As the recent Berkeley protest against Milo Yiannopoulos shows, we are facing a political future split into “the ‘Libtards’ vs the racists”, where neither camp will get anything done.
The TPP was an interesting and divisive beast. It was held up as something to pursue by the Democrats in the United States as a pathway to freer trade and closer economic ties. However, so much of the West deplored many of its conditions, particularly those of the Left.
The TPP empowered corporate and private entities at the expense of states and individuals in many ways, such as introducing ways in which a company could sue a government for profits lost due to government activity. In other words, if a government regulates an industry to stop monopolisation or vast environmental destruction, the corporation in question can then sue the state for the profits lost. This obviously flies in the face of the ever important “creative destruction” that economies and states need to continue to evolve.
Suffice to say, the exact same group that frequently identifies itself by its opposition to corporate interests was in a position where its ideological champion, President Obama, was extolling something directly opposite what they traditionally support. There seemed to be very little said about it, as though it was an unpleasant thought not to be dwelled upon. Or rather, there was much said of it, but it was rarely said in the same sentence as the President’s name.
Democratic supporters were largely caught in a strange web of selective mental omission. Thus it was an interesting event when this past week the new Republican President pulled the US out of it suddenly. But such was the intensity of the political partisanship in the US, the Democratic supporters came out in a kind of confused opposition to this decision. You can see very clearly people who do not agree with something but who cannot fuel the other side by agreeing with them about anything.
Western democracies are split almost 50/50 down the middle between liberal and conservative support bases. Thus every election seems to swing on the tiniest fractions, so each time an election occurs it’s very likely there will be a change of government and with it everything will be repealed.
This is not just the Democrats either; this is just a vividly confusing example; many Republicans became temporarily “Internet famous” when they came out cheering that Obamacare had been repealed, stating proudly that they get their insurance through ACA instead. Seemingly they quickly realised this was the same thing, and they would be losing their affordable insurance coverage. US politics is probably the strongest and most vitriolic example of it, but partisan politics has reached a level of intensity that I doubt has been seen, outside of wartime. Few need to think hard to remember the campaigns against Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard here in Australia, let alone the endless and now ironic repetition of “Labor’s Debt”.
We are at a point where it’s the identity and the banner that takes prevalence. We have our side, we have our banner, and we have en-masse tied ourselves to that side through our choices of media, our news sources and our communities. Our side is intelligent and noble, and the other side is the worst kind of debased and idiotic. There is no half way with this, it has become absolute. If Obama had fully punished the banking sector, the Republicans would have called him a Socialist (which they already did). Instead he punished them fairly lightly, and instead, he’s labelled a corporate lackey. There are no correct decisions from the opposition’s perspective; any decision will be forced to fit with the existing narrative so thoroughly portrayed by that side’s media.
I would like to preface this with the fact that Donald Trump in particular has cut such a swathe through what most would call decency up to this point that he is probably the most deserving candidate of this kind of partisan opposition. However, it doesn’t change the fact that if it had been Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush in his position the resistance would likely have been just as blind and unconditional. It would be fascinating to see Trump come out with a new healthcare platform suddenly that was even more far-reaching and comprehensive than Obama’s had been, just to see what the reaction would be from CNN and so forth.
We’ve reached a point where not just the United States but most Western democracies are split almost 50/50 down the middle between liberal and conservative support bases. Thus every election seems to swing on the tiniest fractions, and each side is perpetually at the other’s throat, so each time an election occurs it’s very likely there will be a change of government and with it, everything will be repealed. This will continue ad infinitum. But this means that governments will be perpetually held in this ultra-critical death grip, where the tiniest mistakes and smallest errors are exploited and focused upon endlessly. What that means is that only short-term plans will ever truly have any weight to governments; anything that takes longer than a few years to complete will get far less attention. Long term planning is an exercise in futility when you’re 1-2% away from being wiped out of government.
There are many things that conservatives agree with about liberal politics and vice versa. The problem is that sides have taken ownership of viewpoints, and it’s up to us to divorce the concepts and ideals from the parties that have seemingly claimed them for themselves.
This has become the era of The “Libtard” vs the Racist. Each side condemns the other as moronic and is utterly incapable of cooperating. This intensity and virulence has strengthened the radicals at every turn; the far Left and the far Right are the angriest and most identifiable in this roiling sea of uncertainty. This means every year we push further and further from a sustainable model, and further and further into what is at the moment, hyper-nationalism and protectionism not unlike the 1930s. Every time you log onto Facebook or check your favourite news source, chances are you’re bombarded with articles, pictures and memes that hammer home your pre-existing prejudices about what the other side represents. You are smothered by it virtually everywhere you look, and it makes you feel utter disdain for anyone on the other side.
A good example of this is the recent Berkeley protest against the speaking engagement of Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. It was a case of violence meeting violence. Incendiary speech versus the literal action taken by those who disagreed. Both sides of that discussion are pre-coloured by the preferences on one’s newsfeed, as the subtleties are lost within the grinding maelstrom of person assumption. However, as someone who works with many people who openly support either side here in Australia, I can see my stereotypes cultivated by these sources rarely do the real people justice.
The only way we are going to break this back and forth, this nonsensical and endless motion that erodes long-term thinking, is to break away from the ideological paradigm we’ve created.
There are many things that conservatives agree with about liberal politics and vice versa, when you lay them down side by side. There are extreme points of contention but there is also a great deal of commonality. If a new middle group, a centre was to start fresh and look at problems and find logical solutions without labelling them as Right or Left we would likely have a great deal more agreement. The problem is that sides have taken ownership of viewpoints, and it’s up to us to divorce the concepts and ideals from the parties that have seemingly claimed them for themselves.
It’s up to all of us to look at the problem and forget the propaganda. I’ve sat down with conservatives and liberals alike and when it comes to sorting out solutions to problems we can all agree on, if we leave our partisanship at the door it’s amazing how fast we can agree on something. Once we as a nation can leave our partisanship behind, and think for ourselves, we will break out of this awful spiral.
Here’s to a rational future.
At some point.