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It’s Time for the Elites to Rise Up Against the Ignorant Masses

The Brexit has laid bare the political schism of our time. It’s not about the left vs. the right; it’s about the sane vs. the mindlessly angry.

By (((James Traub))) | 28 June 2016

FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE — I as born in 1954, and until now I would have said that the late 1960s was the greatest period of political convulsion I have lived through. Yet for all that the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggle changed American culture and reshaped political parties, in retrospect those wild storms look like the normal oscillations of a relatively stable political system. The present moment is different. Today’s citizen revolt — in the United States, Britain, and Europe — may upend politics as nothing else has in my lifetime.

In the late 1960s, elites were in disarray, as they are now — but back then they were fleeing from kids rebelling against their parents’ world; now the elites are fleeing from the parents. Extremism has gone mainstream. One of the most brazen features of the Brexit vote was the utter repudiation of the bankers and economists and Western heads of state who warned voters against the dangers of a split with the European Union. British Prime Minister David Cameron thought that voters would defer to the near-universal opinion of experts; that only shows how utterly he misjudged his own people.

Both the Conservative and the Labour parties in Britain are now in crisis. The British have had their day of reckoning; the American one looms. If Donald Trump loses, and loses badly (forgive me my reckless optimism, but I believe he will) the Republican Party may endure a historic split between its know-nothing base and its K Street/Chamber of Commerce leadership class. The Socialist government of France may face a similar fiasco in national elections next spring: Polls indicate that President François Hollande would not even make it to the final round of voting. Right-wing parties all over Europe are clamoring for an exit vote of their own.


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