SPOILT FOR CHOICE

The UK election shows voters now value change above all else

Voters—such fickle creatures. Just ask Theresa May. She campaigned against Brexit, then had to reinvent herself as a true believer in it when the British unexpectedly revolted against the EU and she was thrust into the prime ministership. Thinking she could solidify her majority, she held a snap election this week—but the public that had voted for Brexit turned on her and took away the Conservatives’ majority in Parliament.

Scotland, meanwhile, voted against independence from the UK in a referendum in 2014. The following year, in a general election, it gave the pro-independence Scottish National Party a landslide victory. Emboldened, the SNP campaigned for this week’s election on a promise to hold a second referendum. Result: It lost a third of its seats—most of which, adding insult to injury, went to May’s Conservatives.

Across the channel, meanwhile, consider Emmanuel Macron, who had never held elected office before winning the French presidency last month against established party grandees and the far-right’s Russian bot army. This Sunday, his brand new party looks set to sweep the first round of parliamentary elections, defying predictions that a centrist message wouldn’t resonate across hundreds of diverse local races.

It seems our desire for instant gratification has conquered politics. Voters are channel-hopping, snacking on ideologies and political styles, moving on as soon as they’re bored. In that light, Donald Trump is a political genius: His slippery, shifting positions on just about everything command attention and perfectly reflect the restless mood of the times. People are eager for something—anything—different, and damn any concerns about consistency.

There is something to admire in this increased ideological flexibility, given how quickly our world is changing and how stale many parties’ platforms have become. But gratification isn’t satisfaction, and entertaining politics isn’t good government.

This was published as part of the weekend edition of the Quartz Daily Brief. Sign up here for our newsletter, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe and Africa, or the Americas.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search