Politics Opinion

Saving democracy: Bridging the Left/Right divide

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(Screenshot via YouTube)

Finding a common ground between both sides of the political spectrum is key to saving democracy in Western cultures, writes Sue Arnold.

WHEN DONALD TRUMP was still in office, I remember standing in a very lengthy queue at Palm Springs Airport waiting to get a rental car. It was Spring break and the airport was chockers.

Standing next to me and my California-based sister was a thick-set guy covered in gold jewellery. As it looked like we were going to have to wait upwards of an hour to get served and being a curious journalist, I decided to chat up our queue neighbour.

After exchanging a few pleasantries, I asked him, sweetly, who he’d voted for:

“Trump, of course.”

Fortunately, he couldn’t see the disapproval on my sister’s face.

“Can I ask why? Given his record isn’t all that great and all those sex scandals he’s involved in, doesn’t that worry you?”

No, he wasn’t at all concerned. Just laughed it off. I dug a bit deeper. “C’mon, there must have been some overriding reason,” I asked.

His response was:

“Yeah — money. The guy has made a fortune, he’s a financial genius. I like that, it’s a great example for the rest of us. Money is good, he’ll make us all wealthy. Trump is an icon for me.”

So say 70 million Americans who worship this corrupt former president. As more and more evidence pours out of the 6 January Committee investigating the attempted coup, the betting money is on Trump facing seditious conspiracy charges. But the odds are slim as this is a difficult charge to prove. Plus the evidence is beginning to point to a massive conspiracy to overthrow the election with many people involved.

Then there’s the mid-terms. Will the 6 January Committee publish its findings in time? Will those findings cause a civil war to erupt?

Will the worship of a corrupt president who tried to overthrow U.S. democracy transform into a vote for another Trump presidency?

Essential questions remain, beyond the ken of voting experts. 

What attracts a third of the nation and the Republican Party to a man with no morality, a sexual predator, a bully and a crook? Do they support a dictatorship taking over?

What drives QAnon? Can any mentally sound individual believe the stuff this cult thrives on?

Is Trump just the tip of a monstrous iceberg of social change with the ship of sanity unaware of the dangers? Are we witnessing a change to fascism, the death of democracy and a looming take-over of autocracy?   

In simple terms, the change celebrates selfishness, greed, corruption, destruction of moral and environmental values and power at any cost.

At the public level in America, the Republican Party and states controlled by GOP governors and secretaries of state are eradicating the right to vote. People are losing faith in the electoral system and democracy. It’s anyone’s guess whether the extraordinary new voter suppression laws will deter voters and if not, then if the GOP doesn’t win, the election is null and void.

New movements have many heads, like a Hydra. Another stunning example of the widespread social change is the death toll caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be hard to argue that Trump is not responsible for many of those deaths as a result of his support for shonky cures, politicising wearing a mask, driving Americans against each other. History demonstrates that chaos is the best cover for the forces of darkness.

The lessons for Australia are loud and clear. In this country, the battle for social change is focused almost entirely on the anti-vaccine strategy aided and abetted by a growing number of QAnon members. And who knows what other sinister interests are behind the scenes?

Disseminating misinformation, lies, legitimising corruption and blaming others is now political speak, well publicised by the Murdoch media which dominates like Fox TV in the U.S.

Social media is yet another significant source of misinformation, allowing false messages and fake news to be spread far and wide. For anti-vaxxers, it’s akin to paradise.

A common experience in the pandemic is to discover that friends who appeared to be sane and stable transformed, literally overnight, into anti-vax fanatics. Not only were vaccines taboo but masks, social distancing and any mandate which interfered with “freedom”.

Discussions were pointless. No bridge of communication has appeared. Reports surfaced of infected anti-vaxxers deliberately coughing over supermarket fruit and vegies, coughing over and abusing wearing masks.

Attempts are being made to bridge the divisions in our communities. Some experts in relations are suggesting that individuals in opposite camps sit down with each other and try to find common ground.

Strategist Sue Barrett blogged wise words for SmartCompany in 2019:

Finding common ground is indispensable to our progress if we are to move forward as communities and solve the most pressing issues we have to deal with as humans inhabiting an abundant but vulnerable and finite planet.

 

Our world, at present, has ceased to be a contest of ideas focused on finding common ground in order for us to progress, and instead, has become a contest of powerful egos and megalomaniacs, and intent on destroying the other and this is the destructive road to hell. 

 

Common ground is about setting aside our prejudices and differences and instead about finding better ways to live together and build trust and respect for the common good. Listening, questioning, compromise and collaboration are vital for progress. We cannot go backwards, only forwards, and moving forward together, despite our differences, will allow us to see that we have more in common than we do in difference, and that the greater good is worth fighting for.

Resistance to this clarion call is endemic if not pandemic. Yet our very future depends on finding ways to meet each other, to ensure that we have responsible governments and leaders who also consider future generations. That our democracy is strong.

Unless we find that recipe, there’ll be no accountability giving green lights to the ongoing loss of democracy within Australia and the Western world.

The U.S. NBC‘s program on finding common ground with someone who doesn’t share your view might be a start:

‘When conversing with someone you don’t agree with, find simple common ground to build connectivity and friendship. Instead of focusing on where you disagree, build on a variety of subjects that can strengthen the relationship, such as a cuisine or a sport you both enjoy. Common ground provides a pathway of communication.’

Perhaps a big prize could be added for anyone who can discuss the Morrison Government with an L-NP voter and find common ground.

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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