September 18, 2019

Horse 2597 - Indy Ref 2: The Referenduming - Offensive and Necessary

One of the consequences of Facebook's existence is that people of like political opinions tend to move into their own little silos; wherein they can paint their enemies as the devil incarnate and their allies as sweetness and light. One of the consequences of Twitter is that although people also move into their own little silos, the mechanics of the platform are such that the opinions of their enemies are more readily found. In my experience, the irony of the short form platform of Twitter lends itself to longer form ideas because the discussion is broader and more open to outsiders.

This late in the game of Brexit, what you now find is a greater deal of remorse being expressed and an even harder degree of digging in by the people whose opinion won the referendum. This is to be expected: both Buyer's Remorse and Galvanised Opinion.
What this means is that the discussion about what should happen, with people whose opinion won the referendum, is that their galvanised opinion now acts like armor plate and their own little silo is like a packing house for barrels of chemicals. What's inside is volatile and unless you act carefully, the results are volatile.

As for the initial question of Brexit and whether or not there even should be a second referendum, the situation as it stands now is that you have some people who always objected to leaving the EU and don't like the answer of 'leave' outright, you have some people who love the answer of 'leave'and wanted it from the outset at any and all possible costs, and you have quite a sizeable chunk of the electorate who three years later might have answered the question differently had they had these three years of information at their disposal.

The answer of 'remain' is an easy one to resolve as nothing would have changed. I suspect that the Cameron Government called the referendum in 2016 because they expected the answer to fall that way. Hoping for 'remain' having that result, would have sured up Cameron's power within the Conservative Party and that would have been the end of the problem; with the hard 'leave' faction of the party being appeased.
The answer of 'leave' though, was one where the actual method and outcome was always going to be in dispute and we're in the middle of that dispute; and with the worst possible set of parliamentary and constitutional problems that in hindsight were always inevitable. 'Leave' as an answer, contains the very big sub-problems of 'how?' and 'what?' and the people who proposed to put up the referendum offered no thought on these sub-problems at all.

So when you suggest to people that there should be a second referendum, considering that the parliament has comprehensively proven itself to be incompetent at delivering any outcome thus far, you immediately run into objections from people who wanted 'leave' at any and all costs and they will object to the mere idea of a second referendum; citing that the referendum was already an expression of the will of the people and that they don't need to be asked again.

My big problem with this point of view is that it lays down the suggestion that once the people have decided something, they shouldn't be consulted again, on the grounds of pointlessness. This basically states that democracy is a series of finished questions, rather than an ongoing project. This is further complicated by the fact that in 2017, there was a General Election which returned the Conservative Party to government (with the help of the DUP) and they'd repeated I their manifesto a desire for the existing 'leave' agenda and subsequently claimed a mandate to deliver on that. The fact that they haven't, quite apart from what you think about the sovereignty of the parliament and the people, says to me that democracy itself is one who which is both slow and is one of epistemological process and conflict and can never be reduced to a single question.

To that end, I find the idea of a second referendum (and indeed the first referendum) to be simultaneously necessary and repulsively offensive. As much as it pains me to say this, the parliament and the composition of the parliament is probably the most nuanced answer to the ongoing process of democracy. The parliament should have already resolved this question. Boris Johnson's pitting of parliament against the people might have been a legitimate complaint before the Reform Acts of the 1830s but in an age where the franchise is massive and broad, that is a bad faith argument. It was necessary that the question of 'leave' or 'remain' was put to the people and I think that it is equally necessary again given parliament's failure to deliver the result but equally offensive that the people have already been asked and gave an answer.

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