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It has been four days since 52 percent of British voters chose to leave the European Union. From almost the moment the networks declared victory for the Leave campaign, the Remainers have demanded a second referendum — a do-over to get a different result. Demanding a do-over is the oldest trick in the book for sore losers. It’s also something Brexit supporters should be unafraid of. Just ask Gov. Scott Walker.
In the United States there is a legitimate process for a do-over in the form of a recall election. A recall is designed only for extreme circumstances and can easily backfire if used inappropriately. An appropriate recall campaign will work to unseat an incumbent for reasons of incompetence, malfeasance, or corruption. It is a last-ditch way to remove an elected official who is objectively unfit to remain in office until the next regularly scheduled election.
A recall campaign waged for nakedly partisan political purposes is a dangerous weapon that can be turned against those who wield it. Walker was elected governor of Wisconsin in 2010. Halfway through his term, Walker was subject to a recall election based mainly on his having done as governor exactly what he said he would do if elected.
In a turn of events that should be instructive for Bremainers, Walker’s recall election scored a higher turnout than his original election and he went on to win it by a higher margin than he did the first time.
Some analysts have speculated that Walker’s higher turnout and increased margin in the recall was due to the perceived unfairness of recalling the governor for simply doing the things he said he would. The controversy stirred enough low-propensity voters to yield a higher turnout, and some people who didn’t support Walker in 2010 voted for him in 2012 in objection to the recall process itself. This analysis is supported by the results of the regular 2014 election which had lower turnout than the recall and saw Walker win with a margin of victory that was almost exactly the same as it was in 2010.
The Remain campaign savaged its opponents as intolerant, bigoted, uncultured, xenophobic know-nothings. In the days since the referendum, Bremainers have stepped up those attacks and howled at the indignity of losing to extremists who refused to listen to their betters – who defied the gaggle of credentialed, elitist experts who, in their all-knowing wisdom, declared that not only must the UK remain in the EU, anyone with an opposing view could be nothing more than a tantrum-throwing extremist.
Most people don’t like being called bigots and know-nothings and other various and sundry epithets simply for holding a view not held by the credentialed elite. Most people acculturated to the democratic process have a basic view of fairness that says the results of an election are final and determinate.
A do-over referendum would be held solely on the basis that the result of the first vote was wrong and that a majority of voters were some combination of crazy and ignorant. It would also strike at the heart of the democratic process by undermining the results of a historically high turnout election (72%) and setting a precedent that when a vote goes against the elite, more votes must be held until the elites get the result they want.
Under those circumstances it is reasonable to expect that if the United Kingdom were to hold a second Brexit referendum, turnout would increase and the result would be the same as before only with a higher margin of victory for the Leave campaign. Brexiters would mostly stay with their original Leave vote to stick it to the elite for insulting their values, traditions, and intelligence while some Remainers would cast Leave votes to protest their side’s undemocratic sore loser mentality.
No one yet knows if a second referendum is in store for the UK but if so, Brexiters should be unafraid. Their response should simply be “bring it on.” Conversely, the prospect of losing a second referendum should strike fear in the hearts of the credentialed elite whose grip on power is already tenuous at best.