The recent spate of anti-abortion legislation in the United States, along with a surge in similar outbreaks of conservatism in Canadian provincial elections, is a predictable and unfortunate manifestation of the usual swing of politics. The bad news is the damage these movements do to social progress in the long term and to the people they effect in the short term. The good news is that they will start a just-as-predictable surge in social programs when the pendulum swings to the left. At least we can hope so.
What is important about the coming return to progress is how it is accomplished. If it is done through the same old political tactics — fear mongering, gerrymandering, etc. — it will be just as temporary, will continue the adversarial attitude in politics and will do little good. These methods create more
What’s the Answer?
Well, first we have to look at what’s really going on. The Righteous Right is made of two distinct groups of people. First is the rich white male elite that has ruled our society since time immemorial. For these perennial winners, it’s all about staying in power and staying rich. They will use any tool they can get away with, including skirting or breaking the law, to maintain their grip on government so they can get more money and power. They are the real “basket of deplorables,” and there’s nothing you can do about them. They are what they are; human nature creates them.
The ones we can do something about are their lesser allies, the ones they have fooled into believing that these guys care one twitter about them. These are mostly poor, uneducated and frightened. Like all frightened people, they see change, any change, as a scary process. “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” is their watchword, inane as that attitude is. The problem is that the Deplorables have persuaded them to hitch up to the backwards bandwagon. Thus any attack on the leadership is seen as an attack on themselves, and, being already frightened, they react by becoming more frightened, more conservative, and more like their leaders.
How Not to Deal With Them
This last group is the best target for the next round of political pressure, and it is very important that we handle them carefully. I know it sounds paternalistic (politics is by its very nature a paternalistic beast), but remember, we are dealing with people that are not as smart, rich, secure or as lucky as we are. Attacking them (even through their leaders), no matter how satisfying it feels, will not get us what we want.
The Proper Way
The only successful way to wean these people away from their deplorable leadership is to use time-honoured liberal tactics. I know it’s difficult, but sympathy, support, education and forbearance are the only approach that will work. Attacking teaches them that we are enemies to be fought. Helping them to help themselves teaches them that they, too can have power, even if it’s only a tiny bit.
And While We’re Talking about Paternalism
I said this at the end of the last round of the Proportional Representation debate. Much though we would like to, there is only so much help the older generation can give the younger. Every generation must fight for its rights, and the present situation is no different. Without assistance, it takes a lifetime of experience to learn the importance of action in politics. If we encourage our young people to learn that lesson as early as possible, perhaps they will change the course of society enough to avert the disaster that could occur.
Democracy flourishes in good eras. As we have seen so many times in history — most recently in the last American Presidential election — poverty brings out the fascists. It’s pretty obvious the whole world is at a crux. Fixing the climate change problem is going to cost us the lifestyle that is causing it. We all must become poorer. This is our last chance to get society up to speed so that we have the stamina to withstand the pressures that will come to act upon us. We need to educate our young people to show leadership. We need to educate the poor of our own countries and the poor countries of the rest of the world, and bring them all into the kind of cooperative and collaborative team that can solve these problems together. Otherwise, the wolves are waiting at the gate, ready to pick off the stragglers. And then the rest of us.