Brexit: Because calling people ignorant isn't a great campaign strategy
June 27, 2016
An open letter to Remain
It's a common sense thing, really. If you would like people to do what you want, you can compel them in one of two ways:
The first would be to make your opponents fond of you. People do things for individuals they like all the time. It makes humans all warm and fuzzy inside. The Remain campaigners were, however, a bit short on time in the weeks prior to the referendum, so it's understandable that they didn't choose this option.
The second option is to convince your opponents that the benefits of your preferred course of action will be better for everyone than what might result from their position. There was a bit of this over the course of the referendum campaign, but not nearly enough. Instead, the bulk of the Remain campaigners picked chose something else.
This third option, of course, was to call opponents racist, ignorant, or idiotic, and to generally produce a discourse that discounted the possibility of someone who wasn't one, two, or all three of the above possibly considering an exit from the European Union. The United Kingdom's involvement in the project was so obvious, such a given, that anyone not on board must be incredibly stupid. Or so it went. The thing about (supposed) racist, ignorant idiots like the Brexiters, however, is that their votes still count. I would argue that the better course of action would have been option two, winning hearts and minds and convincing these horrible, horrible people that staying in would be better than going it alone.
Again, there was a bit of that. But not nearly enough. Even if you honestly believe that people are awful for disagreeing with you, it's best to hold off until afterwards to write that disparaging Facebook status, tweet, or Guardian article. At least if you prefer winning to being morally or intellectually superior.
There's a lesson here for the American Democrats too. The best thing they can do for Donald Trump is to engage him and his supporters using option three. Tell them why you're better, not why they're terrible human beings. Hostility doesn't lead to the kind of soul searching required to change political allegiances. Acceptance does.
Even in the face of the sort of fear driven politics that are getting more popular these days, ditching the superiority can only help. So, to sum things up: If making them like you fails, show why you're a better option. Don't descend to name calling, even if you really think they deserve it. The politics of fear will run out, and we can all enjoy a higher quality of discourse from both sides.
And maybe stay in that union next time.