Today is a really good day for democracy. For British voters have been entrusted to make a real decision. A decision that could have a massive impact on both British politics and the global order. Where in recent years voting in General Elections has come to feel routine, and possibly even a little pointless, given you couldn’t squeeze so much as a beermat between the policy programmes of the main parties, today’s vote feels heavy, solid, like we’ve been given real democratic responsibility. I know that when I cast my ballot early this morning — for Leave — I felt powerful in a way that I didn’t on the two occasions I’ve voted in General Elections. I felt like a true democratic citizen, making a choice that could make a ripple in history itself, and make the future look very different to what we have today. It felt good.
This is what we at spiked have found most exciting about the referendum campaign. Even though the debates have been lame, and both sides have plumped for the politics of fear, still there is something stirring about being asked: ‘Do you want to change Europe’s political order?’ The radicalness of that question has — quite by accident, given that the referendum’s architect, David Cameron, is hardly a democratic firebrand — served as a brilliant reminder of what it means to be a member of a demos. Too often today, it can feel like we are technically enfranchised, with all over-18s enjoying the right to vote, but politically disenfranchised, as more and more of the big, society-shaping issues are taken off the political agenda. But with today’s vote, we’ve been properly enfranchised, properly entrusted, to decide the fate of our nation, and of the EU itself, to rearrange the world order, if we like.
It is precisely the hugeness of this decision that we the people have been entrusted to make that has made the political and media elites look upon the referendum with fear and loathing. They despise the referendum, openly. In recent weeks, the political class and broadsheet set have argued that it was a monumental folly to put the future of the EU in the hands of ordinary people. These people, especially ‘older white men’, especially the less well-educated sections of society in which emotions ‘play a larger part than rationality’, apparently lack the expertise required to make such a major political decision. The EU is ‘too difficult and detailed’ an issue to be left with the uneducated, with those unversed in economics and diplomacy. In recent days this elite panic has reached fever pitch. We’re witnessing a ‘bonfire of reason’, says one columnist. We can’t stand by and watch ‘idiots breaking things’, says another, meaning voters possibly rejecting the EU. The metaphor many are reaching for is Pandora’s Box. ‘Pandora’s Box has been opened’, says a petrified New Statesman, unleashing ‘dark forces and furies into the body politic’.