January 19, 2019

SHORTER VERSION: “WILL ELITES EVER RESPECT VOTERS?” Michael Barone: Will elites ever respect voters’ decisions on Brexit and Trump?

As the gifted British political analyst Douglas Murray writes in National Review, “Instead of accepting the votes and trying to learn from them, elites have expended almost all their available energies trying to pretend that voters in 2016 were bad or duped. The past two years could have been spent trying to learn something or build something. Instead, the best minds of Left and Right have spent their time making claims of ‘racism,’ ‘Russia,’ and ‘Cambridge Analytica.’”

The unlearning continues. Here, the government (actually, less than one-quarter of the federal government) is “shut down” over Democrats’ resistance to Trump’s demand for funding the border wall — er, barrier — which he negligently failed for two years to obtain from the Republican-majority Congress.

Most Democratic politicians — and, polls show, many Democratic voters — favored border barriers before Trump’s victory. Now, they insist walls are “immoral” and ineffective.

The struggle over Brexit is more complex in Britain. One thing is clear: the incompetence of Prime Minister Theresa May. May voted against Brexit and her pledge that “Brexit means Brexit” has been undermined, purposefully or by blunder, in her negotiations with the European Union.

The EU’s unelected leaders are loath to see Britain leave, and insisted on terms including a 39 billion pound exit fee and a binding customs union with a backstop preventing Britain from leaving without EU approval: more like “No Exit” than “Brexit.”

May’s deal was voted down Tuesday in the House of Commons by an astonishing vote of 432-203, the biggest rebuke for a government for a century, and she survived a no-confidence vote Wednesday by a pathetic 325-306 margin.

What comes next is unclear. Under 2017 legislation, Britain leaves the EU next March 29 and, if there’s no agreement with the EU, will come under the low-tariff rules of the World Trade Organization. Elites predict this “hard Brexit” will produce dreadful economic woes. Their similar predictions after the 2016 referendum conspicuously failed to come about.

The problem with “elites” on both sides of the Atlantic is that they’re not especially elite. As Peggy Noonan says, we are despised by our inferiors.

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