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Do We Need a Democracy Refresher Course?

Do We Need a Democracy Refresher Course?

“You lost! Get Over It!”

It’s become the rallying cry of many. Whether we’re talking about Brexit in the UK or Trump in the US, ardent supporters have been shouting down the opposition with cries of “you lost, get over it.”

The reason cited for this argument is simple – democracy. In both situations, a democratic vote has delivered a polarising result. However, there seems to be some confusion now over the democratic process. In the UK, we have the Liberal Democrats maintaining a firmly pro-EU position. Despite the referendum result, the Lib Dems continue to campaign against a so-called Hard Brexit, and for continuing membership in various European Union institutions. Indeed, the Lib Dems would see the UK either not exit the EU, or return to it at some point.

Take a gander at any one of their social media posts, and you will see the hostility to this position. “Illiberal Undemocrats” is a common accusation hurled their way by those satisfied with departing the EU.

Fallacy

There is, however, a failure of logic in accusing the Lib Dems, or any other Remain supporters of being undemocratic. Democracy does not begin and end with a vote. It is an ongoing process; the product of debate, of campaigning, consideration and re-consideration. An individual may change their mind and the principles of democracy respect that.

I understand why in the case of the EU Referendum, those who are firmly behind the Leave campaign have a distaste for the continuing Remain position. They have fought and campaigned long and hard for the UK to leave the European Union. Now they see their chance to achieve that goal. However, they must remember that it was only through their democratic right to debate and campaign that they were able to get a referendum in the first place.

Silencing is not Democracy

Therefore, they cannot cite democracy as a reason to attempt to silence those who still support Remain. True democracy does not allow for this because it is an ongoing process. Furthermore, we cannot claim that democracy represents the voice of the people and then dismiss the views of the 48%. That does not mean that the UK government should not respect the outcome of the referendum decision. It does not mean that the 48% should seek to overturn the result against the wishes of the majority. What it does mean is that the 48% have a right to continue their campaign if they want to do so.

The problem with trying to shut down debate with “you lost” is that you lurch dangerously towards mob rule. If you truly care about the democratic process and the freedoms of democracy, then it is vital that we all respect each other’s rights to opposing points of view, as well as their right to express them.

All of this would apply had the outcome of the referendum been the reverse. While I am no fan of Nigel Farage, he would not have been wrong to continue campaigning against UK membership of the European Union. He has a democratic right to campaign and debate as we all do and for the record, I am in no doubt that the “you lost, get over it!” argument would have been made towards Leave supporters too.

 

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