Moderation in all things, including democracy

By John Kananghinis

If proof were needed that the completely adversarial approach to headline driven politics has triumphed then the results of the US mid-term elections provided all that was needed.

In effect the Republican Party that created a, some would say, cynical blockage of anything the Democrat President tried to do was rewarded by the electorate. In fact they ran a campaign promising to get rid of the broken system of government they created.

It helped that President Obama allowed himself to be wedged in such a comprehensive manner by lacking a cohesive vision that could help frightened electors make sense of an ever more complex world.

His single biggest policy has been the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) but one act does not make a political vision for the future.

Whilst the Americans bemoan the state of their politics, back here we also run the risk of descending into a visionless constantly combative environment where ideas are sidelined and slogans, combined with attacks, are the stock-in-trade of two increasingly professional political tribes.

The current Victorian State Election campaign is being framed as a narrow plebiscite on a traffic tunnel, largely as a result of an incumbent state government that has failed to create any broader vision. That has allowed their opposition to hone in on one topic whilst at the same time claiming that the government has failed to address other important concerns.

None of this ridiculous and cynical political game playing progresses the public debate or benefits for the electors. The ultimate conclusion will be an increasingly paralysed, poll driven and an often wildly swinging from one side to the other government.

We can at least be thankful that the Australian electorate is generally centrist and does not display the extreme right or left leanings of other populations. That level-headedness is often portrayed by politicians as the innate ”common sense” of the Australian people, but give it enough time and we may well find ourselves in the same political morass as the Americans.

The rise of the professional political class paired with the relentless media drive to report politics as a blood-sport is a dangerous mix. There are some excellent and very well intentioned folk in both federal and state politics but heaven knows we don’t need more intellectual black holes– not looking at you PUP, or not PUP, Senator from the Apple Isle –  (or new Iowa Senator Elect Joni Ernst – you need to look her up to believe it). Equally we don’t need yet more union officials and former party advisors. The tribal warfare has to be taken out of the equation in the interests of the greater good.

Everything in moderation is perhaps a boring ethos to adopt as a guide to democracy but it is certainly one that may offer more productive outcomes than we have experienced of late. Trouble is there is hardly queue of life-experienced, rational, knowledgeable and politically pragmatic citizens stepping up to put themselves through the wringer of getting elected.


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