The most meaningful political story in the United States this week wasn’t unfolding in the United States. One of our potential futures was instead being played out in England, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fighting a pitched battle to bring the will of the people to fruition against the entrenched power of a multi-national elite.
Ever since a 2016 referendum in which British voters chose to leave the European Union by a 52% to 48% margin, the voters’ representatives have been doing everything they possibly can not to represent the voters. Prime Minister Teresa May swore that “Brexit means Brexit,” then managed to fashion a leave deal so bad that even Brexit supporters thought it worse than staying. After May staggered off in tears, Boris Johnson took over the premiership swearing that the Brits would be out of the EU by the October 31stdeadline — a deadline already once extended.
BoJo made it clear that his willingness to “crash out” on Halloween with no deal would help him negotiate a better deal with an EU that does not want to let its grip on British power go. But Parliament — with the help of a largely anti-Brexit press and elite — has so far managed to stymie Johnson’s strategy and may extend the deadline yet again — maybe forever.
The reason I say this is the most meaningful political story here in the U.S. is because it’s the first real test of whether the English-speaking peoples can wrest back their power of self-governance. If Brexit fails, the situation here will not look good. If it succeeds, there’s hope.
As Christopher Caldwell points out in his excellent Brexit piece in this summer’s issue of Claremont Review of Books, Britain’s entry into the E.U. did not just result in a diminution of British sovereignty over its own affairs, it also transferred power from the people’s representatives in Parliament to the elite’s representatives on and before the bench. British judges could now invalidate British law that conflicted with laws concocted in Brussels.
“Quangos [advisory bodies with government-appointed members] and foundations began designing cases — concerning migrants’ rights, gay rights, search-and-seizure — that unraveled the centuries-old fabric woven from the rights and duties of British citizenship. A new fabric began to be woven, based (as are all such systems in Europe) on post-Civil Rights Act American law and on the litigative ethos of the American bar.”
Here in America, a similar shift has taken power out of the hands of our representatives in congress and put it into unelected administrative bodies like the EPA and the Department of Education. These bodies serve the same “rights” oriented obsessions of the elites — and can make rules and enforce rules in a completely unconstitutional and anti-freedom manner that, so far, has had the support of a feckless Supreme Court.
Legislators love this system. They no longer have to study issues and fashion laws that have a specific effect. They no longer have to take real stances that could get them voted out of office. They simply have to pose for the cameras, use big, emotional words, take money from entrenched interests and then announce that they “did something” about the big issue of the day. The “something” is some 2,000 page collection of vaguely worded gobbledygook that can be interpreted by some drone at the EPA to mean he can do whatever he wants. When the EPA guy then rules that you can’t go to the bathroom because your toilet is a public waterway, you’ve got no one to appeal to but the same petty tyrant at the EPA. Your property rights, your rights to due process, not to mention your vote, essentially mean nothing.
Donald Trump has done an excellent job of cutting regulations, but they’ll bounce right back once the next person, Democrat or Republican, takes his place. The entire system needs to be dismantled, probably at the level of the Supreme Court.
With the election of Donald Trump and with the vote for Brexit, the English-speaking peoples are demanding their age-old representative systems back. If Boris Johnson succeeds in Britain, it will be a hopeful sign. But if the combined power of the elites and their press can prevent the crash out, then Trump, instead of the change we need, may turn out to be just a bump in the road that leads to the end of the republic.