Opinion The Center Can Hold

Britain’s “Remain” Side Doesn’t Need More Passion

Passion is not what persuades voters.

This is starting to get old: the notion that those who want the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union need to show more “passion” to persuade a Euroskeptic electorate that staying in is the better option. The Financial Times argued as much recently. So did the news agency Reuters, citing pollsters and political scientists.

Don’t these people ever learn?

In the last election, the Conservatives were said to lack passion as well. They kept talking about the same “long-term economic plan” day after day, boring everybody who follows politics for a living. In the end, they confounded the pollsters and the pundits by not only defeating Labour but winning back an absolute majority for the first time in twenty years.

In the Scottish independence referendum a year earlier, similar accusations were leveled at the unionists. Rather than inspire a passion for the United Kingdom that could rival that of the separatists, they kept warning about the economic uncertainty that would ensue if Scots voted to leave. In the end, a clear majority voted to stay together.

Notice a pattern?

Silent majority

It’s not just Britain either. Across the Atlantic, commentators have kept warning Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, for months that all the passion is on her rival’s, Bernie Sanders’, side. Yet for months she has been winning primaries, quietly building up a delegate lead that now looks insurmountable. Sanders’ supporters may have the passion; Clinton’s are in the majority.

“Passion” in politics is all to often the hallmark of fanatics. Normal people don’t get excited about politics. They have lives to lead. When they are called on to vote, they do so for the side that seems to them the most sensible.

“Don’t compare me to the almighty,” Joe Biden, America’s vice president, used to say. “Compare me to the alternative.”

Most voters do.