by Iman Safi
The major political parties of Western democracies; the Conservatives on one hand and the Liberal Progressives on the other hand, irrespective what specific names they give themselves, are by-and-large based on the “traditional” so-called right versus left divide.
This divide has taken many shapes and forms, and of course a huge array of names and descriptions, and this is why to pinpoint the doctrinal difference between them, it is perhaps best go back to the basic difference of conservatism versus liberalism; the desire to maintain as opposed to the desire to change.
This is basically why political preference was grossly gravitated to by the norms of human nature. Thus, the privileged were attracted to conservatism whilst the underprivileged were lured by the need for change.
In this rapid time of change, change at all levels, those sharp dividing lines have been merging at times and splitting at others. In their denial to this paradigm shift, the major parties in the West have lost what originally defined them; and when their constituents tell them that they do not see any difference between them any longer, instead of listening to them, they shun them and tell them that they are wrong.
It is of little wonder therefore that new kids are coming on the block; new kids who can strike in the weakest spot of the underbelly of the major parties, and they strike when the eyes of the major parties are either closed, or at best, in denial.
Enter the Greens.
As both major parties move closer towards the center, or at least as they are perceived to do so, gaps are created at the extremes of the conservative-progressive divide. Even if the major parties are not indeed either moving closer or towards the center, the fact that they are perceived to do so by voters is enough reason to send votes swaying in any direction as perceived.
The Greens were quick enough and smart enough to capitalize on one of the perceived vacuum corners and jumped into the left progressive former nook. Fairly quickly they came to embody what the traditional progressive left side of politics used to uphold and defend, and was supposed to continue to do so. Thus, in a rather short period of time, just 2-3 decades in fact, the Greens vote now accounts to nearly 10% in most Western democracies, and it is on the rise.
On the other extreme, the protagonists of the extreme right, had to wait a bit longer for a more opportune moment. The wave of refugees and ensuing terrorism that the short-sighted politics and the wars that both major parties created gave them the golden goose they had been waiting for.
Ironically however, in most Western nations, many major new concerns, including the concern about refugees, come from both the very privileged and the very underprivileged combined. The two diametrically-opposite socio-economic dipoles found quite a bit of common ground that united them. Thus, and perhaps for the first time in history, the desire to change did not come exclusively from the bottom. The days of the French Revolution seem to have gone. The days of hungry people taking to the streets demanding bread are long forgotten.
This created the foundation of the Trump’s “Conservative Revolution”. Whilst this term sounds oxymoronic, it describes the status quo of the paradigm shift that major parties in all Western nations are seemingly and conveniently choosing to ignore to their own peril. The “Conservative Revolution” is a new social phenomenon, originating from both extreme of the socio-economic divide crashing the center and the rot that traditional politics has festered around the mid-point shades of grey.
The muddled up and muddied new scenario is something that traditional conservative and progressive parties are not used to. In their tradition of assuming that power is exclusive for either one of them for the taking, they have built a high and huge wall of arrogance that they do not seem to want to surmount.
For some reason, they seem to believe that their self-perceived oppositeness is as real and as permanent as black and white. It is time that they realize that they are both seen as, with the risk of repetition, slightly different shades of grey and that there is a new clearer brand of black and white emerging. For some mysterious reason they believe that their presence is etched in stone that they will always be here, and that even when in opposition, it is only a question of time before they get re-elected and voted in.
It is time that they wake up, and get a reality check.
In Trump’s “Conservative Revolution”, not even the American Republican Party (ie the GOP) had fully endorsed him, and ultimately, for better or for worse, his win was his own; not the GOP’s. Above all, Trump used primarily his own funds, and in more ways than one, he owes nothing to none, none at all but his loyal inner circle and, of course, his voters nationwide.
So apart from Trump and his close inner circle, who are those who believe that they are the winners in the USA? Obviously and sadly, the ultra-right including the KKK and the like, and this is the main cause of fear and concern among the ranks of the truly educated liberal-minded Americans, and for good reasons. They simply do not know what to expect next.
It is no wonder therefore that the rest of the Western World is at loss trying to deal with the Trump win tsunami.
Right here in Australia, even the staunch ultra-right Australian former PM John Howard, a prime mover and shaker who was instrumental in pursuing Bush to invade Iraq, is at loss and in total despair facing Trump’s win. Traditionally after a GOP win, this man should now be rejoicing. After all, he was the one who said eight years ago that Al-Qaeda would be happy to see Obama win. But thus far, Trump does not give the impression that he is the regular conservative warmonger that Howard likes to see in the Oval Office. Quite the contrary in fact.
The world is changing and changing fast. The biggest paradigm shift after the end of WWII was the breakup of the USSR and the establishment of the so-called “New World Order” in which the USA was the sole superpower.
The “New World Order” is coming to an end. In fact, it already did when Russia unilaterally decided to send its Sukhois to bomb ISIS in Syria.
The economic strife that the USA is suffering from, its shrinking global influence and needless and expensive wars that it had been engaged with almost continuously since the end of WWII has reached a tipping point that President-elect Trump is savvy enough to acknowledge, and forward enough to openly and overtly decide that he wants to deal with in a fiscally-pragmatic and conciliatory manner.
Unless Trump does an Obama and changes course soon after his inauguration, a new era in foreign American policy, an era that is primarily America-centric rather than hegemonic will set the course of global events in a new direction.
Other nations, and specifically the two major parties of Western democracies will have very few choices. They will either have to acknowledge and accept this change, find a way in which they can redefine themselves in order to be able to find a nook for themselves within it, or simply stick to their waning guns and allow to fall to 3rd and 4th ranks in power and allow the Greens and new ultra-right to become the two new de-facto major parties. The ball is in their courts, but not for a long time.
The longer they take to redefine themselves, and the longer they continue to bury their heads in the sand, the Greens will continue to chew away votes from the progressive parties and the ultra-right will do the same from the conservative parties. As a matter of fact, in this particular unprecedented situation, the major parties can lose votes in any direction, but mostly towards the one seen closer to them.
Unless the major parties wake up, and they are the devil the West knows, the West will soon find itself under the control of either the far right or the far left; the devils that no one really knows, let alone, wants to know.
To be explicit and specific, in Australia this will mean that unless the ruling Liberal-National Coalition on one hand and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) on the other hand reach a new bi-partisan foreign policy agreement that will endeavour to sever the unconditional and rather outdated loyalty to the America tag, a tag that the USA itself is possibly no longer interested in keeping, then in the not too distant future when Australians go to the polling booths, they will eventually have to choose between either the Greens or the infamous xenophobic Pauline Hanson One Nation Party.
Not surprisingly, the ruling Australian conservative government is at a total loss because it is now facing the prospect of having to contend with the love-child of the “Conservative Revolution”, an American President that they have not seen the likes of before, someone they cannot place in any position on the right to left track; definitely not in any position they are familiar with. Prime Minister Turnbull had no option but to congratulate the President-elect in a rather morbid manner that, when looked at in between the lines, one would argue that Turnbull might as well have said that Australia will accept the decision of the American people even if they vote in a moron and a thug.
On the other hand, former opposition ALP leaders, two of whom are former Prime Ministers Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd have genuinely welcomed the change. Another former ALP leader who never reached the top job, Mark Latham, was excited to see that this change may mean that the USA will no longer be the world police. But Keating put it very strongly when he urged Australia to act like a grown-up nation and sever the unconditional loyalty to the America tag (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=share&v=paPrAG6IY_8&app=desktop).
I have not been scanning who has been saying what, but I would not be surprised if what Paul Keating had to say was quite unique and not matched with any post US-election statements coming from any Western leader or former leader.
Once the fears resulting from Trump’s pre-election statements about women, Hispanics, Muslims etc… are dissipated, if they get dissipated, and if he remains true to his word on international policy, Western leaders of the conservative and progressive parties that rule in alternation will have to redefine and realign themselves, otherwise they may either get squeezed into oblivion or swept away by their own home-grown “Conservative Revolutions”.
Will Trump keep his promises on international matters?
Will Australia take Keating’s advice and lead the West into a new era of how to deal and cooperate with the new USA if indeed a new USA is on the rise?
Very pertinently, will Trump realize that he cannot unite people if he is going to adopt social policies based on segregation? This sounds like expecting him to keep certain election promises and denounce others; and expectation that he keeps the election promises on international affairs and revoking those on social justice issues, a big dose of wishful thinking, but will his stand on the social issues that are causing concern within and outside America take a back step?
We can all hope, because as the world stands at the edge of the cliff of a nuclear confrontation between the superpowers, something that most Westerners seem to be totally oblivious to, a very precarious position that the Obama/Clinton legacy has put the world into, humanity needs miracles to be saved, and when we need miracles, all we have left is prayer and all the hope we can afford to have.
As a die-hard leftie, I hope that the traditional left wakes up and takes the lead in adopting its own rebirth; a doctrinal renaissance that will see the world from a vantage point of working towards partnership and conflict resolution, because right now, the bi-partisan agreements between the two major parties of any Western Democracy, Australia included, is nothing short of being a disgraceful bi-partisanship of war.