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You don't like Brexit or Trump? Sorry but that is what democracy is all about

Condemning millions of people for choosing Brexit or Trump is simply arrogant, says Fionola Meredith

Maybe it's the company I keep, but there seems to be an awful lot of people whining that 2016 has been the worst year ever, because of Brexit and the Donald Trump victory. To which my response is: don't you believe in democracy then?

Let me say here that I voted Remain in the referendum - I'm no fan of the European Union, which I consider dysfunctional and elitist, deeply resistant to reform from within, but I reluctantly voted to stay because I feared the destabilising effects of leaving, particularly on our own fragile set-up in Northern Ireland. As for Trump, I regard him as a loathsome, narcissistic demagogue and vulgarian, who stands for attitudes, values and policies that I despise. "The Lord of the Flies on his own 757," as PJ O'Rourke aptly put it.

So my side lost, on both counts (I would have voted for Bernie Sanders, if I'd had the chance, certainly not the crony capitalist Hillary, and never for Trump). Fair enough. That's the way it goes sometimes. It's quite simple really: insufficient numbers of people share your view of the world, with the result that your side gets out-voted.

Yet I can't join the chorus of caterwauling about the events of 2016 because too often these yowls come in the form of an appalling assault on democracy and democratic values.

The people were too stupid or racist or misogynistic to see what was good for them, so they voted the wrong way: that seems to be the essential argument from right-thinking people, on both sides of the Atlantic. As a consequence, the entire world is in jeopardy, because of the ill-informed antics of these haters, dullards and xenophobes, who clearly can't be trusted to enter a voting booth and make the correct choice. Probably they can barely hold a pen in their piggish fists, right?

"After Trump, I'm losing faith in democracy", "Can we trust the people?", "Why elections are bad for democracy": I promise you, I didn't make these headlines up.

"What if democracy doesn't work? What if it never has and never will?" fretted columnist George Monbiot. Jessica Valenti, one of Hillary Clinton's most obedient feminist fans, said that it was perfectly acceptable to shame women and men who voted for Trump: "being socially ostracised for supporting Trump is not an infringement of your rights, it's a reasonable response by those of us who are disgusted, anxious, and afraid." The shameless, shameful fools - how could they be so thick and revolting? Let's never speak to them again.

Of course, it's this very attitude of sneering contempt for ordinary people that helped to create the conditions for an almighty backlash against the political and media establishment. If you treat people outside your own bubble of entitlement as vicious, deluded idiots, no wonder they eventually turn round, raise a defiant middle finger and say enough already.

That's not to say that Brexit and Trump are seamlessly equivalent - plenty of people who voted to leave the EU would never dream of voting for a Trump presidency. But both movements represent a deep disillusionment with the status quo.

I'm sorry to say that much of the rampant prole-shaming has come from within the Left. I don't like political labels, and prefer to resist them, but I still consider the Left my natural home. Freedom, progress, equality, universal human rights: that's what it's all about, isn't it? Not any longer. Now too many so-called progressives have taken a puritanical, authoritarian, pro-censorship turn, keen to ban anything they disagree with - and they seem oblivious to the dangerous political consequences.

As Jerry Barnett, author of a new book on sex and censorship, writes: "only a true elitist could try to dictate which ideas other people have access to, rather than join the debate and win by force of reason".

Remarkably, the word 'liberal' is used as an insult these days, directed at anyone who refuses to conform to the intolerant orthodoxy. I've had it flung at me, to which my answer is: guilty as charged.

Here's a suggestion for those bewailing the horrors of 2016. Instead of complaining about the ignorance of the masses, slandering millions of people as racists and fools, try a different approach in 2017.

Step out of your nice, cosy echo chamber and listen. Hear that roar? It's called the freedom to speak, and choose, and vote, and you deny it at your peril.

"The American dream is dead. But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before and we will make America great again."
"Love him or hate him, Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as as much of a turn-on as his money."
On Barack Obama: "Obama is going to be out playing golf. He might be at one of my courses. I would invite him, I have the best courses in the world. I have one right next to the White House."
"You have to think anyway, so why not think big."
"Everything in life is luck."
"What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate."
"If you're interested in balancing work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable."
"I just sold an apartment to China for $15million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them? I love China. You know where their United States headquarters is located? In Trump Tower."
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems. They're bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They're rapists."
I will build a great wall - and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me and I'll build them very expensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."
"Free trade is terrible. Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have stupid people."
"Some of the candidates, they went in and didn't know the air conditioner didn't work and sweated like dogs and they didn't know the room was too big because they didn't have anybody there. How are they going to beat ISIS?"
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump mocks reporter Serge Kovaleski's disability. While waving his arms around he said: "Now the poor guy [Kovaleski] — you ought to see the guy: ‘Uhh I don’t know what I said. I don’t remember.’ He’s going, ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said."
Mr Trump told ABC's Good Morning America that banning Muslims was warranted because the US is essentially at war with Muslim extremists who have launched attacks including last week's shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14. "We are now at war," he said, adding: "We have a president who doesn't want to say that." "Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life."
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump assures America he has no size issues during Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (AP)
An protester against Donald Trump holds a burning T-shirt outside the Republican's rally in Albuquerque (AP)
After the Orlando nightclub mass shooting - the worst in American history - Donald Trump tweeted: "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart! "

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