There is a worrying counter-trend taking place alongside the march of populism, where those on the left advocate the removal of democracy and where electorate vote for policies or leaders which they regard as hateful or deceitful.
The Women’s March against Donald Trump, which has taken place in large numbers across many cities across the world is an example of the most concerning cause of protest to date – a protest against democracy. We have seen this before in the UK, not only did we have a ‘March for Europe’, where ardent Remain supporters protested the referendum result, but we also had to endure a similar display when the Conservatives won a majority in the 2015 General Election. As with the Women’s March, both of these events were protests against the democratic result.
More worrying is the plethora of well-educated individuals who are resorting to legal action to block outcomes which they morally object to, in a thinly veiled attempt to subvert democracy. In America, the Electoral College was lobbied to ignore the outcome of the Presidential election. Here, in the UK, we have Gina Miller and a number of other wealthy individuals launching a range of court cases to either delay or frustrate the wishes of the democratic majority.
Most concerning of all is that this belief of moral superiority (which legitimises the bypassing of a democratic majority), is now becoming prevalent among our politicians. Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy was one of the first to call for Parliament to ignore the Leave vote from the EU referendum in June 2016. He was not alone - when the House of Commons voted on a motion to trigger Article 50, the formal firing gun for EU withdrawal, a significant group of politicians on the left and centre-left voted against the motion, including MPs from Leave-voting constituencies. The unstated but unambiguous aim of these votes was to block Brexit, which the democratic majority voted for.
I can imagine that many reading this will say “ah yes, but it’s different with Donald Trump, he’s a figure of hate” or “well, voters were misled over leaving the EU.”
People have a democratic right to vote for leaders or policies which others perceive as wrong. We also have the right to vote for leaders or policies which others perceive as hateful or offensive. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. If a winning margin of American citizens want to vote for Donald Trump, then it is their prerogative to do so. The same goes for Brexit, even if you believe a majority of people were ‘misled’, you should remember that this is only your personal opinion – not objective fact. No amount of anecdotal evidence or speculative polling after the event proves otherwise, only votes themselves are evidence of a viewpoint.
I accept that some of the opposition we see to democratic outcomes is a way of making clear that leaders or policies do not have the support of the entire electorate – that opposition must be considered and accounted for. At worst, for many people, placards with ‘no to racism’ or ‘no to sexism’ are harmless virtue signalling, which many feel compelled to do.
However, the really frightening trend is the prevalence of a group of those, on the left, who would do away with democracy in order to impose their views and policies on the people. By feeling morally superior in their views, democracy isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for imposing them. When a democratic outcome is in stark contrast to what they believe, then they feel the electorate has made a mistake and should therefore be ignored. While arguably good intentioned, this approach is the start of a slippery slope towards dictatorship.
In 20th century Russia, a number of Communist activists started out with the same intentions. However, with the overriding of democracy and an opposition emerging from former supporters, it wasn’t long before dictatorial control, leading to mass murder and exile, was implemented, to ensure the morally superior vision of a Marxist utopia became reality. The lesson from this episode is that we must always respect democracy, and always work within the democratic framework of our own countries. The alternative is much worse.
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