I think the best thing we can say about Britain leaving the European Union is that it just might be the event that finally kills that idiotic saying, “If voting actually changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” When I read that sentence, I always hear it in my head in a clownish, goofy voice, because it’s a clownish and goofy opinion to have. Evidently more than a few English voters had that opinion too, which is why they treated their vote like a comment card at a TGI Friday’s.
Imagine if you had bad service at TGI Friday’s – that’s a big leap to make, I know – and left a scathing tirade on one of those “How Can We Improve?” cards that they leave you with your check. Let’s say you were so pissed off at the state of the mozzarella sticks that you wrote, This whole restaurant ought to be burned to the ground! And then imagine if the next day you came back, because you weren’t really that mad and because you’re the sort of person who eats at TGI Friday’s on multiple consecutive days, only to find the staff dousing the building in gasoline and the manager chucking a Molotov cocktail in the window. “Wait – what!? No, don’t do that! Jesus, I didn’t know you guys took these things so seriously!”
But it’s too late – now you have no choice but to eat at Applebee’s, which is just slightly worse than what’s going to happen to the United Kingdom in the next few years. The people who gained the most from membership in the EU were the ones who voted overwhelmingly to leave it, due in part to being deliberately misled or not even knowing what the EU was in the first place. Now the value of their currency is plummeting, their economy is shrinking and their prime minister is resigning. Turns out democracy isn’t just some puppet show put on by the elites to pacify the masses – live and learn, right? Better luck next generation!
Still, I think David Cameron comes out ahead in all this. Now he’ll go down in history as the prime minister who accidentally steered the UK into a multi-decade economic decline, instead of the prime minister who allegedly stuck his fully erect penis into a dead pig’s mouth.
Boris Johnson was the mayor of London when I was studying abroad there in college, and I actually saw him up close when my group sat in on a London City Council meeting. Based on that experience, I can completely understand why his presence in the ‘Leave’ campaign put them over the top. During the meeting, Johnson, a member of David Cameron’s Conservative Party, presided over a squabbling panel of 14 councilors with the showmanship of a talk show host and the verbal acuity of an insult comic.
As a general rule, British politics is far more yelly than it is here in the States, and everybody on the council seemed to genuinely and openly hate one another. If a London City Council meeting were happening in the apartment next door to mine, I’d probably call the cops. But Boris Johnson was sort of above it all, laughing off his detractors, mocking their policy proposals, and treating all their petulant, impassioned shouting like it was one big joke.
Johnson’s performance reached its zenith during debate over an expensive but environmentally-friendly sewage treatment plant, when he made what is without question the classiest joke about pooping I’ve ever heard in my life. I can’t remember the exact wording, but when one of his opponents on the council made some snarky comment to the tune of, “If the sitting mayor won’t move on this waste treatment proposal, I should hope he wouldn’t stand for reelection!” To which Boris Johnson, mayor of one of the world’s largest and most historically important cities, said, “Well, I move quite a lot of waste when I’m sitting – and some of it when I’m standing, too!”
His supporters on the council, not to mention most of the spectators, broke out laughing. Johnson just stood there with a big ‘ol grin on his face as the council’s parliamentarian pleaded futilely with everyone to quit talking about shitting and pissing so they could get back to trying to run London.
Think about it – if you were an older, underemployed person living in the hinterlands of England, struggling to make ends meet, feeling shafted by political elites, wouldn’t you love a politician who delights in making an ass out of those elites? And if all those politicians told you leaving the EU would be a disaster, and Boris told you they were lying as usual, who would you trust?
Conventional wisdom was that Boris Johnson would be the next prime minister – after all, he’s one of Britain's most popular politicians, and the Brexit went a long way to raise his public profile. But three hours before he was due to announce his candidacy, his would-be campaign manager – a hilariously awkward fop named Michael Gove – put out a statement saying Johnson wasn’t up to the task and that he would be running for prime minister instead.
Now Boris Johnson, thoroughly Red Wedding’d, has withdrawn from the running. Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, sort of a British Bernie Sanders, is so phenomenally unpopular in his own party that he has little chance of being the next PM. Nigel Farage, the Ted Cruzesque leader of the UK Independent Party who pushed for the Brexit in the first place, has also stepped down. And Michael Gove, fresh from betraying one of his closest allies at the 11th hour, is curiously having a somewhat hard time finding allies to support his bid for prime minister.
Usually it takes a terrorist attack or an assassination campaign to wipe out this many members of a country’s government. It’s really a testament to democracy that the people of England were able to completely RF so many wealthy and powerful people without having to break out the guillotines.
If voting didn’t matter and a cabal of shadowy billionaires were pulling all the strings of our society, stuff like this wouldn’t happen. Sure, moneyed interests have corrupted the democratic process in this country and virtually every other one – but your vote is still a loaded gun. That’s why wealthy and powerful people spend so much time and money trying to tell you who to shoot with it.
On this side of the Atlantic, we get closer to November, let’s all just try not to shoot ourselves in the foot, okay?