did they vote Leave in the first place? It certainly wasn’t from a position of knowledge, since a quick Google search easily debunked all of the Leave campaign’s selling points and “What is the EU” was the search term frantically entered all over Britain yesterday. So, why did Leave win?
Well, it seems to be a combination of three significant factors: xenophobia/racism, anger from the disenfranchised, and voter malaise.
The role racism and fear of the Other played in the vote cannot be understated. The racism flowing from Leave wasn’t exactly subtle; they replayed Nazi scare-ads for God’s sake.
For the people of UKKKip, a driving force to vote Leave under the auspices of the walking pile of afterbirth that is Nigel Farage, even white Christians from Eastern Europe are a threat to the British ‘way of life’ and black/brown non-Christians are evil incarnate sent to eat British virgins. The Leave vote was strongly correlated with age and a lack of education; both factors in racism. People who wanted to Leave are the ones who feared a multicultural, inclusive future … and those people were mostly old and uneducated.
Nearly 2/3 of those over the age of 65 voted to Leave, while 3/4 of those under 24 voted to Remain; this has made things very contentious across the age divide in the UK right now. Especially since the UK is going to be plunged into recession.
The demographic of people aged 40-49 most closely matched the actual vote to Leave, and many in that age bracket are vocally remorseful; they didn’t think their votes would actually count you see. They didn’t think their vote mattered. They weren’t motivated to Leave by racism; they just wanted to give a middle finger to the politicians who had forgotten them. Their votes to try to better their lives have been unanswered, with lackluster responses from the politicians who were supposed to help them. Now, those politicians wanted them to vote Remain. Why shouldn’t they cast a protest vote, since it wasn’t going to help them anyway? As Will Davies, a politics professor and economic sociologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, explained:
It is easy to focus on the recent history of Tory-led austerity when analysing this, as if anger towards elites and immigrants was simply an effect of public spending cuts of the past 6 years or (more structurally) the collapse of Britain’s pre-2007 debt-driven model of growth. But consider the longer history of these regions as well. They are well-recognised as Labour’s historic heartlands …Thatcherism gutted them with pit-closures and monetarism, but generated no private sector jobs to fill the space. The entrepreneurial investment that neoliberals always believe is just around the corner never materialised … Labour’s solution was to spread wealth in their direction using fiscal policy: public sector back-office jobs were strategically relocated to South Wales and the North East to alleviate deindustrialisation, while tax credits made low productivity service work more socially viable. This effectively created a shadow welfare state that was never publicly spoken of, and co-existed with a political culture which heaped scorn on dependency … it also failed to deliver what many Brexit-voters perhaps crave the most: the dignity of being self-sufficient … t seems unlikely that those in these regions (or Cornwall or other economically peripheral spaces) would feel ‘grateful’ to the EU for subsidies. Knowing that your business, farm, family or region is dependent on the beneficence of wealthy liberals is unlikely to be a recipe for satisfaction … In this context, the slogan ‘take back control’ was a piece of political genius … it spoke directly to this feeling of inadequacy and embarrassment, then promised to eradicate it. The promise had nothing to do with economics or policy, but everything to do with the psychological allure of autonomy and self-respect. Farage’s political strategy was to take seriously communities who’d otherwise been taken for granted for much of the past 50 years … The Remain campaign continued to rely on forecasts, warnings and predictions, in the hope that eventually people would be dissuaded from ‘risking it’. But to those that have given up on the future already, this is all just more political rhetoric.
Finally, everyone expected the Remain camp to win. Thus, the Remain voters were uninspired to make the effort to vote, because it was already going to be ‘okay’, and those voting Leave thought their little protest votes would be overwhelmed by the Remains. Leave won because of a plethora of “meh”.
Protest votes and “meh” scare me the most, vis-à-vis the ascendency of Trump in the USA. Racists and xenophobes and misogynists are going to vote for Trump, but they are in the minority. However, they could ride the wave of protest and malaise all the way and put that “tiny fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret wearing, shitgibbon” into the Oval Office. I know several Bernie Sanders supporters who are so angry about the leaked emails showing that Clinton was given the nod years ago, the strange voter purges, and the DNC’s recent choice to throw key progressive demands back into their faces that they are planning to vote for Jill Stein or write in Sander’s name rather than be arm-twisted into supporting Hillary Clinton. This is a bit too cut-off-my-nose-to-spite-my-face for me, but I can understand the rage motivating it, especially since those concerns are often dismissively pooh-poohed. Then there are the people who are deeply “meh” about HRC but assume Trump, being a narcissistic idiot, cannot win and therefore are deeply unmotivated to bother voting.
If America isn’t careful, we’ll wake up reeling from our own post-vote remorse in November.