The indispensable Charles Cooke deals a shattering blow to the media’s desperate attempts to rewrite the Brexit vote result and pretend that there is a huge wave of regret engulfing Leave voters. The whole thing is worth your time — he notes how bogus the Google trends and petition stories are — but he concludes with this:
One of the great failings of the American media class – both in this case, and more broadly — is its refusal to accept that national sovereignty is just as important to people as is material wealth, and that the average person’s objections to unrestricted immigration are rooted in quotidian concerns rather than racism. The Voxes and the Wonkblogs of the world may well be hooked on questions such as, “If the French parliament handed regulatory control over to the Peruvians, what would happen to exports?” – but most people are not, and, if given a choice between being ruled from afar by self-professed experts or retaining more control over their lives, they will usually plump for the latter. At the Virginia ratifying convention of 1788, Patrick Henry instructed the electors, “You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your Government.” Clearly, a considerable number of Brits still agree.
This is a growing problem with supposed fact-based journalism as well as large parts of economics and sociology. They tend to see issues in very narrow academic terms and don’t even consider that some people might have values behind the purely utilitarian. Vox, in particular, is one of the absolute worst at this. In the recent past, they have advocating raising the smoking age to 21, keeping the drinking age high, restricting sugar and salt in our food, banning guns and all other manner of Nanny State nonsense. And their reasoning is entirely, “Liberal Think Tank X says policy Y will save Z lives per year.”
Even if the think tanks were right — and they frequently aren’t — that entirely misses the point. People value freedom. They value accountability. They value a government that both listens to them when they want it to and leaves them alone when they want it to. We are not numbers in a spreadsheet. This is not SimCity. We don’t win point based on our lifespans or healthcare expenditures. People want and deserve the freedom to make trade-offs. The pleasure of drinking in exchange for poorer health. The freedom to smoke in exchange for shorter life spans. The freedom to buy guns at the risk of being shot. And yes, the ability to be governed by your fellow Brits in exchange for slightly less wealth (most of which would go to the elites anyway, not to the masses).
This is perfect. pic.twitter.com/kmGR6Ye7b5
— Robert Winterton (@robbiewinters) June 27, 2016
It is vital to the national political conversation that we engage people on their own terms; that we address the arguments they are making rather than the arguments we assign to them. The “smug style of liberalism”, as Vox itself once called it, is an utter failure to do so.
Another example: yesterday, the Supreme Court rendered a landmark abortion ruling striking down Texas’ regulations on abortion clinics as too restrictive. As is their want, the Left responded to yet another massive victory in the Culture War with anger and outrage that anyone dared disagree with them. And over and over, we heard that this was about controlling women’s sexuality and punishing women for unapproved sex. Maybe that’s a part of this. But you’re not going to get anywhere with that besides making yourself feel superior to those awful awful cave-man pro-Lifers. It’s much more productive addressing the tens of millions of people (including tens of millions of women) who see abortion as the extinguishing of a human life and saw the Kermit Gosnell horror as an indication that abortion clinics were dangerously under-regulated. They might be wrong. But you have to engage them on the issue they care about, not the issue you wish they cared about.
I’m as guilty of anyone of talking past the arguments my political opponents are making. But the problem has become very acute with the Left in recent years. And the Brexit is simply the latest distillation of this.