The rise of the political taliban in Western Democracies

Good friend and colleague George Richardson sent me a link to a New York Times editorial  entitled “Donald Trump’s Impeachment Threat”.

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George P. Richardson Emeritus Professor of Public Administration and Policy, and Informatics

Donald Trump and other embattled Republican candidates are warning that they may well seek to impeach Hillary Clinto •n if she wins, or, short of that, tie her up with endless investigations and other delaying tactics.

The  editorial concludes: “Beyond simple hypocrisy, the Republicans’ impeachment threat demonstrates their gathering disrespect for democracy. If they can’t gain control of government fairly, they’ll simply undermine it.”

This taliban approach to politics is not limited to the current US Presidential election. It is also manifest in the actions of Australian politicians like our ex-Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and before him ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in their attempts to regain the Prime Ministership. I have commented on Abbott’s antics at length providing an indication of extent and duration of his efforts to undermine the current Prime Minster. will

Tony Abbott was replaced as Prime Minister by Malcolm Turnbull in much the same way as the previous Labor government replaced Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.  Rudd ran a taliban campaign against Prime Minister Julia Gillard that would  ultimately result in the election of the Abbott coalition government.

Both Rudd and Abbott have done irreparable harm to the electoral prospects of their party but that has not deterred either of them.  Trump may also have done irreparable damage to the Republicans electoral hopes in certain congressional elections. Again, this has not deterred him.

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 Rudd, Trump and Abbott are part of the rise of the political Taliban in western democracies

The political taliban is also on the rise in the UK and and has had two notable manifestations. The first is in the activities of UKIP and in particular its leader, Nigel Farage in the  Brexit campaign.

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Now that the  British High Court has ruled that that the Government will require parliamentary approval to trigger the process of exiting the European Union, the political taliban is out in force again, attacking the High Court judges who made the decision.

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The judges were attacked in the Daily Mail as “Enemies of the people”. Worse still, one was attacked as an “openly gay, ex-Olympic fencer.”

Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, said “Whatever else it changed, I don’t think the referendum changed the fact of parliamentary democracy or that we operate under the rule of law.”

If three judges sitting in  judgement in the High Court can be attacked as enemies of the people, and the rule of the taliban is not far away.

The actions of people like Rudd, Abbott, Farage and Trump fly in the face of the conventions serve many of the excepted conventions about the way democracy should function.  Conventions such as accepting the outcome of an election be it a national one or an internal party one,  abiding by the rule of law and not threatening to put your political opponents in gaol if you win the election.

From an outsider’s perspective, the frightening thing about Trump’s views is that they have wide, if not majority, support in the US.

Many people have difficulty understanding, and indeed ridicule, the political views and public pronouncements of Donald Trump which seem to fly in the face of logic and common sense. Much of the commentary about his candidature has now evolved into scarifying ridicule. Unfortunately, mockery and ridicule will not make the Trump phenomenon go away.

In an article in the Huffington Post, Michael Lissack argues that the Trump and Clinton  voters can be characterised by whether they travelled more than 200 miles from home during 2016.

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He also argues that  “The philosophical term for this kind of a split is “incommensurable.” It means that the vocabulary, world-view, behaviors, and indicators used by one of these two groups is incapable of meaningful translation into the vocabulary, world-view, behaviors, and indicators used by the other group. Meanings and significance pass like two ships in the night or converge into a fiery clash.”

As a result, we are confronted by politicians and political views that seem incomprehensible because they do not rest on the same set of assumptions or abide by the same sets of conventions as our own.

Using Michael Lissack’s logic, would it be surprising to find that the majority of Trump supporters are also Creationists? You can’t reason with a creationist because they do not accept the fundamental assumptions of science. They would say you can’t argue with a scientist because they don’t accept the fundamental assumptions of Holy Scripture.

Whatever the outcome of the US presidential election, Western democracies will be facing challenges which, on past performance, they are ill-equipped to face.

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