The surprise victory for “leave” in the referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union has been hailed as a win for national sovereignty. It also has been lambasted as a sign of racism and xenophobia among the English and Welsh—though not among the overwhelmingly socialist Scots who voted “remain.” Stock markets and currency exchanges have been uneasy as left-wing celebrities, the punditocracy, and various globalist elites have panicked and exploded into anti-democratic hate speech.
One thing is clear, the referendum was merely the opening shot in a coming war for control over the destinies of peoples within the European Union and the West (including the United States) more broadly conceived. Threats of financial meltdown from speculator and manipulator extraordinaire George Soros, typically arrogant scolding from Barack Obama, and a quite nasty attempt to blame the murder of a Labour Member of Parliament on the Brexit campaign all failed to defeat the surge of support for British self-government. But the backlash has been immediate and substantial. The Scots are threatening to derail Britain’s exit and some Conservative Members of Parliament who backed Brexit now are refusing to support the reduction in immigration they and their non-establishment allies had promised.
The concern is not just with Britain’s leaving the European Union. It is with the entire notion of devolution—of people’s demanding a return to self-government in the face of ever-larger and more distant bureaucratic organizations taking control over more and more of their lives. From forbidding deportation of criminal immigrants to prosecuting shopkeepers for selling by the ounce instead of the kilogram, laws made by anonymous EU committees have sapped the legitimacy of the budding “United States of Europe.” The principle involved in devolution is simple: people in their local communities should control their own destinies and forge larger alliances on the basis of real, culturally based common goods. This principle is as universal as it is localist; it requires greater self-government for meaningful, geographically and culturally based communities everywhere.
Globalists deride this principle as intrinsically racist because it entails peoples’ control over their own borders. But globalists have long recognized the natural drive for self-government. In Europe they have mastered the art of providing relatively meaningless forms of autonomy over “cultural issues” as a way of buying off local elites. Scots even claimed a significant measure of self-government within the United Kingdom, in part on the understanding that the European Union would foot much of the bill for their socialist policies. But crumbs and backdoor arrangements are no longer enough for millions of Europeans, particularly in the midst of the Muslim invasion visited upon them by their governors. The demand now is for control over lawmaking, budgeting, and especially national borders. The struggle for self-government, so long suppressed, is finally beginning.
We cannot expect neutral reporting on this struggle for the simple reason that the mainstream press is an integral part of the coalition fighting on one side. Thus, the narrative coming from the press, academia and the political establishment of all parties, whether in Britain, the continent, or the United States, remains the same: a few clever, evil people are using racism and economic fear to herd the mindless masses into supporting policies all sensible people must oppose. But conservatives in particular need to understand that the populist movement taking shape in Europe and in the United States, while not intrinsically conservative, is the only movement available as a counter to ever-greater centralization under a solidifying regime of globalist economics and political correctness. Avoiding foolish and unChristian appeals to racism and religious hatred, we must support, wherever possible, the demand for self-government at the heart of the popular revolt against globalist elites.
There is no grand conspiracy at work in centralizing power. What we have been experiencing is a melding together of cosmopolitan elites into an increasingly single-minded group made up of people who see themselves as righteous rulers pushing the rest of us toward a better, more egalitarian, secure, and (of course) environmentally friendly future. Most of these people have studied at the same schools or under teachers from those schools. They see themselves as special because they work for, or are close with those who work for the same international bureaucracy of money, trade, and political management. They consider themselves people “of the world” and so identify less with their own cultures than with a liberal ethos entitling them to organize other people’s lives and minds to make them better, more “tolerant” individuals. And whether on Wall Street, in Berlin, or in Silicon Valley they see common people everywhere as largely interchangeable labor inputs whose political voices and cultural aspirations must be finessed or suppressed so as to nurture ever-growing structures of economic and environmental security and managed “free” trade.
The United States—for most of its history the home of local self-government—in recent years has become almost as much a victim of cosmopolitan centralization as Europe. Conservatives in particular have resisted this development, defending family, church, and local association against the charge that equality and progress demand uniformity enforced from Washington. That defense broke under the pressure of the second Bush presidency—perhaps the most profligate and expansionist in half a century. It was left helpless in the face of the Obama presidency, which has proven to be the most radical in our history. Corrupted by power, privilege, and connection with the Republican Party establishment, the official conservative movement essentially folded its tent during the 2016 primary season. But there remains real hope that the central, conservative principle of local self-government now may receive renewed attention.
One of the problems I in particular have had with the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump has been his seeming indifference to local self-government. Despite his stated support for Brexit, I see nothing in his rather haphazard platform to change my opinion. But Brexit offers this political entrepreneur the opportunity to capitalize on a significant movement among the people. He has rejected the idea of a “Texit” or secession of Texas from the federal union. I am no supporter of this quixotic movement myself. But the dissatisfaction with federal overreaching among citizens of one of our freest and most economically powerful states is a hopeful sign and a resource for anyone seeking to defeat the continued radical centralization embodied in the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
We do not need a Texit—at least not at this stage. But we do need, in the United States, in Europe and throughout the West, a new revolution. That revolution will be fought in the name of self-government.
In fighting this revolution, conservatives will have to make common cause with many who do not share all of our principles. A significant portion of Brexit’s supporters were socialist, Labour Party supporters. They are attached to an intrusive welfare and administrative state. Many populists, including in the United States, want their government to organize their lives for them, rather than building their own lives in their families, churches, and local associations. But devolution is a necessary step toward open debate with those enamored of state-provided security. Only when we have some real control over our communities can we have real conversations about how a good life is led, and how much of it can be directed through political means. Conservatives must join in the fight for devolution because without it we have no hope of renewing our culture and our communities. Indeed, until we can control our borders we cannot ensure the survival of meaningful communities at all as they will be swamped, not merely with people who have different customs than our own, but, as important, with “helpers” from the government who will reconfigure our customs, in the name of tolerance, but in actual service to faceless bureaucratic structures.
Should the establishment continue to deny peoples control over their own borders—and the future shape of their own culture and society—we shall see the fight get ugly. The elites will, of course, charge that the aspiration to maintain into the future the character of one’s community and culture is intrinsically racist, rather than an essential element of self-government. In combatting this lie conservatives must work hard to keep any actual racial or ethnic hatred from rearing its ugly head. The actual difference between globalists and the rest of us is that globalists see individuals as mere individual units, as specks to be organized by themselves according to a grand plan for equality and security. Only by breaking through this fundamental misunderstanding of human nature to a recognition of our shared identities and the many different associations in which those identities are formed and exercised can there be any hope of a restoration of ordered liberty and public sanity.
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