I don’t know how I would have voted in the UK Referendum on Europe if I had a vote there, but I suspect it might have been reluctantly to Remain on the basis that whilst reform of Europe was not at all likely, it wasn’t totally impossible, either. If the Remain campaign had actually recognised that there were significant flaws in the present system, and promised to try to do something about them, I suspect the result might even have been different.
But instead the chose the politics of fear, the default setting for every political campaign in recent memory. Ironically, it was the Leavers who actually projected some positive vision, even if it was flawed and dishonest. Of course, there’s nothing new about the use of fear as a political weapon – just think of all those elections in the 1960s and 1970s where the return of a mildly left-wing government was going to bring an invasion by the Red Army the next day. But what’s new is the reliance on effectively nothing but fear as a political argument. This goes even beyond the “if you think we’re bad look at the opposition” tactics used by vaguely leftish political parties since the 1990s; In the case of Brexit, as in the current US elections, one side offers absolutely no reason to vote their way at all, other than fear and hatred of the opposition.
This can’t work, and there are already signs that it’s backfiring. Not only have the economic disasters prophesied after a Leave vote not materialized, but the latest economic indicators suggest that they probably won’t. This summary, albeit by a confirmed Brexiter, makes a pretty overwhelming case.
But for a western political class for which has nothing to offer but fear itself as a policy this is, to put it mildly, a problem. I very much doubt that they are capable of understanding, let alone dealing with it.