Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Shattered Consensus

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Sometimes, when I'm randomly pondering ideas in my head I think to myself it's hard to square a belief in democracy with a fervent zeal for your particular political party to obtain and remain in power. Many Republican's currently think armegeddon will be wrought upon the earth if a Democrat becomes President in 2008, and most Democrats think we are currently suffering an incarnation of Armegeddon at the hands of the Bush Administration.

Apart from all of the obvious fundamentals that we all, I expect, embrace and adore, what good does it do to have two competing political philosphies undoing each others work before re-implementing their own ideas decade after decade, on and on in some kind of paradoxical loop? Surely this is not the purpose of Democracy...

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In the UK, the past twenty six years have manifested the remarkable phenemona of four successive Conservative terms in office, followed by three Labour terms. The reason behind this is that 1) the respective parties in power both attained a high degree of success in implementing their policies, and 2) their respective opposition parties struggled to drag themselves back from the political extremes on the left and right... where, notoriously, the British electorate rarely dwell.

What good is done for us to simply sway between competing political visions, like this?

Well, for me, I believe it's about progress through consensus. The Conservative party liberalized the British economy dramatically in the early 80's which transformed our society for good and bad. The test of their accomplishment, or of any political accomplishment IMO, is the response the opposition takes to regain support and power, and of course, what it does when it gets into power. Margaret Thatcher's reforms had so many positive benefits that slowly but surely the Labour party was required to reposition its economic vision. The Labour vision remained distinct and unique, with elements of increased taxation, and more gov't activism, but they were suddenly forced to acquire a pragmatic conviction in the positive benefits of free markets domestically, and abroad.

Progress through consensus. The public's recognition of what constitutes progress redefining the electoral landscape.

And now, after three successive election defeats, the British Conservative party is faced with similar choices. They have to somehow reflect the public consensus, while incorporating it into their own ideas. It's an exciting opportunity for an innovative vision of Conservatism in the UK, confronting the widely held negative perceptions that continue to hold them back. The only problem the Conservative party faces is finding the big, bold, brave men and women courageous enough to meet this challenge, and fight for progress... men/women with sufficient charisma and popular appeal. Where is the Tory Tony Blair? They will hopefully find him in the coming months. David Cameron, maybe? We'll have to wait and see.

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Many Republican's can not understand, or simply do not care why, George Bush inspires so much hatred... they wonder why he is such a polarizing charcter, and usually reduce it to the flag bashing treachery of the Liberal left.

It's not, IMHO, because he's from Texas. It's not because he mispeaks in sentences. It's not because he went to war in Iraq. It's not because he lost the popular vote in 2000.

The reason why the US is split so dramatically on the question of George Bush is because he has split the country himself by his style of governance. He has thrown the concept of 'progress through consensus' out the window, and with it, a little piece of what makes everybody, Liberal and Conservative alike, left feeling democratically involved regardless of who the President is.

It's incumbent upon any administration that sincerely has the well being of everyone at heart to take your predecessor's copy book, and read, and learn, and realise what worked, using those ideas and making them better, not simply chucking them all into the trash, saying "ok boys, screw the last lot... now we do it our way."

To me, for Democracy to work, for this not to be an endless loop going back and forth between one political vision and another, our political parties have to retain more humility, they have to not be such rigid ideologues... otherwise what is the point? We have to learn from each other, looking ahead twenty, thirty, forty years into the future.

How do you take a budget surplus into trillion dollar defecits? For all of the many external pressures, the tidy economic management of Rubin, et all, in the 90's should have harboured some lessons for Conservatives... not tax less and spend more, more, more!!! Y'know, the way we all on the left learned from Reagan/Thatcher... the third way and all that stuff. But, for some reason the Bush administration just wanted to make like the 90's never happened.

Sadly, the adept electioneering of Karl Rove, and this administration, which itself incurs a greater societal polarization, has simply afforded George Bush the opportunity to drive an even wider wedge between the left and right. Which, depressingly, was everything he promised not to be in 2000.

I remember when George Bush was interviewed by Tim Russert before the last election, he was asked about why partisanship on the hill had got worse in his time in power, when one of his platforms in 2000 was to bring Democrats and Republicans together. Bush's response was to say that Democrats just haven't wanted to budge, effectively it was all their fault. But, it was he, and not the Democrats in Congress that had abandoned consenus politics.

Over the following months we will see a philisophical, cultural, and political war explode over Bush's next Supreme Court Nominee. It will be divisive, brutal, perhaps violent, and ultimately tragic.

...and, it will be all the fault of this administration.

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