Brexit, the Turkish Referendum, and even to some extent Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton.
During the 2016 Republican Primary, Lindsey Graham said choosing between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz was like asking would you rather be shot or poisoned.
“Would you rather…” a party game that, in its darker incarnation, poses two abhorrent options and participants must choose.
It seems that modern democracy has become a variant of this game. Instead of the pair of equally horrible, though, it is either a choice between one extreme and another, or at best, between the status quo and the extreme.
On Brexit, the choice was stark. All-or-nothing. Either leave entirely, or stay. No possibility of offering a chance to renegotiate the points of pain for the lean-leaves. Same with Turkey. Either Erdogan got his shiny new toys of doom, or he didn’t. They weren’t given to the people to say, “Well he can have this one, but not that one.” It wasn’t a gradient vote.
Would you rather… have a democracy that gives more moderate options, or watch the whole world spiral down the drain, one extreme choice after another?
This one-way mess is getting us into trouble. It’s turned our self-governance into a game of WYR? rather than a mechanism for compromise. I would much prefer the pendulum became a plumb bob, pointing at the earth we all must share. We badly need to stop giving into every fear.
And, of late, it’s all conservative extremism on parade. In Russia, in Turkey, you have conservatives seeking to pimp out their states, to make them prostitutes for personal enrichment. In Britain, no longer great since it turned its back on shared-responsibility in Europe, you have May hoping that the people are dumb enough to increase her majority at a time when the conservatives have already blundered their future in a fit. In France… we shall see.
But at some point this all has to swing back to the other extreme. Not equally bad, but still not measured and incapable of producing the sorts of long-term planning we need.